US details assets seized from Fla. lawyer

AP News
Posted: Nov 23, 2009 12:23 PM

A sports car worth nearly $2 million, an 87-foot yacht and a guitar collection worth as much as $20,000 were among the assets seized from a South Florida lawyer suspected of operating a massive fraud scheme, according to a court filing Monday.

Proceeds from the seizures will eventually go to benefit investors who said they were fleeced by attorney Scott Rothstein, some of whom filed a $100 million lawsuit on Friday against Rothstein and a Canadian bank that handled many transactions. In all, authorities took 20 luxury cars, 15 pieces of property and three boats, as well as Moroccan bank accounts and political and charitable contributions.

Rothstein, 47, has not been charged with a crime, but the FBI has accused him of fraud that could top $1 billion through investments in legal settlements that were largely fabricated. Rothstein's attorney did not immediately respond Monday to an e-mail seeking comment.

The forfeiture filing from the Miami U.S. attorney's office also said that Rothstein's now-defunct law firm, Rothstein Rosenfeldt Adler, in a single year earned about $8 million but paid its 150-person staff $18 million in salaries.

"The additional $10 million for salaries, as well as other expenses for operation of the law firm, came from the operation of and the funds generated by the Ponzi scheme," said Assistant U.S. Attorney Alison W. Lehr in the filing.

The forfeiture filing provides new details on where Rothstein stashed some of the alleged fraud proceeds and how he spent what prosecutors say were his ill-gotten gains.

The assets include:

_Twenty luxury cars, including three Ferraris; two Rolls-Royces; a Maserati; a Bentley; a Lamborghini; and three Corvettes. Also on the list is a 2009 Bugatti Veyron, touted as the most expensive street car available in the U.S. at about $1.7 million.

_Three accounts at Morocco's Banque Populaire that held about $15 million. Rothstein left for Morocco just before his investment scheme came under investigation but returned to Florida after several days incommunicado.

_More than $160,000 in political contributions to the state Democratic and Republican parties and individual candidates, including GOP Gov. Charlie Crist's campaign for the U.S. Senate and Democrat Alex Sink's campaign for governor. The contributions have already been returned.

_Charitable donations totaling $1.8 million to two Fort Lauderdale hospitals.

_Rothstein's 50,000 shares of stock in Gibraltar Private Bank & Trust and his business interests in several restaurants, the Renato watch company and the South Beach mansion formerly owned by fashion designer Gianni Versace.

_Water vessels including 87-foot Warren yacht, a 33-foot Aquariva and a 55-foot Sea Ray.

_Valuables including 304 pieces of jewelry, a guitar collection worth up to $20,000 and 16 DuPont lighters than can retail for between $500 and $1,000.