Rise of Fort Lauderdale attorney Scott Rothstein has town talking

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"I'm not going to have someone coming in here and have someone shooting up my attorneys or my wife and daughter," he says. "All the crap I hear about me on the street, I don't put it past someone to try to hurt someone."

He says he hears new rumors about himself virtually every day, most of it not good.

"You get anger from people, you know, 'that prick from the Bronx,' " he says. "They say I'm building the law firm too fast, that it must be a house of cards. We have 40,000 square feet here. Does this look like a house of cards to you? But they don't know what businesses I've been in. And what is said hurts my family."

One of those Bronx bulldogs in his head emerges.

"Anyone who says anything about me or prints anything about me that is not true will have a battle on their hands," he says. "Nobody is going to hurt the people I'm close to. And anyone who does it, I guarantee, will pay dearly. When you lie about me, it's going to be like touching the sun."

So how did Rothstein manage to grow his law firm so large and become a big-spending multimillionaire during the past six years?

"I've had a little luck, a whole lot of blessing, and I have an exceptional knack of picking people to do business with," he explains.

He says from the time he started practicing law in 1988, he had high ambitions, wanting to follow in the footsteps of big Fort Lauderdale lawyers like Bob Traurig, Don McCloskey, and Bill Scherer. Throw in a little bit of Wayne Huizenga and you get an idea of what he wants to be.

But judging from a recent scuffle at his newest restaurant, his operations still have a lot of that tough flavor from the Bronx. Rothstein's team of bodyguards caught the attention of police September 11 when a dispute involving firearms broke out at Riley McDermott's.

Rothstein explains that his firm had hired Robert Heider as a "spotter" to make sure employees didn't steal from the restaurant before he closed on the deal. Heider, however, was in the midst of a feud with a man named Robert Handler, according to a police report. The report claims Handler stormed into the restaurant with a gun to confront Heider.

Rothstein bodyguards Bob Scandiffio and Jose Morales were called. Morales stormed into the restaurant with Scandiffio, who was also armed, following behind. An argument broke out during which Morales allegedly disarmed Handler of his Glock handgun.

In the end, police arrested Handler on a firearms charge. Rothstein, who cooperated with police, says that Morales entered the restaurant without "authorization" and that Scandiffio simply followed him in to help control the situation. He says Morales has been put on desk duty but avers that the bodyguard's actions were "heroic."

Rothstein took ownership of the restaurant the next day.

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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