Estimates of the size of the investment scheme allegedly carried out by politically connected Fort Lauderdale attorney Scott Rothstein have now soared to $1 billion, up from $500 million, which was up from $100 million. Meanwhile, Rothstein is still free and was even taped Monday having a lunchtime cocktail at Fort Lauderdale’s Capital Grille.
Civil charges were brought in the case Monday by the IRS and authorities have seized his 87-foot yacht and several sports cars, but Rothstein, who was a top moneyman for Gov. Charlie Crist known for his expensive tastes, has not been charged criminally.
At a news conference in south Florida today, the FBI and IRS appealed to victims of the alleged scheme to come forward. “I’ll tell you, when it’s all said and done, I estimate that this scheme could well exceed $1 billion,” said John Gillies of the FBI’s Miami division, Reuters reports.
Rothstein’s alleged scheme involved a side business run out of his prominent law firm in which he sold investors made-up structured legal settlements, promising huge guaranteed returns. He allegedly specialized in cases like sexual harassment in which the charges were sensitive and the details of the settlements therefore had to be kept under wraps.
Reuters describes the conference today:
Appealing for cheated investors to come forward with information, John Gillies, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI Miami Division, said the fraud investigation was going to be one of the largest ever seen in South Florida. …
He added he did not think that Rothstein had acted alone: “I do not believe this was a one-man show.”
Interviewed briefly by the Broward-Palm Beach New Times at about noon Monday, Rothstein said, “tell everybody I’m alive, and I’m well, and I’m doing the right thing.”
“People make mistakes in life. If you make a mistake, you fix it,” he says, as a bartender mixes what looks a martini.
The growing investigation into Rothstein may create political problems for Crist, who is in a primary battle with conservative Marco Rubio for the 2010 Republican Senate nomination. Pictures recently emerged of Crist and Rothstein in 2008 blowing out the candles on the governor’s birthday cake, which Rothstein sponsored for $52,000. And at least two other moneymen for Crist have been in legal trouble in the past year.
When the accusations surfaced last week, Crist insisted that Rothstein was nothing more than another supporter. Lately, he has allowed that the two were friends. TPMmuckraker has documented the host of personal and political ties between the men.