When federal agents showed up at Scott Rothstein’s waterfront Fort Lauderdale home in November 2009, his wife helped them retrieve what she claimed was all the cash, jewelry and watches that he had obtained with the millions stolen through his Ponzi scheme.
And Kimberly W. Rothstein, testifying the following February in the bankruptcy case of her husband’s defunct law firm, repeated that she had turned over all of the couple’s jewelry to authorities.
But as it turned out, Rothstein’s wife was hiding more than a bauble or two. Among the missing jewelry, prosecutors say: a 12.08-carat yellow diamond ring.
On Thursday, Kimberly Rothstein, 38, was charged along with her civil lawyer, Scott F. Saidel, 45, and her friend, Stacie Weisman, 49, with plotting to hide and sell more than $1 million worth of jewelry, watches and coins before IRS agents seized Scott Rothstein’s assets.
The three defendants were charged in federal court with money-laundering conspiracy, obstruction of justice and tampering with a witness: Scott Rothstein himself. The way the three were charged, via a document called an “information,’’ means they are likely to plead guilty in the near future.
Rothstein is serving a 50-year sentence after pleading guilty in early 2010 to racketeering and other fraud charges involving the sale of purported legal settlements to investors from Florida to New York. Eight other people, including employees of his former law firm, have been convicted on charges related to his $1.2 billion fraud scheme, among the largest in Florida history.
Kimberly Rothstein’s defense attorney, David Tucker, issued a statement Thursday saying while she was not aware of her husband’s “fraudulent activity” in the past, “she takes full responsibility for her actions in regard to the charge filed today.”
Weisman’s attorney, Alvin Entin, said his client came to know Kimberly Rothstein through Fort Lauderdale charity circles.
“She was trying to help a friend in need,” Entin said. “She has taken responsibility for her actions and done everything she could to set things right.”
Saidel, a Boca Raton lawyer, could not be reached for comment.
Prosecutors said that by concealing the valuable jewelry, the three defendants prevented Internal Revenue Service agents from confiscating the property when they searched Rothstein’s Mediterranean-style mansion.
His wife and Weisman are accused of selling some of the jewelry, including to Eddy Marin and Patrick Daoud, a longtime jeweler in Fort Lauderdale. Both were indicted on separate charges Thursday.
Kimberly Rothstein, Weisman and Saidel are also accused of seeking to have Scott Rothstein lie during his deposition in a related civil bankruptcy proceeding involving his defunct law firm, Rothstein Rosenfeldt & Adler.
All five defendants are charged with obstruction of justice for allegedly concealing the true location of certain items of jewelry during the bankruptcy proceeding to prevent the law firm’s trustee from recovering them for victims of Rothstein’s racket. As part of his punishment in the criminal case, Rothstein was ordered to pay about $370 million in restitution.
Marin, 50, and Daoud, 54, are also charged with committing perjury during depositions in the bankruptcy case.
“When a witness lies under oath or conspires to obstruct justice, the integrity of our system of justice is undermined,” U.S. Attorney Wifredo Ferrer said.
Daoud’s attorney, Fred Haddad, said his client, who owns Daoud’s Fine Jewelry, is a “pillar of the community.”
“As far as I’m concerned, he’s done nothing wrong,” Haddad said. “We’re going to trial.”
According to court records, Kimberly Rothstein gave a portion of the missing jewelry to Weisman in November 2009, before IRS agents searched her husband’s home.
They included the 12.08-carat yellow diamond ring, which Rothstein had bought for her from J.R. Dunn Jewelers in Fort Lauderdale.
Weisman showed Kimberly Rothstein’s ring to Marin, and he took a picture of it so he could try to sell it. In April 2010, Weisman gave the ring to Daoud to have it graded by the Gemological Institute of America, and sold it to him for $175,000, according to court records.
Weisman gave the proceeds to Kimberly Rothstein and Saidel.
But the plot thickened when Marin and Daoud gave depositions in the Rothstein law firm’s bankruptcy case.
Marin “falsely testified” that a dead person named Robert Fuchs had shown him the ring, according to records. Daoud also “falsely testified” that someone other than Weisman had shown him the ring and that he never possessed it. In fact, Daoud gave the ring back to Weisman after his testimony, the charges state.
To get their story straight, prosecutors say, Kimberly Rothstein, Weisman and Saidel concocted a plan to persuade Scott Rothstein to testify in the bankruptcy case that he had sold the ring to Robert Fuchs before he was incarcerated.
Weisman and Saidel told Kimberly Rothstein to meet with her husband, who has been held in an undisclosed federal prison, to advise him to deliver “false facts” in the bankruptcy case.
Charles Lichtman, a Fort Lauderdale attorney for the bankruptcy trustee, said he suspects Scott Rothstein told prosecutors about his wife’s alleged obstruction plot rather than go along with it. The reason: Rothstein is hoping to reduce his 50-year prison sentence by continuing to cooperate with authorities.
“My belief is that Scott came clean on his own accord,” Lichtman said. “In the five weeks of depositions I have sat through with him, we have yet to find an instance where he was untruthful.”