A federal judge in Dallas has approved a controversial plan to claw back millions of dollars from some investors in Allen Stanford's $7 billion Ponzi scheme. The investors — some 800 in all — withdrew more money than they put into their Stanford accounts.
They argued that their gains were legitimate, but court-appointed receiver Ralph Janvey, who is rounding up assets for all of Stanford's approximately 28,000 victims, argued the profits were fictitious and should be returned. (Read More: Allen Stanford: Descent from Billionaire to Inmate # 35017-183)
In a 32-page ruling, U.S. District Judge David Godbey agreed with Janvey, who now stands to collect some $220 million from the so-called "net winners" to redistribute to all of the victims.
"This decision represents an important milestone in the very long and difficult process of unwinding the massive Stanford Ponzi scheme," Janvey said in a statement.
The net winners argued they were entitled to keep some of their profits under the laws of Antigua, home of the Stanford bank that issued the certificates of deposit at the heart of the scheme. But Godbey ruled the scheme was based in Houston, making any discrepancies between Texas and Antiguan law a "false conflict." (Read More: Allen Stanford Investors Could Get (Tiny) Payout)
There was no immediate comment from the investors, but Godbey cleared the way for an immediate appeal, which is almost certain. That means it is unlikely the thousands of investors who lost money will be paid anytime soon, if ever. (Read More: White Collar 'Country Club' Prisons? Not So Much)
Earlier this month, an attorney for Janvey asked for permission to distribute $55 million to the investors, which represents less than one-and-a-half cents for every dollar they lost. The payment from the net winners would be on top of that. Another $300 million or so remains frozen in foreign accounts.
Allen Stanford, currently serving a 110-year prison sentence, is appealing his conviction last year on fraud and conspiracy charges.
—By CNBC's Scott Cohn; Follow him on Twitter: @ScottCohnCNBC