Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Ponzi schemer Scott Rothstein says he's been working undercover for FBI

Ponzi schemer Scott Rothstein, the Fort Lauderdale lawyer who spent the past five years handing out millions of dollars in campaign contributions to Florida politicians, says he has spent the past few months working undercover for the FBI.

The admission, made in letters and other documents filed in a bid to reduce the federal prison sentence he will get Wednesday, does not identify the people who may soon learn they have legal problems of their own.

The money Rothstein doled out to politicians came from victims of a $1.2 billion Ponzi scheme. He faces a possible prison sentence of 100 years and has already surrendered millions of dollars in cash, cars, real estate and jewelry. His lawyer suggests a 30-year prison sentence would be adequate punishment. Rothstein pleaded guilty to multiple counts of fraud in January.

"Mr. Rothstein acknowledges that he not only stole other people's monies, he also used it to corrupt the political process and enhance his power for personal gain,'' attorney Marc S. Nurik noted in a sentencing memo filed Friday.

To make amends, he is helping the government bring to justice "those others who bear criminal responsibility in this and other matters,'' Nurik wrote.

The case against Rothstein, 47, is one of several state and federal investigations that have some of Tallahassee's best-known figures lawyering up and answering questions before grand juries. One of those investigations led to the indictment last week of former Republican Party Chairman Jim Greer on multiple counts of fraud.

Related investigations are continuing in Florida's three federal districts.

Rothstein's biggest contributions — more than $600,000 — went to the Republican Party of Florida, but he also gave $200,000 to the Florida Democratic Party. Other recipients include Gov. Charlie Crist, Chief Financial Officer Alex Sink and a handful of legislators and judicial candidates. Some of the money has been returned to a receiver handling his assets.

Last year, as Rothstein's scam began to unravel, he flew to Morocco with about $16 million in cash but agreed to come back and has remained in "protective custody'' while being "debriefed'' by federal agents.

He participated in numerous undercover operations and has helped federal officials and others piece together the complex financial deals that resulted in the charges against him, Nurik wrote.

In March, federal authorities arrested a suspected Italian Mafia member living in Miami Beach after Rothstein wore a wire to set up the case.

Nurik said the extent of Rothstein's "substantial cooperation'' will not be detailed at this time, but is likely to figure in future efforts to get his sentence reduced.

In a long letter to U.S. District Judge James I. Cohn, Rothstein said he lost his "moral compass'' while trying to create a law firm that would be seen as "the largest, the wealthiest, the most powerful.''

Rothstein says he became involved with others who helped him, but he does not name them. He fully expected to repay everyone but found himself spending all of his time trying to keep the scheme from blowing up in his face, he wrote.

At one point Rothstein said he sat in his shower in a business suit with a .357 Magnum up against his head but decided instead to leave the country and go to a place that had no extradition treaty with the United States. Upon further thought, he returned to the United States and surrendered to FBI agents.

After his return he spent a full month — hundreds of hours — talking to federal agents about his crimes "and the crimes of many others,'' Rothstein wrote. He said he expects to continue working with investigators for several years while remaining in a "protective custody unit'' and does not expect to see his wife and children again.

Ponzi schemer Scott Rothstein says he's been working undercover for FBI 06/06/10 [Last modified: Sunday, June 6, 2010 7:56pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. What to watch this weekend: 'GLOW,' second season of 'Preacher'


    Ready to rumble: GLOW

    Four words: Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling. Yes, the fluorescent, body-slamming soap opera GLOW starring a cast of exaggerated characters is back, this time as a fictionalized Netflix series. Alison Brie (Community, Mad Men) stars as Ruth, a down-on-her-luck actor …

    Alison Brie, left, and Betty Gilpin in GLOW on Netflix.
  2. Exploratory Lab Boot Camp provides real-life technology training to students


    CLEARWATER — At this graduation ceremony featuring some of the brightest local minds in tech, it was the youngsters who stood out.

    Laszo Leedy, 17, a senior at Shorecrest Prep, presents part of his team's project for SPC's Exploratory Lab Boot Camp. Students presented their ideas at the end of the SPC Exploratory Lab Boot Camp. The program provides real-time business training to students. This year's graduation celebrated 15 students that finished the program. 
[JIM DAMASKE   |   Times]
  3. Editorial: Trump, not military, should set troop levels in Afghanistan


    There is no task more solemn for any American president than the decision to send troops off to war. In delegating authority over troops levels in Afghanistan to the Pentagon, President Donald Trump has shirked his obligation to own and defend his Afghan policy, while further divorcing America's military strategy there …

  4. North Korea says it's 'biggest victim' in U.S. student's death (w/video)


    SEOUL, South Korea — North Korea on Friday called itself the "biggest victim" in the death of an American student who was detained for more than a year and died days after being released in a coma.

    Mourners line the street after the funeral of Otto Warmbier, Thursday, June 22, 2017, in Wyoming, Ohio. Warmbier, a 22-year-old University of Virginia undergraduate student who was sentenced in March 2016 to 15 years in prison with hard labor in North Korea, died this week, days after returning to the United States. [Associated Press]
  5. Kentucky recruit, former Tampa Catholic star Kevin Knox among top prospects for 2018 NBA Draft


    Less than 24 hours after the NBA Draft, analysts have already begun looking ahead to 2018.

    Tampa Catholic star Kevin Knox finishes a layup during the McDonald's All-American game in March at the United Center in Chicago. [LOREN ELLIOTT | Times]