Just when you thought disgraced lawyer Scott Rothstein's sordid saga couldn't get any stranger, along comes this plot twist: He worked undercover for the feds and helped them bag a suspected Italian mafia man living in Miami Beach.
Rothstein's cooperation dating back to last fall means the con artist who orchestrated South Florida's biggest Ponzi scheme — stealing $1.2 billion from dozens of innocent investors — will benefit from his acting skills and seedy connections when he is sentenced in May.
Rothstein's luck appeared to have run out when he returned from Morocco last November after the implosion of his Fort Lauderdale law firm. But days later, he spilled his guts to the feds and agreed to wear a wire to set up Roberto Settineri. The Italian, who was wanted on organized crime charges in Palermo, was arrested Wednesday at his Miami Beach residence.
For helping bring down Settineri, Rothstein could end up in a federal witness protection program — not with a new identity and life, but inside a federal prison with special protection. Rothstein, 47, faces up to 100 years at his sentencing May 6.
His attorney, Marc Nurik, could not be reached for comment. On orders from the feds, he had denied that his client was cooperating with authorities.
Rothstein's transformation from fugitive suspect to undercover witness started in November when, seeking to cut a deal, he laid out his criminal investment scheme to federal authorities. Prosecutors asked him to identify co-conspirators and whether he knew of any suspected criminals in South Florida.
He mentioned Settineri, 41, without realizing his importance to U.S. and Italian authorities. Italian National Police have accused Settineri of being a liaison between the Palermo crime family, Santa Maria di Gesu and New York's Gambino mob.
Settineri's lawyer declined to comment.
Rothstein came to know the Italian through two men who owned a Pembroke Pines-based security business, Five Star Executive Protection and Investigation, which he had hired for his lodging and restaurant venture last year at Versace mansion Casa Casuarina on South Beach.
Five Star's owners, Daniel Dromerhauser, 39, of Miami, and Enrique Ros, 33, of Pembroke Pines, were charged last week. Dromerhauser was arrested. Ros is still at large.
Federal authorities say money allegedly laundered from Rothstein's Ponzi scheme wound up in Five Star's bank account.
Dromerhauser's wife, Marina Guimaraes, denied that her husband was linked to Rothstein.
"We are definitely not connected," she said. "There is no connection to Rothstein and very little connection to the mob."
Rothstein has pleaded guilty to fraud and money laundering charges in connection with his scheme to sell fabricated legal settlements to investors.
Settineri was charged with obstruction of justice and money laundering.