Disbarred Fort Lauderdale, Fla. lawyer Scott Rothstein pleaded guilty to felony Ponzi scheme charges today, admitting that for approximately five years, he engaged in approximately $1.2 billion dollars of fraudulent and bogus investment schemes.
According to the plea agreement (you can read it below), Rothstein admitted that he engaged in a criminal racketeering scheme to use his position as a lawyer and law firm Rothstein Roenfeldt and Adler, P.A.'s ('RRA') purported success "and his standing in the community to lure potential investors in order to convince them to" invest in non-existent sexual harassment and whistleblower cases. He falsely told investors that "confidential settlement agreements" could be bought pre-litigation, i.e, before any lawsuit was ever filed.
In reality, no such clients or pre-litigation cases ever existed.
How far did Rothstein go? He and other unnamed co-conspirators:
- Created false and imaginary attorney trust account bank statements;
- Defrauded clients who retained his law firm to file a lawsuit, but unbeknownst to them, the firm settled the suit and obligated them to pay Rothstein $500,000;
- Used Ponzi scheme monies to expand PPA and hire more attorneys, pay salaries and bonsues, and get "larger and more elaborate office space and equipment"
By himself, Rothstein admitted to creating an utterly fraudulant and "false Federal court order pruprortedly issued by a United States Magistrate Judge," ordering PPA to give clients millions of dollars at a "later date."
U.S. Attorney Jeffrey Sloman expressed disgust with Rothstein and his unnamed co-conspirators "who perpetrated a $1.2 billion Ponzi scheme under the guise of operating a legitimate law firm." He promised Rothstein's Ponzi scheme victims that the federal government would "do everything it can to identify, seize and equitably refund fraud proceeds."
To help do that, U.S. District Judge James Cohn signed a protective order early last month listing scores of residential and commercial properties, luxury cars, holding companies and his interest in other business like restaurants, bank accounts in the U.S. and overseas, yachts and other boats, "304 pieces of jewelry, watches, necklaces and earrings" from the home of Rothstein and his wife, cash, gift cards, and more.
Some of the vehicles seized from Rothstein's extensive car collection included:
- A 1990 red Ferrari F40 coupe;
- A 2009 white Bentley convertible;
- A 2008 Yellow McLaren Mercedes Benz SLR;
- A 2009 red Ferrari 430 Spider;
- A 2007 silver Rolls Royce convertible;
- A 2009 black Bugatti Veyron EB 16.4
- A 2008 blue Rolls Royce Drophead Coupé convertible; and
- A 1967 red Corvette convertible;
You can read the detailed December 7, 2009 protective order listing millions in Rothstein's swanky assets seized by the feds here:
Rothstein was disbarred in Florida, and given the potential 100-year sentence he faces, the 47-year-old disgraced attorney will never practice law ever again.
You can read Rothstein's plea agreement here:
Curious observers are wondering about the identities of Rothstein's other co-conspirators. Legal minds and furious scammed investors want to know...
- Florida Lawyer Pleads Guilty to Huge Ponzi Scheme, Reuters (Jan. 27, 2010)
- What is a Ponzi scheme? FindLaw (Dec. 15, 2008)
- Task Force to Target Bankers who Crashed Economy, Reuters (Jan. 8, 2010)
- Madoff Gets 150 Years for "Evil" Ponzi Scheme, by Kevin Fayle, FindLaw (Jun. 29, 2009)
- Weekend at Bernie Madoff's Prison, by Joel Zand, FindLaw (Jul. 14, 2009)
- Corruption Threatens 'Soul and Fabric of U.S.: FBI, Reuters (Dec. 8, 2009)
Photo: Rothstein, Rosenfeldt, and Adler, P.A.