One-time Fort Lauderdale executive Steven Steiner, who had lived an upscale lifestyle with waterfront homes in South Florida and Maine, was convicted of money-laundering conspiracy in Miami federal court Thursday.
Steiner, 61, the former vice president of Mutual Benefits Corp., was also found guilty of 18 other counts, including conspiring to defraud the U.S. government, money laundering and obstruction of justice.
But the federal jury acquitted him of 35 other charges in the indictment. Steiner, who has been held at the Miami Federal Detention Center since his arrest in 2011, will face a potential sentence of 20 years or more in May before U.S. District Judge Kathleen Williams.
The 12-person jury acquitted Steiner’s live-in partner, Henry Fecker III, 59, of all charges.
Both men, who were on trial since late January, were accused of laundering $15 million in ill-gotten profits from an investment scam allegedly run by Mutual Benefits. The company sold $1.25 billion worth of life insurance policies, held by people dying of AIDS, to investors who lost $830 million — among Florida’s biggest financial frauds, federal authorities say.
The men were charged with laundering the millions through home purchases in Fort Lauderdale, Maine and Manhattan, as well as with hiding assets from U.S. authorities and lying to a court-appointed receiver who was seeking to reimburse Mutual Benefits investors who bought the so-called viatical policies.
During trial, Steiner testified that no fraud was committed at Mutual Benefits and that he complied with his settlement obligations with the Securities and Exchange Commission and the receiver, who took over the bankrupt company in 2004. Steiner also testified that his company was a “victim” of the receiver’s decision to wind down the business.
On the witness stand, Steiner name-dropped Bill Clinton, Hillary Clinton and Phil Donahue as friends.
Fecker’s lawyer, Valentin Rodriguez, argued that his client was a dupe who was misled by Steiner.
Assistant U.S. Attorneys Jerrob Duffy and Dwayne Williams depicted Steiner and Fecker as partners in crime, claiming they used “money from a massive Ponzi scheme” at Mutual Benefits to support their “lavish lifestyle.”
Separately, Steiner is awaiting trial this spring on charges accusing him, his brother, Joel Steinger, and a one-time Mutual Benefits lawyer of conspiring to bilk investors between 1994 and 2003. (Although Steiner and Steinger are brothers, they spell their last names differently.)
Several former company employees, including president Peter Lombardi, have pleaded guilty and been sentenced to lengthy prison terms in that case.