On the day that Ponzi schemer Scott Rothstein missed his first payment to several investors in what was a billion-dollar scam, his friend Ovadia "Ovi" Levy called on the Plantation Police Department.
Levy didn't mention the massive crime that was beginning to unfold when he contacted police on Friday, October 23. Instead he complained that he had seen suspicious teens near his home in the upscale and heavily guarded Hawk's Landing in Plantation and didn't want anyone breaking into the expensive cars he had in his driveway, which at times included a $1.5 million Bugatti, a pair of Lamborghinis, and a Rolls-Royce coupe, according to sources.
Rothstein received protection from the Fort Lauderdale Police Department, with uniformed cops accompanying him and his wife everywhere they went, even as he was pulling off one of the biggest financial crimes in Florida history. Rothstein paid about $1,000 a day for the protection. Fort Lauderdale Police Chief Frank Adderly was a Rothstein chum and regular at the
lawyer's Las Olas restaurant, Bova Prime.
Levy's protection was more modest. He asked for a uniformed cop to stand outside his home from midnight to 5 a.m., says Plantation Police Chief Howard Harrison. He received the protection from October 26 -- the day before Rothstein fled the country to Morocco -- through November 6 at a cost of $32 an hour for a total of $3,582, Harrison said.
"He asked [officers] to sit outside the house and make sure no cars were broken into," the chief told me this morning.
The timing is suspicious, to say the least, and the fact is that Hawk's Landing, a gated suburban neighborhood filled with mansions, is a veritable fortress with high walls and professional security guards on duty 24 hours a day.
Even as Rothstein was flying in the G5 jet he chartered to Morocco, he was wiring Levy and Levy's family members money from the trust accounts he'd looted, says attorney Bill Scherer, who is representing several Rothstein investors.
"I didn't add it all up, but it was substantial, check after check after check, a lot of it while he was on the way to Morocco or in Morocco," said Scherer of the money that went to Levy.
Scherer said the checks were all in the same amount, $263,000, though he couldn't explain the significance, if any, of that number. Levy reportedly invested at least $10 million in Rothstein's scheme and was one of the fallen lawyer's closest friends.
"I don't know why [Rothstein] would be paying some investors and not other investors," said Scherer. "And it doesn't matter because any [money Rothstein paid] within 90 days goes back to the bankruptcy court as a preference. So they aren't going to be able to keep the money. So make sure you put on your blog that they ought not to be spending it because they are going to have to give it back real soon."
Adding more intrigue to the relationship is that Levy's father, hotelier Shimon Levy, has had known ties to Israeli organized crime figures and spent a year in prison in Israel after hiding on criminal kingpin who was suspected of two murders.
There is no evidence that has surfaced to date that Rothstein was tied to organized crime, though there is growing suspicion that he was. "I am concerned that some of the money may have gone to the Mob," said Scherer. "And the thing about the Mob is, they don't give money back."