Stuart Rosenfeldt (Melanie Bell)
Attorney Stuart Rosenfeldt always denied knowing about the $1.2 billion Ponzi scheme run from his law firm by equity partner Scott Rothstein.
Rosenfeldt’s position as Rothstein’s sole equity partner at Rothstein Rosenfeldt Adler lent him some protection since he was allowed to spend the firm’s money any way he deemed fit—even though some of that money happened to be for prostitutes or exotic turtles.
But federal prosecutors charged him anyway Thursday, filing a conspiracy charge alleging he plotted bank fraud and campaign finance fraud, and to violate civil rights.
More than 4½ years since the Ponzi scheme imploded, Rosenfeldt now stands accused of check kiting, strong-arming a prostitute and her boyfriend, and illegal campaign contributions. He faces a maximum sentence of five years in prison under a charging document indicating a guilty plea is forthcoming.
Rosenfeldt becomes the 23nd person and eighth attorney charged with Rothstein-related crimes.
He also becomes the last of the name partners to be charged. Attorney Russell Adler pleaded guilty last month to illegal campaign contributions on behalf of Rothstein.
Prosecutors have ramped up their filings against co-conspirators because the five-year statute of limitations runs out this fall.
Only one defendant has dared to go to trial. Former RRA attorney Christina Kitterman was found guilty of helping Rothstein fool investors, and she was sentenced this week to five years in prison.
Rothstein is serving a 50-year sentence but hopes to get that time reduced by cooperating with the government.
Rosenfeldt’s attorney, Bruce Lehr of Lehr Levi Mendez in Miami, said his client was willing to go trial on Ponzi-related charges.
But prosecutors assembled a case bringing in other allegations.
“I am pleased that we were able to negotiate an appropriate plea in this case,” Lehr said.
Rothstein said in civil depositions that Rosenfeldt shared his “rock-star lifestyle” and knew about the investment scam predicated on financing for bogus court settlements.
Rosenfeldt said in his own civil deposition that he ran up $1 million in charges on the firm’s American Express card at Rothstein’s direction. A civil suit filed in the RRA bankruptcy case said Rosenfeldt’s personal expenses included 72 pieces of jewelry, home furniture, exotic reptiles and other luxuries.
But Rosenfeldt insisted he was oblivious to the giant fraud, testifying in the civil deposition he never studied RRA’s accounting books or even knew how much the firm was making.
The government also charged Rosenfeldt was reimbursed to funnel money to the campaign of U.S. Sen. John McCain’s presidential bid in 2008.
The more salacious allegation had to do with a prostitute whose boyfriend threatened to go public about her relationship with the attorney.
Fired Broward sheriff’s Detective David Benjamin, who was accused of taking bribes from Rothstein, was called to the firm’s Fort Lauderdale office and told strong-arm the couple into silence.
Benjamin allegedly arranged to threaten the boyfriend with arrest and have the call girl’s cell phone memory erased to hide evidence of her communications with Rosenfeldt. The prostitute was then put on a airplane to Pennsylvania by two deputies.
Benjamin, who was the head of the sheriff’s internal affairs department, pleaded guilty to a conspiracy to commit extortion.