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Judge Ana's New Gig

Ana Gardiner, before the scandal and investigations, was the chief criminal judge in Broward County. Now she's representing a couple of Broward's chief criminals.

Gardiner, who resigned earlier this year while facing charges from the Judicial Qualifications Commission, filed a lawsuit last month on behalf of Prestige Homes of Tamarac, the company owned by dirty developers Bruce and Shawn Chait. Named as defendants in the suit are two firms, 13th Floor Investments LLC and Branch Banking and Trust Co. The Chaits are apparently seeking injunctive relief regarding business transactions with the companies.  

It's an interesting gig for Gardiner. The suit was filed on August 27, just two days after the Chaits pleaded guilty to unlawful compensation in a corruption case that has already led to criminal charges against two politicians and is expected to lead to more arrests of public officials. For their extensive cooperation, the father-and-son team avoided jail time and got just four years probation.

The Chaits' lawyer is David Bogenschutz, who also served as Gardiner's attorney in the JQC case, which involved improper ex parte communication with former homicide prosecutor Howard Scheinberg (who resigned from the State Attorney's Office shortly after the initial allegations were reported to join Scott Rothstein's former law firm). The JQC also alleged Gardiner had misled investigators about the nature of the relationship, which involved 949 calls and 471 text messages over a 155-day period.

Gardiner, who was hired by Cole, Scott & Kissane after resigning her judgeship, and Bogenschutz also became an item, according to sources.

-- My NT colleague Lisa Rab has written on the court transcript of former Rothstein right-hand woman Debra Villegas' guilty plea. Read more inside after the jump.

Selected quotes from the transcript:

-- "Looking back in retrospect, probably Mr. Rothstein was trying to engender loyalty from me. I don't really know. I'd like to believe that he loved me and cared for me and was doing these things for me and the children to help us because he knew we had nobody else to depend on; but way before the Ponzi scheme existed, Mr. Rothstein did very generous things for me.

"Even in the beginning of his practice when he made very little money, he did extremely generous things for me that I never really understood. And he always told me it was because he believed me to be the hardest working, most loyal person he knew."

-- "And, yes, a house, that was a gift that was beyond my wildest dreams and my mind couldn't imagine. But to be honest with you, I -- this was immediately after the death of Melissa,  and I was depressed and didn't get out of bed.

"It wasn't that he and I sat down and he said he was going to buy me a home. He showed up in Weston with a real estate agent and drove me over to the house and told me that this was where I was going to be living since I didn't have a home to live in."

More coming.


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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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