Anthony McDermott went to Bova Prime with the goal of punching Scott Rothstein in the face on a special day.
"It was St. Patrick's Day," McDermott told me today. "For an Irish kid from Southie, that's a good day to get into a brawl."
McDermott said there were a lot of reasons he wanted to put Rothstein in the hospital. For one, Rothstein stiffed him for $500,000 on the $3 million sale of his restaurant, Riley McDermott's, to Rothstein last September. For another, he said Rothstein and his law partners at RRA stiffed him for a $100,000 bar tab.
He says he went to Jason Cotter, the general manager and nephew of celebrity chef Emeril, and told him to bring him Scott Rothstein and two whiskeys.
"I went to the restaurant to confront him and to do something unethical," says McDermott, who recently sold his Fort Lauderdale home for $3 million and is now living in a mansion in Costa Rica where he is surfing and starting a new company. "I was going to ask him for the money, and I knew his answer was going to be 'I'm working on it, I'm working on it.' So I was going to send him down to Broward General with a broken jaw. He knew I would punch him in the face. What do I care? I would go down to Broward County [Jail] and get a bologna sandwich and then get bailed out in 12 hours. He'd be at Broward General with a
McDermott said the decision to give Rothstein a "beating" came from more than just the $500,000.
"This guy was crushing the whole town," he said. "I saw that."
He said the venture to Bova Prime that night was out of character for him. Sure he came from a tough neighborhood in South Boston, where his parents were friends with infamous fugitive Whitey Bulger and attended his wedding. But McDermott says he was a "natural-born salesman" who started in business at age 12 hawking subscriptions to the Boston Globe door-to-door.
He worked in advertising and sales at newspapers, including the New York Times, for several years before starting an internet company. In 2007, he sold the company, SWIDigital, for north of $25 million. Once that was sold, he decided to get into the restaurant business and bought a prime property on Las Olas in the Bank of America building to set up shop.
There was no reason to fight; he had it made. And then Scott Rothstein entered the picture. It began with a call from Rothstein's marketing director, Kip Hunter, in August 2007.
"She told me she was wanted to take on me and the restaurant," McDermott said. "She asked me to o take on me. She called and said to come and meet her and Scott Rothstein at the Capital Grille.
"So we met, and I said to Scott, 'You're going to be one of my tenants in the building, and I hope we can do good things together.' Then I said, 'One thing puzzles me, though. You're from the Bronx, you're a Yankees fan, and you're a Republican.'
He looked at me and said, 'Anthony, I go where the money goes.'"
McDermott said he replied, "Well, I'm a Democrat, and I go where my party goes."
A relationship was forged. Riley McDermott's became Rothstein Rosenfeldt Adler's unofficial meeting place, and Kip Hunter helped him with marketing. Rothstein introduced him to Fort Lauderdale police, and soon he hired a police detail, and high-ranking officer Frank Adderley soon became a regular. Adderley was not yet chief.
"Frank [Adderley], he was a mooch," McDermott said. "He should be on [the HBO show] Entourage as Turtle II. Frank would come in there all the time, get shitfaced. I would give him free food. He wanted to go to Costa Rica and hang out with the beautiful Latin women, but I never took him."
He said that Rothstein helped set up the restaurant with a Fort Lauderdale police protection detail.
"It was all cash," he said of the detail. "The officers would come in, stay six hours, make $250, and get a free steak dinner."
He said he once witnessed Rothstein hand one police officer an envelope full of cash after the transfer to Bova but said that never happened under his watch at the restaurant.
Rothstein invited McDermott to his luxury box for a Dolphins game where he met the regular Rothstein gang, including Ted Morse and George Levin. "Ted had a box too, but everybody was in Scott's box, and nobody was in Ted's box," McDermott told me. "It wasn't normal. I was thinking, 'These guys have money, they're splitting boats together, they're probably giving each other hand jobs, so why don't they split a box?'
"I was the pretty boy in that group. They called me 'McSteamy' or something like that. They talked about auctioning me off at charities."
What Rothstein really wanted was his hands on some of McDermott's millions. He said that Rothstein tried to get him to invest in the structured settlement scam but that he saw through it and always felt that Rothstein was "full of shit." Because McDermott also had experience with the web, Rothstein also asked him to invest in Qtask, a web-based software company. They met in Rothstein's office.
"They were looking to raise capital, and I looked at their platform," he said. "We looked at it and saw that you could already get what they offered elsewhere, from Microsoft. They had a good team who really believed it, but we weren't interested. At that time, he said, 'I'm going to the Heat game -- do you want to come?' And he had all this cash in a duffle bag. It had to be a million dollars. I've had $300,000 or $400,000 in cash in my possession, and this had to be a million."
