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Politically connected lawyer returns to face fraud questions

A flashy Fort Lauderdale lawyer who investors say fleeced them for hundreds of millions of dollars flew back from Morocco on Tuesday to face federal prosecutors considering criminal charges, the Miami Herald reported.

While Scott Rothstein and his defense attorney, Marc Nurik, held the discussions, a Broward County judge appointed an independent receiver to examine the financial records of Rothstein's law firm, Rothstein Rosenfeldt Adler.

Rothstein, 47, had left for Morocco on Friday as news of his alleged investment scam started leaking around Broward County. He came back facing an FBI investigation and the loss of his law firm. The once high-flying firm, formed in 2002, has only $500,000 left in its bank account, a lawyer said.

Rothstein, suspected of running a Ponzi scheme, apparently drained vast sums of money from the firm, his partners say.

Rothstein's investors had $500 million deposited in a Canadian bank on Oct. 23 and that money was gone seven days later, said William Scherer, an attorney representing investors who he says lost more than $70 million.

Rothstein and his firm gave millions to politicians and charities across South Florida.

Scherer said that Rothstein met some potential investors through the charities and gala functions and was viewed as a talented and charismatic attorney.

"We all wondered where the money came from,'' he said of the donations.

The law firm's co-founder, Stuart Rosenfeldt, and other partners claim they knew nothing of Rothstein's alleged investment scheme.

Also Tuesday, politicians and political parties that received contributions from Rothstein started giving back some or all of the donations.

Among them: Gov. Charlie Crist, state Chief Financial Officer Alex Sink, Senate President Jeff Atwater, Rep. Ellyn Bogdanoff, the Florida Democratic Party and the Republican Party of Florida.

Times/Herald reporter Marc Caputo contributed to this report.

Politically connected lawyer returns to face fraud questions 11/03/09 [Last modified: Tuesday, November 3, 2009 9:40pm]
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