Scott Rothstein (Melanie Bell)
Ex-Broward sheriff’s Lt. David Benjamin was in law firm chairman Scott Rothstein’s pocket.
When the con man needed law enforcement to do his dirty work, he called on Benjamin, Sheriff Al Lamberti’s right-hand man, even if it meant strong-arming a prostitute and her boyfriend to keep silent about sexual dalliances with Rothstein’s equity partner, Stuart Rosenfeldt.
For his loyalty, Benjamin received $180,000 in cash and gifts, federal prosecutors say.
Benjamin pleaded guilty Tuesday to conspiracy to commit extortion and violate civil rights. He is the second former Broward sheriff’s deputy in as many weeks to plead guilty to a Rothstein-related crime.
Benjamin headed the internal affairs department and held the position akin to chief of staff.
Rothstein is serving a 50-year prison sentence for running a $1.2 billion Ponzi scheme from his law office at Fort Lauderdale’s Rothstein Rosenfeldt Adler and in the process infiltrated the Broward Sheriff’s Office.
Benjamin bailed out Rosenfeldt in one of many deeds for Rothstein, according to a stipulated statement of facts filed with the court Tuesday.
In September 2009, Rothstein and Rosenfeldt met Benjamin at the law office to talk about how to keep the boyfriend of a prostitute repeatedly hired by Rosenfeldt from exposing their relationship.
“During that meeting and in subsequent conversations, Benjamin, Rothstein and Rosenfeldt spoke with one another in order to facilitate having the escort and her boyfriend threatened with force and violence,” according to the proffer.
Rothstein and Rosenfeldt instructed Benjamin that a police report should not to be filed on the matter. Benjamin contacted Broward sheriff’s detective Jeff Poole, who confronted the couple, put the boyfriend in handcuffs, took the escort’s cellphone and deleted any evidence of her relationship with Rosenfeldt, the proffer states.
The escort was later driven to the airport by two law enforcement officers and put on a plane to her native Pennsylvania, the proffer states.
Cash And Carry
Benjamin also called on Poole to arrange the arrest of the wife of Plantation attorney Douglas Bates on fake drug charges for $1,000. The 2009 arrest was intended to help Bates, a Rothstein co-conspirator, get leverage in a child custody battle. Bates has been sentenced to a five-year sentence.
Benjamin also helped Rothstein flee to Morocco with $500,000 cash and expensive watches when the Ponzi scheme imploded in October 2009. Rothstein returned to plead guilty and later implicated others in an attempt to get a reduced sentence.
“Benjamin assisted Rothstein in carrying the cash and the watches onto the airplane,” the proffer states.
U.S. District Judge James I. Cohn in Fort Lauderdale set Benjamin’s sentencing for July 21.
Poole pleaded guilty last week to conspiracy to violate civil rights for the arrest of Bates’ wife. Unlike at the hearing where Poole was asked numerous questions by U.S. District Judge William Dimitrouleas, Benjamin’s change of plea hearing was perfunctory.
Cohn’s only incisive question was whether Benjamin ordered Poole or “solicited” him to make the false arrest. Benjamin said he solicited Poole.
Rothstein’s 70-lawyer labor and employment firm was taken over by a court-appointed bankruptcy trustee and liquidated for his settlement financing fraud victims.