South Florida jeweler Mark Levinson, who promoted his retail business with a pro football legend on billboards, took his own life with a single gunshot early Tuesday, authorities said.
His body was found in a yard next door to his Fort Lauderdale waterfront home, according to the Broward County Medical Examiner’s Office. He had left a suicide note in a text message for his wife, Robin, who was his partner in the business.
Levinson, 60, a prominent figure in the city's social and charitable networks, owned a jewelry store on fashionable Las Olas Boulevard. For years, his pitchman was Miami Dolphin Hall of Famer Dan Marino.
Levinson and his wife launched their retail business in a Plantation jewelry exchange in 1983. As their business flourished, they eventually opened the high-end Fort Lauderdale store in 2008.
On Tuesday afternoon, according to the Sun Sentinel, a steady stream of mourners and friends arrived at the Levinsons’ home in the gated Sagamore Cove community along the New River. Clerks in Levinson's namesake store at 888 E. Las Olas Blvd. appeared distraught.
“The family just wants their privacy,” one staffer said.
Levinson Jewelers would become a favorite stop for a pair of social climbers, lawyer Scott Rothstein and his wife, Kimberly, who bought nearly $10 million in jewelry from the notable retailer. Rothstein made a fast and loud splash in Fort Lauderdale social and business circles before his Ponzi-style investment scam collapsed in 2009, according to court records.
Levinson was never charged in the Rothstein criminal investigation, which led to 29 prosecutions, including a 50-year sentence for Rothstein. His now ex-wife also got 1 1/2 years in prison.
But Levinson’s business was dragged into the aftermath of the scandal. Levinson was sued by the bankruptcy trustee for Rothstein’s former downtown law firm, Rothstein, Rosenfeldt and Adler. Trustee Herbert Stettin sought to collect potentially millions of dollars from Levinson, because Rothstein used his law firm to orchestrate his $1.2 billion Ponzi scheme and spent a large chunk of the proceeds at Levinson Jewelers.
In effect, the law allowed the trustee to “claw back” that money from Levinson because Rothstein’s law firm did not benefit from the jewelry purchases — only he and his wife, Kimberly, did.
In 2013, the trustee reached a “compromise” settlement with Levinson’s jewelry company for $650,000. Levinson and his wife, Robin, had to make a series of payments through last year, court records show. That money was then turned over to Rothstein’s investors.
Fort Lauderdale police would not discuss what might have motivated Levinson. Authorities would not reveal the contents of the text he sent to his wife.
According to police, detectives were investigating his death but found no evidence of “foul play.”
The Broward medical examiner’s office confirmed that Levinson’s death was reported at 4:42 a.m. His body was found in the yard of an abandoned house near his family home on the New River.
Medical Examiner Craig Mallak confirmed Levinson died of a single gunshot wound to the right side of his head.
“We've already ruled on the death. It was a contact gunshot wound to the head,” Mallak told the Miami Herald. “There was a suicide note. Everything consistent with a suicide.”
Miami Herald staff writer Charles Rabin contributed to this report.