A former Broward sheriff’s detective has pleaded guilty to a federal civil rights violation for making a false arrest to help ex-attorney Scott Rothstein’s $1.2 billion Ponzi scheme.
Jeff Poole told a federal judge on Thursday that he illegally arrested a woman in June 2009 under orders from the right-hand man to then-Sheriff Al Lamberti. Poole identified the high-ranking officer as Lt. David Benjamin, who ran the internal affairs division.
Poole faces up to 10 years in prison at sentencing July 17 on his guilty plea to a conspiracy to violate civil rights.
Benjamin was charged separately with taking $185,000 in cash and gifts from Rothstein, even helping the disgraced law firm chairman briefly flee the country when the settlement financing fraud collapsed in October 2009. Rothstein is serving a 50-year prison term for running the scam through his Fort Lauderdale firm, Rothstein Rosenfeldt Adler.
Poole was a detective in the strategic investigations division, which handled major drug trafficking probes. He arrested Marcy Romeo on trumped up drug charges. She was the ex-wife of Plantation attorney Douglas L. Bates, a Rothstein crony who was sentenced to five years for vouching to investors that the lawyer’s scam was legitimate.
Bates wanted to use the arrest as leverage in a custody battle with his ex-wife, prosecutors said.
“Bates informed Rothstein as to his ex-wife’s typical daily travels in order to facilitate her arrest. Rothstein provided the typical daily travels of the ex-wife of Bates to Benjamin,” according to Assistant U.S. Attorney Jeffrey Kaplan’s stipulated statement of facts filed with the court in Poole’s case.
Benjamin received $1,000 from Rothstein for organizing the arrest, Kaplan said.
U.S. District Judge William Dimitrouleas in Fort Lauderdale “grilled” Bates on his role as part of the plea hearing, said Romeo’s attorney, Valentin Rodriguez of West Palm Beach.
Poole said Benjamin told him, “Make sure you arrest that bitch,” Rodriguez said.
Benjamin’s high rank opens up the sheriff’s office to liability in a pending civil lawsuit filed on behalf of Romeo, Rodriguez said.
Benjamin, who was suspended more than a year ago after Scott Israel was elected sheriff, is set to plead guilty Tuesday.