After her best friend, Melissa Britt Lewis, was murdered in March 2008, Debra Villegas gave several lengthy, sworn interviews to Plantation police. Mainly, the cops were questioning her about whether her husband, Tony Villegas -- who would later be arrested for the murder -- was jealous of her friendship with Melissa.
But throughout the conversations, Debra frequently mentioned her other close friend and confidante, Scott Rothstein, her boss at the Rothstein Rosenfeldt Adler firm. In the more than ten years that Debra worked for Rothstein, she rose from being his paralegal to chief operating officer of
the firm and gatekeeper of the Ponzi schemer's "inner sanctum."
Debra also came to rely on Rothstein for both emotional and financial support. When Debra and Tony separated, Rothstein bought Debra a $475,000 house in Weston. He provided security for her family after Melissa was killed, and he bought her a Maserati. If Tony was jealous of anyone, Debra told police, it should have been Scott.
Debra said Tony would ask, "What, is Scott gonna pay for this for you? Scott's gonna take care of that for you? Scott does this for you."
"I'm sure he hates Scott," Debra continued. "Scott found the [divorce] attorney. Scott helped us, you know, get situated. You know, Scott pays me very well. Scott's very good to me... But Melissa, she's a just a really nice girl that's a friend of mine. [Tony] doesn't even understand the gravity of our friendship."
In another interview, she added, "I couldn't even say Scott's name at home, 'cause me and Scott are very, very close."
Perhaps most revealing, Debra was talking to Rothstein on her cell phone as she sat down for one of her first interviews with police after Melissa's death. The tail end of her conversation was caught on tape:
"I'm in a little bitty room with two detectives who look very scary," Debra joked. "It's, ah, [Detectives] Camp and Murray. Yeah, very frightening. I'm gonna get shook down. I'll call you when it's over.
"OK, I'm here with your driver guy and a friend of mine that's hanging out with me for the day so... I'm not by myself, all right. OK, bye. Love you too. Bye."