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Bova Prime Still Buzzing; Elliott Barnett Remembered

OK, here's some of the latest info:

-- Scene from Bova Prime: At Scott Rothstein's Las Olas eatery, Russ Klenet and George Platt were just seen sitting at the bar together when Broward Mayor Stacy Ritter came in and joined them (complete with a hug and kiss for the lobbyist). After they chatted for a while, Klenet and Ritter got a table for lunch, leaving Platt alone at the bar. But not for long: Austin Forman walked in and joined Platt at the bar. Also lunching at the Rothstein establishment: Ken Jenne, who worked for Rothstein, and defense attorney David Bogenschutz (wonder if he's trolling for new clients?).

-- From the lawsuit filed by Kendall Coffey against Scott Rothstein on behalf of the RRA firm and Stuart Rosenfeldt. In the complaint,

which you can read in its entirety here, Coffey writes that Rothstein had almost exclusive control of the law firm's accounts and that it appears he basically looted investors' money.

"It is with surprise and sorrow that the attorneys of Rothstein Rosenfeldt Adler P.A. have learned that Scott W. Rothstein, the managing partner and CEO of the firm, has, according to assertions of certain investors, allegedly orchestrated a substantial misappropriation of funds from investor trust accounts that made use of the law firm's name," according to the lawsuit. "The investment business created and operated by Rothstein centered around the sale of interests in structured settlements.

... A review of the firm's records undertaken over this past weekend indicates that various funds unrelated to the direct practice of law cannot be accounted for, circumstances suggesting that investor money may have been misused by Rothstein who controlled all such accounts. Some investors allege that Defendant Rothstein may have been fabricating non-existent structured legal settlements for sale to investors."

Translation: We're talking straight-up Ponzi here.

After the jump there's more, including a tale about one of Bogenschutz's biggest clients, super-lawyer Elliott Barnett, who has a strange connection to the Rothstein case, the latest on Rothstein's whereabouts, and some local political contributions that will be returned not to sender but to receiver.  

-- Another alleged Rothstein investor (and possible victim) is Bonnie Barnett, ex-wife of late attorney (and infamous embezzler) Elliott Barnett. When I called Barnett on the phone today, she didn't even need to hear a question. "No comment," she said after I introduced myself. One of her son's, Andrew Barnett, was also reportedly employed in the Rothstein firm.

Elliott Barnett was the man who brought the legal and lobbying house Ruden McCloskey to prominence (when it was called Ruden Barnett). Here's a bit from an in-depth 1998 Tropic Magazine piece by Cindy Krischer Goodman about his life, shortly after he died.

Early in the marriage, Barnett drove a Rolls-Royce, which he later traded for a green convertible Mercedes. He also bought his wife a Mercedes as well, not to mention a 16-carat diamond ring valued at $250,000.

"He became obsessed with money," says a former client of Barnett's. "It suddenly became hugely important."

... For years, he and Bonnie had been spending well above Barnett's salary. Though his net worth exceeded $3.5 million in the mid-1990s, Barnett was spending $1,000 more a month than he earned, according to court records in his divorce suit. The same records show he and his wife had seven cars at one point -- a 1995 Mercedes and a 1968 Mercedes, a 1996 Nissan Maxima, a 1990 Jeep Wrangler, and three leased cars -- two Pathfinders and a Cabriolet.

Bonnie's trips to Neiman Marcus included such purchases as $1,000 Donna Karan dresses, $500 Anne Klein shoes and $300 Chanel makeup, court records indicate. Occasionally, she would spend $3,000 on a single day. By 1996, the couple's Neiman bill had surpassed $15,000, according to court records.

Then there were Bonnie's plastic surgery bills, which by her own accounting in court documents topped $1,000 a month.

Those closest to Barnett say they saw a desperate man, struggling to keep his wife happy and himself financially afloat.

He was a big spender, though not quite by Rothstein standards. Barnett's life imploded when he was caught embezzling money from the firm. Disbarment and criminal charges followed. Bonnie, his second wife, promptly divorced him, leaving behind a broke and broken man. Here's how Tropic described his death:

His right hand up, the feeble man lying in a bed in his blue hospital gown had just sworn to tell the truth. On the other end of the phone line, gathered around a speaker in a judge's chambers, sat two attorneys -- his and hers. They listened as the weary, defeated voice on the other end pleaded for his dying wish -- to rid himself of his wife of 16 years.
"Is it your desire to be divorced from Mrs. Barnett today?" Broward Circuit Judge Julie Koenig asked the ailing man at the outset of the emergency hearing.


"Is your marriage irretrievably broken?"

"Yes it is."

Convinced, Koenig granted the divorce, a legal proceeding Barnett hoped would keep his estate out of the hands of his fourth wife. Just five hours later, at 2:15 p.m. on Feb. 2 [1998], his last wish fulfilled, Elliott Barnett died at 63. 

-- Rumors are coming out the Rothstein law firm that Scott Rothstein has left Morocco and is now in Caracas, Venezuela (obviously another country with no extradition treaty). No word whether he's glad-handed Chavez yet.

-- Broward County Commissioner Sue Gunzburger has announced that she is returning the $8,500 in campaign contributions her campaign received from Rothstein and several entities he owned. Question: Where does she return it to? Leading contender will be the court-ordered receivership. No word on whether her opponent, Steve Geller, is going to return the cool $50,000 his electioneering committee received from Rothstein. Sources also say that gubernatorial candidate Alex Sink is planning to return the sizable contributions her campaign received from Rothstein interests as well, though that's not confirmed.

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Journalist Bob Norman has been raking the muck of South Florida for the past 25 years. His work has led to criminal cases against corrupt politicians, the ouster of bad judges from the bench, and has garnered dozens of state, regional, and national awards.
Contact: Bob Norman

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