A king's ransom of mansions, sports cars, boats, Jet Skis, foreign bank accounts and millions of dollars in political and charitable contributions are up for seizure from disgraced Fort Lauderdale, Fla., attorney Scott Rothstein, according to a court filing Monday.
The forfeiture filing in federal court in Fort Lauderdale builds on an earlier version that listed eight Broward County properties and provides a long list of Rothstein's personal holdings, property and equity interests in a multitude of companies, banks and restaurants. Federal authorities already have seized many of the boats, luxury vehicles and other items.
Federal prosecutors seeking civil forfeiture orders say proceeds would be used to compensate investors who claim they were victimized by investments engineered by the ousted head of the Rothstein Rosenfeldt Adler law firm who rose to community prominence as a conspicuous political donor and philanthropist. Rothstein's attorney, Marc Nurik, did not return a call for comment by deadline.
Rothstein, 47, has not been criminally charged but has been accused by federal authorities of operating a Ponzi scheme that could top $1 billion. The alleged fraud scheme involved the sale of shares in phony lawsuit settlements, the FBI and investors say.
The latest court filing by the U.S. Attorney's Office in the case assigned to U.S. District Judge William Zloch details Rothstein's free-spending lifestyle and provides some previously undisclosed details about the alleged scheme.
Salaries for the law firm's staff were $18 million in a year when the firm's billings were just $8 million, based on records seized at the law firm in a nighttime raid Nov. 5, prosecutors said.
"The additional $10,000,000 for salaries, as well as the other expenses for operation of the law firm, came from the operation of and the funds generated by the ‘Ponzi' scheme," according to the filing by Assistant U.S. Attorney Alison Lehr.
The seizure notice lays out Rothstein's equity interests spread throughout South Florida, including interests in the Broward Bank of Commerce, Bova Ristorante in Fort Lauderdale, Bova Cucina in Boca Raton, Cafe Iguana in Pembroke Pines, V Georgio Vodka, North Star Mortgage, Kip Hunter Marketing, Kendall Sports Bar and a 10-year operating agreement with Versace Mansion/Casa Casuarina in South Beach.
The political and charitable donations have been returned by the recipients since Oct. 28 when Rothstein's empire began to unravel. The most notable donations were to Florida Gov. Charlie Crist, gubernatorial candidate Alex Sink, Holy Cross Hospital in Fort Lauderdale and Joe DiMaggio Children's Hospital in Hollywood. The properties sought by the government are the defendants in the forfeiture action, which can be pursued independent of any criminal case.
The FBI previously said the fraud dates back to at least 2005. Some investors who were directed to send wire transfers to the law firm's trust accounts were promised returns on the settlements of 20 percent over three months and 80 percent annually.
ITEMS COVERED BY REVISED FORFEITURE FILING AGAINST SCOTT ROTHSTEIN
15 pieces of property in Fort Lauderdale, Plantation, Hollywood, Weston and Lauderdale-by-the-Sea
Bank accounts in Bank Populaire in Morocco totaling $15 million
Gibraltar Private Bank & Trust shares plus accounts totaling more than $1 million
Broward Bank of Commerce shares
Renato Watches shares
$1 million donation to Holy Cross Hospital in Fort Lauderdale
$800,000 in charitable donations to Joe DiMaggio Children's Hospital in Hollywood
$155,000 in campaign contributions to the Republican Party of Florida
$9,600 in campaign contributions to Florida Gov. Charlie Crist
20 luxury cars, including a 2008 yellow McLaren Mercedes-Benz, 2009 white Bentley convertible and two red Ferrari 430 Spiders from different years
Eight boats or Jet Skis, including an 87-foot Warren, 55-foot Sea Ray boat and 33-foot Aquariva
304 pieces of jewelry
$80,000 in American Express gift cards