The Dateline episode “Betrayed” investigates the 2008 death of Melissa Lewis, 39, a rising star attorney at South Florida’s prestigious law firm Rothstein Rosenfeldt Adler. When the police investigated they found a web of fraud, betrayal and more than $1 billion in missing money. Just one week after she had been made partner, Lewis was strangled and murdered. Her body was found in a canal near her home. After her mysterious murder, her boss Scott Rothstein pleaded guilty to running a $1.4 billion Ponzi scheme out of the firm. He convinced investors to buy stakes in bogus lawsuit settlements. He received a 50-year sentence. Melissa’s best friend Debra Villegas, Rothstein’s chief operating officer, was convicted of helping by cooking the books. Before receiving a 10-year sentence, Villegas re-married in 2010 to 39-year-old Daniel Coffey in Pembroke Pines. Debra was released from jail in 2014 after serving three and a half years.
But it was Debra’s estranged husband, train conductor Tony Villegas, who was accused of murdering Lewis. Prosecutors claimed Villegas’ motive was revenge as he blamed Lewis for his failing marriage. His DNA was found on the jacket Melissa wore that day, and tracking towers show that he carried her cell phone on him while he “rode the rails” at work. Debra Villegas testified at her ex-husband’s trial in June 2016. He was found guilty and sentenced to life in prison. Dateline NBC airs Fridays at 10pm.