The nature of the complex fraud allegedly orchestrated by Florida lobbyist Alan Mendelsohn — who pleaded not guilty today in court — is getting a bit clearer.
Based on the indictment filed today — and with help from this AP story — here’s how it worked:
Starting in 2002, Mendelsohn, a politically connected eye doctor, created several false organizations with the stated purpose of lobbying state government on health-care issues.
On that basis, Mendelsohn raised around $2 million in political contributions from industry sources with an interest in those issues — in addition to money he took in directly from lobbying clients.
Mendelsohn then diverted over $600,000 of that money — some from the political contributions, some directly from the lobbying fees — to his own personal use. Mendelsohn, who is married, bought a house and car for his mistress, paid for his children’s high-school and college tuition and SAT prep, and paid personal credit card bills, among other things. He had his lobbying clients directly pay some of these bills, allowing him to avoid lobbyist disclosure rules.
But that wasn’t the end of it. One contributor from whom Mendelsohn raised money was an executive for the Mutual Benefits Corp., a life-insurance company being investigated by the office of Charlie Crist, then the state’s attorney general, for defrauding investors. (It was later shut down by federal regulators, and its president charged with securities fraud.) Mendelsohn falsely told the contributor that he had bribed state officials to shut down their probe of Mutual Benefits.
In an email to the contributor, Mendelsohn wrote that he was “making very good progress,” and continued: “Trading baseball cards’ always works when you are dealing with straight shooters.”
In reality, no such bribery scheme existed. And Mendelsohn later allegedly later lied to the FBI by denying he had ever made such claims about bribery.
Mendelsohn, 51, was a major financial backer of Crist’s campaign for governor, and served on his transition team. He also held a fundraiser earlier this year for Marco Rubio, who is running against Crist for the GOP nomination for the U.S. Senate.
Mendelsohn pleaded not guilty today to a 32-count indictment, that accused him of wire fraud, mail fraud and lying to FBI agents. If convicted on all counts, he could face a sentence of over 500 years in jail.
Mendelsohn’s lawyer said in a statement:
The political tale told in these charges will be addressed in court, where we look forward to Dr. Mendelsohn’s vindication.