Joel Steinger: Con Man and Confidential Informant

Notorious con man Joel Steinger, the mastermind of the Mutual Benefits Ponzi scheme, has cooperated with federal agents in an ongoing political corruption investigation, according to sources in the legal and political community.

Specifically, Steinger helped the FBI gather evidence on major GOP fundraiser and Charlie Crist political adviser Alan Mendelsohn, the sources say. Mendelsohn, a Hollywood eye doctor who recently resigned his post as director of the Florida Medical Association's $10 million PAC, helped Steinger funnel millions of dollars into political coffers, according to sources.

It was through Mendelsohn that Steinger -- who was hit with federal fraud and money-laundering charges in December -- attempted to gain sway with Charlie Crist when Crist was serving as Florida's attorney general. Mendelsohn not only raised big money for Crist but was also a friend and adviser who served on the governor's transition team in 2006.

Sources say Steinger wore a wire and helped implicate Mendelsohn during a conversation recorded by federal agents. I asked Steinger's attorney, Ed Shohat, about it, and he said, "That is not in the realm of anything I could possibly discuss."

This development leaves us a couple of key questions. First, did Steinger set up any other officials in his potpourri of politicians and lobbyists he dealt closely with, including Steve Geller and Russ Klenet? The second may be even more important: Has Mendelsohn, like Steinger, also cooperated with the feds, and is he rolling over on other public officials, including Crist? My sources have said for a long time that Steinger's corruption leads to the governor's office. Will Mendelsohn show the way or lay down a roadblock?

One politico who will surely have serious egg on his face in all this is Marco Rubio, Crist's challenger for the Republican nomination in the upcoming U.S. Senate race. Rubio recently hired Mendelsohn as his chief fundraiser and kicked off his campaign at Mendelsohn's home. This is a huge potential political embarrassment for Rubio. I'm starting to wonder if taking this job wasn't an act of political sabotage from Mendelsohn as one last favor to his real compadre, Charlie Crist. 

That's speculation. What isn't is that things are going to get very interesting in this case soon.

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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