McDermott said he ran a fine restaurant, but Rothstein and his lawyers became overbearing for him. He said that he never trusted Rothstein and that several of his lawyers would come into the restaurant and "start drooling on the girls."
"At the same time, I was friends with their wives," he said. "It wasn't any good."
McDermott, specifically Christina Kitterman, whom he said was a very good attorney and whom he briefly dated. That last part didn't sit well with Rothstein, he said. "Money can buy you a lot things, but it can't buy you sexual attraction," said McDermott. "The girls were running to me, and that drove him crazy.
"Look, this is what I didn't like about Scott. I felt that this guy was going to take the town out. He had multiple personalities, $25,000 prostitutes, two houses next to each other, you have to say to yourself, 'This guy is a psychopath.' He was always moving around, twitching, nervous -- I've never seen anybody so nervous in my life. The only time he was comfortable was when he had his entourage around him, his bodyguards, the police, his law partners, everybody."
He said one Rothstein hanger-on he banned from the restaurant was cigar seller Muhammed "Moe" Sohail. He learned that Sohail had gotten in trouble about five years ago and had become a federal informant. "I asked Scott about it, and he told me not to worry about it because it was years ago," McDermott said. "I took his $3,000 cigar kit that he had in the restaurant and put it out and banned him. There were people who would meet there that I didn't have any control over, and I didn't need any problems from them over some rat."
Rothstein also kept stiffing him on bills, he said. When the law firm held the wake for slain partner Melissa Britt Lewis in the restaurant, he said they ran up a bill over $20,000. "Of course, I didn't want to talk to him about it at the time, I didn't feel it was appropriate; you know, the girl had just died," he said. "I said, 'I'll talk to Scott later.' Not once did they offer to pay that bill."
He said various judges and politicians would come into the restaurant at Rothstein's request. "I don't know who they were, but they'd come in, and Scott would say, "Take care of them,'" said McDermott. "He was always saying that."
So it was almost a relief to unload the restaurant on Rothstein, who offered to pay $3 million for it (he says that previous media reports that he'd put $4 million into the restaurant were exaggerated and that he was basically looking to break even). Working the deal were Rothstein lawyers Kitterman and David Boden. He says it was an obvious conflict of interest for the firm to handle the sale when Rothstein was buying it, and he notes with a laugh that Boden wasn't even licensed to practice law in Florida. But he didn't make an issue out of it; he just wanted to do the deal.
Rothstein wired McDermott $2.5 million and said he would pay the remaining $500,000 cash. McDermott says he never paid him that money, which led to his trip to Bova Prime on St. Patrick's Day. With him was his brother, who he said stands six-foot-six and weighs more than 300 pounds. McDermott said he's a little over six-foot-one, weighs 182 pounds, used to box, and has kept in good shape.
He said after he told Cotter to get Rothstein, he sat there drinking whiskey before he finally got out there. He said Rothstein stood outside with his bodyguard, Joe Alu.
"He's on the phone with the police out there, and I looked at him and said, 'You're a lying fat fucking Jew. You're a thief and a liar, and you're pillaging this community."
I told him that in Joe Alu's version, which differs dramatically from McDermott's, he was throwing around anti-Semitic remarks.
"On my mother's soul, I wouldn't say something like that," said McDermott. "I wasn't using 'Jew' as a racist remark. I was just telling him to get his Jew head straight because he was a disgrace to his religion."
He said he didn't really go after Rothstein but "bluffed" him a "shoulder fake" to make him wince and back away. He said he told Rothstein that he was under federal investigation. "I said, 'You're going to jail, bro. Jail jail jail.'"
At one point, Alu said, he grabbed his shoulder and then his brother went into action.
"Ralph grabbed him, and Alu put his hand on the gun he had on him. Ralphie just said, 'You're armed; I'm not.' Then he looked at Scott and said, 'Tell your fucking guy to slow the fuck down right now.'"
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The police then arrived, and nobody was arrested.
"The officers were all confused at what was going on," he said. "They all had been eating free steak dinners at my restaurant. They weren't going to arrest me. Scott was telling them to arrest me, but they didn't."
He said his trip to Costa Rica had nothing to do with the skirmish -- and he keeps a very strong opinion about Scott Rothstein.
"I think he should get the death penalty," said McDermott. "He crushed the community. He crushed many, many lives."