A South Florida woman became inadvertently involved in her friend’s husband’s $1.4 billion Ponzi scheme because she was trying to help her friend go through with a divorce, her attorney says. The woman is now facing several years in prison on charges of money laundering and obstruction of justice. She has admitted her role in hiding $1 million in jewelry that authorities wanted to help pay back victims of the fraud.

The woman’s friend is married to a man convicted of fraud and sentenced to 50 years in prison. His wife filed for divorce in early November, WTVJ-TV reports. Even prior to the husband’s arrest and conviction, their marriage was very troubled, according to the friend.

The couple married in 2008. About a year later, the wife began calling her friend and telling her that her husband cheated on her, intimidated her and used a bodyguard to watch her. On at least one occasion, the friend learned that the husband had physically struck her.

The woman wanted to leave and get a divorce. But the couple did not have a prenuptial agreement and she was worried that her husband would leave her with nothing. So she and her friend began hiding more than $1 million in jewelry and other items, including a 12.08-carat diamond worth $400,000. It appears that the friend is saying that the items were to be a sort of compensation in case the wife was left broke in the divorce, or to be used to pay legal fees.

As this was going on, the husband fled the country before authorities could arrest him. He was eventually tried in Florida and found guilty.

Interestingly, the wife herself has a different account of why she and the friend hid the items from prosecutors. Her attorney says that she did so on her husband’s advice to avoid losing everything. She is also facing several years in prison, but prosecutors are recommending a reduced sentence due to her cooperation.

It may seem difficult to give up a lavish lifestyle when it comes time for divorce. But as in this case, criminal activity will usually lead to more trouble than it is worth.

Source: South Florida Sun Sentinel, “Husband abused wife, friend alleges in court documents,” Robert Nolin, Nov. 4, 2013