Image: Walter Forbes
Michelle Mcloughlin  /  AP
Former Cendant Chairman Walter Forbes divorced his wife in January.
updated 11/17/2009 2:57:23 PM ET 2009-11-17T19:57:23

The U.S. government could collect billions of dollars in court-ordered restitution under a new divorce decree between imprisoned former Cendant Corp. chairman Walter Forbes and his wife of 27 years.

Judge Howard Owens issued a ruling Thursday that orders Forbes' ex-wife, Caren, to transfer ownership of homes in Connecticut and Rhode Island back to him, plus half of the couple's jewelry and art collections, the Connecticut Post reported.

The ruling allows the federal government and Cendant to attach liens to recover almost $3.3 billion to which the court says they are entitled.

Forbes, 65, was sentenced in 2007 to nearly 12 1/2 years in prison for what is considered the largest accounting fraud of the 1990s. He was also ordered to pay restitution for his role in a fraud scheme that cost the travel and real estate company and its investors more than $3 billion.

Cendant's brands included Ramada, Howard Johnson, Avis, Coldwell Banker and Century 21. It has since been renamed Avis Budget Group.

Federal prosecutors won the right earlier this year to intervene in the Forbes' divorce case, saying the timing of the split suggested they were trying to avoid paying the restitution. They noted that Walter Forbes sold the family's nearly $6 million, 11,000-square-foot (1,022-square meter) Connecticut mansion to Caren Forbes for $10 in 1999.

Caren Forbes, who filed for divorce in January, said their marriage was "irretrievably" broken. Attorneys for both spouses denied prosecutors' allegations.

According to the divorce ruling, Caren Forbes will transfer ownership of the mansion back to her ex-husband so it can be attached by Cendant and the U.S. government.

She is also returning about 14 acres (5.7 hectares) and a chalet-style house in Rhode Island.

Copyright 2009 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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