Alan Mendelsohn arrested in corruption probe
An influential Broward County eye doctor whose boasts about his political connections in Tallahassee fueled a federal corruption investigation into Gov. Charlie Crist's office was arrested Wednesday on fraud charges.
Dr. Alan Mendelsohn, a Hollywood ophthalmologist who has raised millions for Florida politicians, surrendered to FBI agents on charges linked to his alleged efforts to thwart a 2000-05 state investigation into Mutual Benefits Corp., a Fort Lauderdale life insurance company. Many of Mendelsohn's favored candidates are Republicans, such as Rep. Ellyn Bogdanoff. However, he also showered his largesse on a few Democrats, namely Sen. Eleanor Sobel. Mendelsohn was a buddy of Crist's and has also helped raise money for his Republican Senate opponent, Marco Rubio.
An indictment charges Mendelsohn with wire and mail fraud, aiding and abetting wire and mail fraud, and making false statements related to a fraudulent fundraising and lobbying scheme, according to prosecutors.
Mendelsohn raised more than half a million dollars from Mutual Benefits in 2003 to finance the hiring of a dozen lobbyists and make contributions to lawmakers, to stop legislation that would have tightened regulations on the so-called viatical industry. The industry sold life insurance policies of people dying of AIDS and other diseases.
Mendelsohn, 51, is expected to appear in federal court in Fort Lauderdale Wednesday morning. His defense lawyer, John Keker of San Francisco, could not be reached for comment.
Crist was Florida's attorney general during part of the period in question. The governor, his former chief of staff, George LeMieux, and his former general counsel, Paul Huck Jr., were earlier cleared of wrongdoing by the Justice Department, according to several sources. Crist recently picked LeMieux to replace Republican U.S. Sen. Mel Martinez, who resigned.
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