We know that Joel Steinger, the mastermind of the billion-dollar Mutual Benefits Ponzi scheme with ties to several Broward politicians (Steve Geller, Stacy Ritter, Ellyn Bogdanoff, and others), had connections to Colombian drug cartels.
Now we have evidence of another intriguing connection, this one to the so-called Jewish Mafia in Miami, including business mogul and The Forge owner Alvin Malnik and infamous gangster Meyer Lansky. Another old Steinger chum: Whitewater attorney and 911 Commission member Richard Ben-Veniste, who defended Steinger in his 1981 felony case and remained close friends with him. Two sources with close ties to Steinger say that Ben-Veniste always hangs with Steinger when he's in town from Washington and that Steinger facilitates good times for the nationally known attorney. Ben-Veniste for years represented Steinger in his fight with Mutual Benefits against the Securities and Exchange Commission. Ben-Veniste, in fact, helped Steinger and the fraudulent company skate by an SEC investigation in 1998 that, had the agency done its job, could have avoided the debacle that followed. From a Wall Street Journal article at the time: "Richard Ben-Veniste, an attorney for the company and the Steingers, noted that no investor money had been lost, that the company wasn't
named in the SEC action, and that it was still in business."
Ben-Veniste is a partner with the high-powered international law firm Mayer Brown in D.C. Despite his impressive-seeming resume (he also played a significant role in Watergate), Ben-Veniste has always had friends (and former law clients) in low places. Not sure if any go lower than Steinger, though.
Steinger, according to multiple sources, also knew Meyer Lansky and even received a puppy from a litter related to the mobster's prized shih tzu "Bruiser." Steinger, a long-time fraud artist and boiler room operator, is also close friends with Alvin Malnik, another reputed mob figure with big-time legitimate businesses, including major real estate holdings throughout South Florida. Reader's Digest rather famously dubbed Malnik as Lansky's "heir apparent" when the mobster died in 1983. Malnik, who lives in a multmillion dollar mansion in Ocean Ridge in Palm Beach County, has ties to unions, title loans, Michael Jackson, Las Vegas, Hollywood -- and just about anything else you want to name.
Malnik used to live at the Cricket Club in Miami. It was in the parking garage there that his brand new Rolls Royce was blown up in 1982. Malnik's ties to organized crime run deep and long, beginning with Lansky. In 1980, the New Jersey Casino Control Commission denied him a gambling license because they found he was a "person of unsuitable character and unsuitable reputation." While he still has vast business interests (including a rather remarkable kinship with the Saudi royal family) he's perhaps best known now for his philanthropic role with the Make-A-Wish Foundation.
The link between Malnik and Steinger comes not only from those who know Steinger, but also from official Broward County records. As I reported this week in a piece on Steinger's bitter divorce, the Mutual Benefits mastermind recently received a $602,000 loan from Miami attorney David M. Goldstein. Goldstein has also represented several of Steinger's business interests, including some involving Mutual Benefits. Goldstein is a right-hand man for Alvin Malnik, whom he's been working for for many years, along with Malnik's son, Shareef. Goldstein also represents Hollywood film producer Brett Rattner (Rush Hour, X-Men:The Last Stand), who is so close to Malnik that he calls Rattner his "11th son." Goldstein didn't return a phone call, so the reason for his giant loan to Broward's version of Bernie Madoff isn't known.