When Ponzi schemer Scott Rothstein fled to Morocco at the end of October, there was one man he called to come over and see him in Casablanca.
His name is Bob Scandiffio, a 50-year-old bodyguard who worked for Rothstein for two years. Scandiffio contacted me today and said he wanted to set the record straight.
Scandiffio, a muscular six-foot-two, 260-pound veteran private investigator who says he worked nine years with music mogul Tommy Mottola and for a time with Celine Dion, told me that Rothstein called him out of the blue from Morocco and asked him to fly over to see him. To facilitate the travel, Rothstein had Bill "Uncle Bill" Boockvor wire $5,000 into Scandiffio's bank account. Scandiffio found a $4,800 flight from Miami that stopped in New York.
Though he had spent months at Rothstein's side, Scandiffio said he had no idea that Rothstein was involved in a Ponzi scheme. He said, for instance, that Rothstein had breakfast every day -- often at the Ritz-Carlton on Fort Lauderdale Beach -- with George Levin, the chief investor in the scheme. But Scandiffio always sat at another table and didn't hear what they were discussing.
"I flew out to Morocco, and that's when I found
out what was going on," Scandiffio said. "He told me he made some bad deals, you know, but I'm not a lawyer -- I didn't really know much about what he was talking about, but I kind of knew he was doing something wrong."
It was something so wrong that Rothstein pitched him a bizarre plan that the Ponzi schemer apparently believed would shave some years off his eventual prison sentence if he returned to Florida from Morocco.
"I think Scott was debating on whether he should run or face the music," said Scandiffio. "He asked me what I thought he should do. I told him he should go back. I said sooner or later it's going to catch up with you."
I asked him if Rothstein indicated whether he had asked his wife, Kim, to come to Morocco.
"He said that Kim would never have went over there," said the bodyguard. "He said she wouldn't move over there and leave her family. Morocco is a filthy and dirty place. I wouldn't live over there either."
Understand that Scandiffio had been diagnosed with leukemia, had survived it, and it came back. He says he believes he has only a couple of years to live. He's also the father of a young daughter whom he was picking up from school as he told me his story on the phone.
"Scott was coming up with an idea where I could take the fall for him," Scandiffio told me. "I said, 'There's no way I'm taking the fall. I didn't do anything.' "
But Rothstein persisted.
"Scott wanted to say that the reason he kept stealing the money was because I was threatening to kill him if he didn't pay me a lot of money," Scandiffio said. "He said he knew I was going to die in a couple of years because of my cancer and that they were going to take care of my child is what they were offering. I said, 'I'm going to spend the last couple of years I have with my kid to go to prison for you?' "
Scandiffio said Rothstein told him he would put money -- he recalls the offer was $250,000 -- into a bank account for his daughter as a "one-time shot." He asked for her Social Security number and was going to wire the money into an account in her name.
Rothstein told him that Scandiffio would have to serve only a few years, if he survived his cancer, and that it would shave some years off of Rothstein's own sentence.
"He said we could get put in the same cell, he said, 'I have the pull to do that,' " Scandiffio recalls. "I said, 'Dude, there's no way you can do that even with the pull you got. You don't really have any pull anyway.' He kept saying, 'You're going to die anyway.' "
Scandiffio said that he refused the idea but that they remained on good terms.
"I made a promise to Scott in Morocco that I would keep my mouth shut and he would take care of me and do the right thing by me," said Scandiffio.
The trip was stressful; he said he was stuck at the airport in Casablanca for six hours after arriving. "I thought, 'What have I gotten myself into here?' The whole time I was there, I didn't feel right. It was like I was on drugs; nothing felt real."
He says he flew back to Fort Lauderdale with Rothstein and Uncle Bill in the chartered Gulfstream V and says that shortly after he returned, the FBI took his Cadillac Escalade, which had been purchased for him by Rothstein. He also said that agents asked him about the extortion plot.
"As soon as I got back, the FBI came here [to his house], and I told the FBI the story," Scandiffio said. "... I don't own anything to show that I got any kind of money from the guy other than the money I worked for. None of these people I've worked for would put up with people who are dishonest, especially Tommy Mottola. He fires people like it's nobody's business."
He said one particular lie Rothstein told the feds was crucial in clearing him.
"Scott said he didn't know how I got out [to Morocco]," Scandiffio said. "When the feds pulled the wire account from the bank, it blew up in his face. He wired me the money for the plane ticket. Did he really think that was going to work? Even the feds were like, 'Are you kidding me? This guy is out of his mind saying that shit.' "
I began hearing of Rothstein's allegations from multiple sources shortly after breaking the Ponzi story and reported on it in November. Scandiffio decided to come forward, he says, after reading that blog post. He holds particular anger with Kim Rothstein bodyguard Joe Alu, his former best friend and the best man at one of his weddings.
The story being pushed by Rothstein was that Scandiffio had been extorting him since he basically fired him about six months ago. Scandiffio said that it's true he no longer went into work but says that Rothstein called on him when no other bodyguards were available.
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"They cut my pay and put me on home duty," said Scandiffio. "Scott would call me when nobody else was around and have me drive him around, a lot of times at night."
He was Rothstein's down-low man?
"Yeah, I was his down-low man," he said.
And now, he says, he's going to tell what he knows. More to come on this tomorrow.