More on Mutual Benefits, Jail Suicides

The Miami Herald discovered Alan Mendelsohn, finally. The Sun-Sentinel still hasn't caught on. Mendelsohn is the Hollywood ophthalmologist who worked as legislative director and chief fundraiser for the Florida Medical Association. He was also very close to Gov. Charlie Crist, serving as Crist's health adviser on his transition team. They were so thick that Crist helped Mendelsohn's kid into the med school at the University of Florida when he didn't deserve it. (That led to the forced resignation of Bruce Kone, the med school's dean.)

That was a tiny little scandal compared with what appears to be around the bend. Mendelsohn was also tight with the Mutual Benefits con man Joel Steinger. I reported back in February on Mendelsohn's role in raising political money for Steinger. Not long after that, he resigned his post. Steinger was close with a lot of political people, including lobbyist Russell Klenet; Klenet's wife, Broward Mayor Stacy Ritter; former state. Sen. Steve Geller; Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer... the list goes on and on.

Steinger, according to several sources, cooperated with a federal investigation into the public corruption angle of the Mutual Benefits Ponzi scheme. Specifically, he wore a wire and recorded damning conversations with Mendelsohn.

The question now is whether Mendelsohn will flip for the feds; there's speculation, obviously, that this could lead to Crist's office.

Herald reporter Jay Weaver wrote about Steinger's attempt to buy politicians and prosecutors during a state investigation that I detailed a few weeks back. Weaver writes:

From outward appearances, Steinger's purported scheme wasn't successful: The statewide grand jury indicted Mutual Benefits for racketeering, filed 20 criminal cases involving the viatical industry, and issued a scathing report recommending reforms to the Florida Legislature and Department of Insurance.

Ouch, I'll bet that "scathing report" really burned Steinger bad. And he must have felt terrible when the state charged other people and his company -- which had already been seized -- with a crime rather than him. Yeah, that must have all been devastating to Steinger. Here's a play-by-play of that investigation. Notice how, after Crist is elected attorney general, his new statewide prosecutor bends over backward to accommodate Steinger, even meeting personally with the con man. It stinks.

But Weaver to his credit does bring new ground. He brings up the name of Paul Huck Jr., which sort of pissed me off, because I'd been meaning to write about him but never got around to it. Huck worked for Crist not only in the AG's office but also as his counsel in the governor's office before he quit.

But there's more twists and turns on this one. When Huck quit Crist's employ last year, he joined the Coral Gables law firm Colson Hicks. Colson Hicks, interestingly, is the law firm where the federally appointed Mutual Benefits receiver, Roberto Martinez, works. Small world, eh? Well, it gets smaller. Huck's dad is Paul Huck Sr., the federal judge who recused himself from the Mutual Benefits case, obviously because of his son, who is allegedly one of six public officials who has been cleared so far in the case.

There's a whole lot more to come. Joel Steinger might ultimately have been just the enema this town -- and state -- needed.

-- I also want to include in this morning's post a clarification to my post on the "spate of suicides" at the Broward County Jail. I reported Thursday that there had been four suicides at the jail in the past year. Sources at the sheriff's office say that, in fact, there have been five, with one occurring this past May 22 that apparently was never publicized. All five men hanged themselves with bedsheets. I have a name but haven't confirmed yet, so stay tuned. I've also been told that there were a total of eight jail positions that were unstaffed last Thursday morning at the time Dervis Lawrence committed suicide. This is one of those problems that indicates a lack of good management and proper supervision at the jail. If so many guys have been able to off themselves without anybody noticing, what else is going on?

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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