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Rothstein expected to plead guilty in scheme

Scott Rothstein will soon plead guilty to running a $1 billion-plus investment racket that could send him to prison for 30 years to life.

The disbarred lawyer, who pleaded not guilty in early December to conspiracy, fraud and money laundering charges, is expected to tell a federal judge today in Fort Lauderdale that he wants to change his plea.

"We are in the process of finalizing a plea agreement," Marc Nurik, Rothstein's attorney, told the Miami Herald Tuesday.

U.S. District Judge James Cohn will set a date for Rothstein, 47, to plead guilty in coming weeks, to be followed by his sentencing a few months later — capping the biggest investment fraud case in South Florida history.

Rothstein has been cooperating with authorities as they build cases against members of his inner circle and now-defunct Fort Lauderdale law firm.

He is accused of executing a $1.2 billion Ponzi scam by selling bogus legal settlements to wealthy investors — including five hedge funds that sank $775 million in the deals.

The investment scandal broke in late October as hedge fund operator George Levin reported to the U.S. Attorney's Office that Rothstein had failed to make good on investors' latest distribution payments from the purported settlements in employment and other civil cases.

Rothstein is accused of laundering hundreds of millions of dollars to support the lifestyle of a tycoon. According to the government's seizure list of Rothstein's property, he owned more than a dozen homes, along with 21 flashy cars such as Ferraris and an 87-foot yacht.

Eager to rub shoulders with power brokers, Rothstein, his law firm Rothstein Rosenfeldt Adler, his wife, Kimberly, and other colleagues gave about $2.2 million in campaign contributions to Gov. Charlie Crist, the McCain-Palin presidential ticket and other prominent politicians.

Lawyers and executives who worked with Rothstein are under scrutiny as FBI and IRS agents try to determine who knew what, and when.

Rothstein expected to plead guilty in scheme 01/05/10 [Last modified: Tuesday, January 5, 2010 9:21pm]
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