Fort Lauderdale's Andrew Barnett was a Scott Rothstein associate who drummed up investors for the Ponzi scheme. Barnett, who served as RRA's "director of corporate development," has said that his involvement was innocent and that he had no idea Rothstein's investments were shams.
Now the 39-year-old Barnett is in a similar position with his own brother-in-law and former business partner, Ronald Christopher Katz, who was charged last month with swindling a man out of $700,000 by selling him investments in property he never purchased and opening credit cards in the man's name to fund his lavish lifestyle. Katz is the brother of Barnett's wife, Fort Lauderdale charity maven Jackie Katz-Barnett, 31. Another alleged victim of the swindle, according to sources, is Katz's own stepfather, Eugene Katz.
State corporate records show that Andrew Barnett and Ronald Katz were partners in seven companies, including one called Nations Financial Partners, back in 2006 and 2007. Nations Financial is also under scrutiny by law enforcement.
There is no evidence that Andrew Barnett was involved in any crimes. Barnett told me this morning that he had nothing to do with Katz's alleged crimes or even his companies. "I had nothing to do with it," said Barnett. "[Katz] illegally put my name in there. I'm a
victim as well. He is a criminal, and if you suggest that I had anything to do with it, I'll take legal action against you."
The known Katz victim said that Barnett worked in the Nations Financial office but said there was no evidence that he was involved in the crimes.
"Did Andrew Barnett work at Nations Financial? Yes," said the man. "Did I see him at the office? Yes. Is he listed on Sunbiz as a director of the company? Yes. Nations Financial had a prospectus with bogus properties in it that people lost money in. Did Andrew know nothing about what was going on? I honestly don't know, but Katz is the one who I know took the money."
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Barnett is named in attorney Bill Scherer's lawsuit targeting alleged Rothstein's co-conspirators. The lawsuit claims that Barnett should have known that Rothstein was committing illegal acts while he was recruiting investors for him. Barnett, however, says that he knew nothing of Rothstein's crimes and that his own mother, longtime Fort Lauderdale socialite Bonnie Barnett, invested in the scheme and reportedly lost half a million dollars. He reportedly also was never paid for his work by Rothstein.
Katz was no Rothstein, but there were similarities, including an apparent penchant for the high life and strip clubs. The Palm Beach Post reported on Katz's arrest last month with no mention of Barnett:
* Lakeside Villas apartments near Palm Beach International Airport. The man later was told the deal had fallen through. But, he said, he later learned it was dead even before he invested.
* Broadway Place Apartments, Myrtle Beach, S.C. The complex, built in 1998, was on the block for $5.5 million. The man was to earn $154,325. As Katz stalled, the man said he grew more suspicious and eventually contacted the owner, only to learn the deal never went through.
* La Peak and Taft Circle Apartments, Houston. The alleged victim said that deal fell through as well. A former assistant told detectives that on one of the Texas trips, ostensibly to look at the properties, the two went to a strip club instead.
It was around that time, the man said, that he confronted Katz.
Bank records included in the affidavit indicate the alleged victim deposited a total of $713,000. They show Katz used the money to buy food, entertainment, and travel, and pay for his mortgage, car and credit cards.
The Wellington man said he also later learned Katz had opened corporate credit card accounts using the victim's name, and in less than three months, had billed $64,000 with American Express, more than $36,000 with Wells Fargo and about $6,000 with Capital One.
He said Katz charged limos, vacations, and even attorney fees.
Katz's former assistant said he often would rent a 10-seat limo and treat himself and the assistant to a night at a strip club, spending at least $600.
The investigation into Katz is continuing.