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GOP power broker Alan Mendelsohn faces more charges in corruption case

MIAMI — Federal prosecutors have added five criminal tax charges to the indictment of Dr. Alan Mendelsohn, a Broward County eye doctor and political power broker.

In the newest charges, filed Tuesday, Mendelsohn is accused of failing to report on his tax returns about $715,000 he received from 2003 to 2006 — money that Mendelsohn took from political funds under his control and spent on himself, his mistress and his children's education, prosecutors say.

Mendelsohn, 52, a Republican fundraiser who served on Gov. Charlie Crist's 2006 gubernatorial transition team, already faces 32 charges of fraud and lying to federal agents.

Mendelsohn's lawyer, Alvin Entin, said his client has pleaded not guilty, and the new charges are not expected to delay the trial, scheduled for January.

"We knew this was coming," Entin said. "We're anxious to try this case."

Prosecutors say Mendelsohn raised about $2 million through three political committees, based on false promises that he would use the money to influence state lawmakers and Crist. But Mendelsohn, working with an accomplice, diverted much of that money through companies and used it for his own benefit, the indictment says.

One of the biggest donors to Mendelsohn's committees was Joel Steinger, the former head of the Mutual Benefits insurance company, who is himself facing fraud charges. As part of his scheme, prosecutors say, Mendelsohn convinced Steinger that he could use his influence with the governor to upend an investigation into Mutual Benefits. Steinger gave about $1.5 million to the political committees.

Mendelsohn also obtained large donations from the owners of a dialysis company, a casino and a credit-counseling service, all of whom expected his help in swaying lawmakers in Tallahassee.

More arrests are expected as part of a wider influence-peddling investigation, prosecutors have said. One likely target: former state Democratic lawmaker Mandy Dawson, who is suspected of receiving $87,000 from Mendelsohn through a one-time Dawson campaign aide, according to sources familiar with the case.

Agents are also investigating Tallahassee lobbyist Stephen D. Hull, who helped create and manage the political committees along with Mendelsohn.

GOP power broker Alan Mendelsohn faces more charges in corruption case 06/16/10 [Last modified: Wednesday, June 16, 2010 10:43pm]
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