In My Opinion

Fred Grimm: Rothstein fraud case had many enablers with badges

Two more of Scott Rothstein’s enablers surrendered at the federal courthouse in Fort Lauderdale on Monday. Two out of so many. Rothstein operated in a wallow of complicity.

Broward Sheriff’s Lt. David Benjamin and detective Jeff Poole provided law enforcement gravitas for the convicted mastermind of a $1.4 billion Ponzi scheme. Of course, cops from all over town had been happy to provide “security” for the flamboyant crook. The Fort Lauderdale Police Department provided around-the-clock guard details for Rothstein’s gaudy waterfront mansion. He of the gold-plated toilet seats paid out some $400,000 a year for his personal police force. Of course, like everything else purchased by the fabulous Rothstein, he paid his protectors with stolen loot. He paid them with money any police officer in his vicinity should have suspected was dirty.

Benjamin is accused of helping Rothstein load $500,000 and heaps of jewelry onto a private jet in 2009, when the fraudster was absconding to Morocco just ahead of the FBI. He and Poole are accused of employing “force and threats of force” to protect Rothstein's former law partner, Stuart Rosenfeldt, from a hired escort who was intimating she might reveal her relationship with the lawyer.

They are charged also with engineering the false arrest of Rothstein buddy Douglas Bates’ ex-wife. Rothstein wanted his pet cops to help Bates out with his child custody dispute. Because when your co-conspirator owns the local police, child custody disputes can be settled with trumped-up drug charges. Bates pleaded guilty to wire fraud in February, the 14th of Rothstein’s cronies convicted.

But there were so many more who knew, who should have known, that they were associating with a billion dollar fraudster.

At least 28 Fort Lauderdale city police officers, including captains, majors and undercover detectives, hired themselves out to guard his house, his fancy Las Olas restaurant, his law firm. He was famously tight with Fort Lauderdale Police Chief Frank Adderley. The 70 lawyers at Rothstein Rosenfeldt Adler included former prosecutors and judges and criminal defense lawyers. When former sheriff and onetime prosecutor Ken Jenne was released from his own unrelated stint in federal prison, he was hired as a “consultant” by Rothstein.

Yet none of these cops, lawyers, judges, prosecutors or ex-con sheriff noticed that the joint was rife with illegality. That criminality was the only thing that explained an outfit that, according to court records, was bringing in $8 million in business a year — against an $18 million payroll. And the only plausible explanation for Rothstein’s mad, conspicuous billionaire lifestyle. With so many yachts, luxury cars, mansions, with his wildly bejeweled wife and mistresses.

Though someone noticed the hookers. As Rothstein explains in a 2012 deposition:

“The police also were sleeping with my escorts. Broward sheriff’s office, Fort Lauderdale Police Department weren’t going to bother me.”

Yet, only two cops are up on charges in the Rothstein affair. Benjamin and Poole, in need of a plea deal, must be anxious to remind prosecutors that this fraud had plenty more enablers. Many of them with badges.

Read more Fred Grimm stories from the Miami Herald

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