Attorney Scott Rothstein’s high-profile Ponzi scheme, in which the Fort Lauderdale-based lawyer defrauded investors of nearly $1.2 billion, made national headlines for a number of reasons.
Set against the backdrop of a faltering economy, the story was perfectly salacious. The fraud and money-laundering scheme paid for a fleet of exotic cars (among them a Mercedes SLR McClaren convertible and a Rolls Royce Phantom) and a collection of über-expensive yachts. His wedding took place at the South Beach Versace mansion.
In short, Rothstein wasn’t shy about promoting himself as an ambitious and showy lawyer with ambitions beyond the legal realm.
But it all came crashing down on Rothstein in late 2009, when it became increasingly apparent he had been selling stakes in fabricated legal settlements.
Perhaps even more interesting than all of Rothstein’s impractical spending habits are his political contributions. Though a major contributor to the Republican Party, Rothstein’s political donations were often seemingly non-discriminatory. In addition to donating $9,600 to Gov. Charlie Crist’s 2010 U.S. Senate campaign, he gave $6,000 to Democrat Alex Sink’s gubernatorial run. In the past, he donated to two very different presidential campaigns: Bill Clinton in 1996 and George W. Bush in 2004. The disgraced former lawyer also gave big in the 2008 campaign for president, and was allegedly one of the top donors to the “McCain-Palin Victory Fund,” a claim McCain’s current Senate rival J.D. Hayworth is using to his advantage.
Federal prosecutors have alleged that these and other political contributions were illegal and thus violated state and federal election laws. Most of Rothstein’s political contributions have since been returned (the $52,000 birthday cake he gave to Crist obviously was not) but many worried that, in exchange for a guilty plea, he would hand over incriminating information to feds. Though he helped put a reputed mafioso behind bars, Rothstein has yet to publicly implicate any of his politico friends.
Prior to his sentencing, Rothstein attempted to incite remorse in a letter he penned to judge James Cohn in which he wrote of suicide attempts and a scheme that got completely out of control: ”I was determined to do whatever I had to to [sic] make it work; which was simply continuing a charade which was, in hindsight, clearly doomed to fail.” On June 9, a judge handed Rothstein a 50-year sentence — 10 years more than requested by prosecutors.
The story has gained momentum in the past days, with angry investors mounting accusations about how much Rothstein’s partners knew about the scheme. Rothstein’s former partner, Stuart Rosenfeldt, failed to show up to a deposition on Monday morning, citing scheduling conflicts.