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Restaurateur Tony Bova falls victim to Rothstein Ponzi scheme

Prominent South Florida restaurateur Tony Bova has succumbed to the Scott Rothstein Ponzi scheme, filing for personal bankruptcy and putting his two closed Boca Raton restaurants into liquidation proceedings as well.

The two men became business partners in 2008, when Rothstein bought into Bova's restaurant group. Even before Rothstein's $1.4 billion investment fraud blew up in late October, Rothstein ordered that Bova Cucina in Boca Raton be closed, Bova's attorney, Robert Furr, said Friday. The second Boca Raton restaurant, Bova Ristorante, was shut down last weekend, Furr said.

"Mr. Bova could not continue operating the Boca operations. They were losing money," Furr said.

Rothstein was a 50 percent owner of the Boca Raton restaurants, and a 100 percent owner of the Bova Prime location on Las Olas Boulevard, in the same downtown Fort Lauderdale building as Rothstein's now-bankrupt law firm, Furr said.

Rothstein's financial collapse and arrest deprived Bova not only of his partner, but of his largest source of business capital – Rothstein poured at least $2 million into Bova operations since late 2008, according to records in his law firm's bankruptcy case.

The Las Olas location was not included in the bankruptcy filings and remained open Friday for business, although its future is uncertain – it is losing money and is now subject to either forfeiture proceedings by federal prosecutors or creditors of Rothstein's law firm, Furr said.

"Mr. Bova is still operating Bova Prime and we are hoping to keep it open to keep the value in it," Furr said. "If he can get funding, he would like to keep that business open."

In his personal Chapter 7 liquidation bankruptcy petition, filed Thursday, Tony Bova listed $8.7 million in debts and $2.1 million in assets. A bank filed a foreclosure action last month against Bova's $700,000 Boca Raton home that he has owned since 1990. "He probably will lose his home over it," Furr said.

In the liquidation petitions for the two closed Boca Raton restaurants, Bova listed $7.4 million in debts and $165,000 in assets for Boca Cucina and $4.9 million in debts and $70,000 in assets for Bova Ristorante.

Rothstein has been convicted of five federal felonies including racketeering and fraud and faces up to 100 years in prison when he is sentenced May 6.

Peter Franceschina can be reached at or 954-459-2255.