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A Venezuelan investor who put $2.7 million in family savings into certificates of deposit sold by indicted Texas financier R. Allen Stanford has filed a proposed class action suit in Miami federal court, claiming Stanford’s insurance broker vouched for his bank’s investments. Advertising executive Reinaldo Ranni filed suit Friday against Britain’s Willis Group Holdings and its Colorado subsidiary on behalf of a class of Stanford International Bank’s Latin American investors. The suit claims Venezuelans invested a combined total of more than $2 billion. “What really sealed it was the assurance that there was insurance” on the CDs, said Luis Delgado, a Homer & Bonner partner in Miami who represents Ranni. The complaint includes a 2007 letter from Willis to Ranni that lists Willis as the insurance broker for the bank and states coverage from Lloyd’s of London was in effect on the CDs. “We have found that all our dealings with the [Stanford's] bank have been conducted in a professional and satisfactory manner,” the Willis letter reads. A call to Willis’ Colorado office was not returned by deadline. Stanford and his bank were not named as a defendants in the lawsuit. Their finances are under the control of receivers in Dallas and foreign countries where Stanford operated, and the recovery by investors will be directed by the receivers. The Miami lawsuit is an effort to get some recovery beyond the scope of receiverships for alleged victims from a deep pocketed defendant the suit contends is liable for helping legitimize Stanford. Ranni’s complaint alleges he was enticed to buy Stanford CDs during a visit to the bank’s luxurious bayfront office at the Miami Center “with marble floors, Oriental rugs and expensive artwork.” Stanford employees “used it to impress the Latin Americans. Word spread of the Miami office throughout the hemisphere, and Latin Americans flocked there to buy SIB’s supposed CDs,” the complaint contends. “That was part of his modus operandi, creating these plush offices that were part of this illusion of trust,” Delgado said. The complaint also alleges the bank told investors it could cover higher yields than competitors because it “paid no taxes, had no shareholders, all loans were secured by case, and the CDs were supposedly backed by marketable, liquid securities.” The five-count complaint alleges violations of the U.S. Exchange Act and the Florida Securities and Investor Protection Act, fraud, negligent misrepresentation and information was negligently supplied for the guidance of others. Willis popped into the news last week as the buyer of Chicago’s Sears Tower. Stanford’s investment empire, which was based in Antigua, unraveled early this year. Stanford is in federal custody in Texas awaiting trial on charges he ran a $7 billion fraud.

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