UPDATED: Cigar Man Got Call From Rothstein, Federal Grand Jury Subpoena
Moe Sohail considered himself a close friend of Scott Rothstein's for many years. The high-rolling lawyer would come into Sohail's shop, Ultimate Cigars on Federal Highway, on almost a daily basis, and the two men were planning a venture called Bova Smoke.
That project -- which was to go up on Las Olas where Jackson's Steakhouse used to be -- went up in smoke when Rothstein's far-flung billion-dollar Ponzi scheme collapsed at the end of October.
"Six years he was lying to me, and I don't call somebody like that a friend," Sohail told me today. "It hurts when you see how deceiving he is. He used to call me family. I went to his house; we spent holidays together. He was in my shop five times a week. Thank God we never did business together. It hurts what he did."
Now Sohail believes that Rothstein went a step further in his betrayal in what he believes was a set-up staged by federal agents. Shortly after Rothstein returned from Morocco, where he initially fled when his scheme came unraveled, he called Sohail on the phone.
"Scott called me, and he was laughing like nothing happened, like a psycho," Sohail recalls. "He said, 'I'm staying in a roach motel.' I said, 'Scott, that's the least of your problems. Do you realize what you have done to
Then the conversation turned to former Broward County Commissioner Joe Eggelletion, who was recently charged by both the feds and the state on corruption charges and was also a regular customer at Ultimate Cigar. Rothstein mentioned that Eggelletion had been given cigars as gifts at Sohail's store. It's unclear what Rothstein was plotting, but there is an indication that he was trying to sell some sort of protection to Sohail. Rothstein told Sohail that his friend, Broward Sheriff's Lt. David Benjamin, who escorted Rothstein to his chartered Gulfstream 5 jet when he fled the country, was going to pay a visit to his store.
Sohail said he knew Benjamin through Rothstein, having met the lieutenant at Rothstein's luxury suite at Land Shark Stadium during the Dolphins-Patriots game last year. Both were guests of Rothstein's, who was a major Dolphins sponsor and who often entertained in his two luxury boxes (the other was in the name of his Renato watch business).
I am hearing that Rothstein wanted Sohail to pay Benjamin a sum of money, but Sohail doesn't confirm that. He says he didn't entertain any of Rothstein's ideas. Instead he hung up the phone on him. Lt. Benjamin never showed up at the store.
Sohail believes Rothstein was working for the feds at the time.
"He's out there trying to get any information which he could not," said Sohail. "Everybody knows what he's up to. I mean c'mon. It shows how desperate Scott is right now."
Sohail said he didn't buy Eggelletion cigars, but Rothstein did.
"Scott bought Eggelletion cigars a couple of times," said Sohail. "Scott bought everybody's cigars and would open up bottles of wine and say, 'Charge me.' Scott never finished a cigar or a bottle of wine. He would buy a $40 cigar and take two puffs and a $300 bottle of wine and leave it in the store."
Sohail hired defense attorney Bruce Zimet and confirmed that he received a subpoena to appear before a federal grand jury. Sohail wouldn't say,but it's believed that it's for the grand jury concerning the Eggelletion case.
"I have nothing to hide at all and I will tell nothing but the truth," said Sohail.
Sohail was a close friend to Rothstein but after learning about his Ponzi scheme in which he swindled their mutual friends, he believes Rothstein is sick. "You said he had 25 or 40 personalities and that is the truth," Sohail said. "I read that. When he sat at Bova he would say he was this tough kid from the Bronx."
When Rothstein threw big fundraisers for politicians like John McCain, Arlen Specter, and Joe Lieberman, Sohail would furnish the parties with a cigar roller who would churn out fresh smokes for the guests. When Arnold Schwartzennegger came to town for a Rothstein fundraiser, he spent an hour-and-a-half at Ultimate Cigars.
Sohail says he also supplies cigars to Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban and numerous athletes, including Ben Roethlisberger, LaDanian Tomlinson, Byron Leftwich and Eli Manning. He says he once customized a box of cigars for Gov. Charlie Crist (when Crist was serving as Attorney General). The cigars, Arturo Fuentes OpusX, came with Crist's name on them.
I asked Sohail what he liked about Rothstein in the first place.
"He was very generous," he answered. "He would help a lot of people. He had friends, it didn't matter if they had money or not, he would be very good for them. I know it was OPM -- other people's money -- that he gave to charity, but he gave it."
He said he feels most sorry for the Morse car dealership family, which Rothstein allegedly bilked out of $57 million. Sohail said Ted Morse was a regular at Ultimate Cigars on Saturday mornings when Rothstein would hold court with friends, including Tom Bates, John Bria, and Rothstein legal colleagues Russell Adler and Les Stracher.
"Teddy is a genuine victim," said Sohail. "Scotty robbed him."
Get the This Week's Top Stories Newsletter
Every week we collect the latest news, music and arts stories — along with film and food reviews and the best things to do this week — so that you’ll never miss New Times Broward-Palm Beach's biggest stories.