There are some amazing stories brewing on the Scott Rothstein front, but while I'm reporting those, let's look at his cars.At various times, Rothstein has owned Bentleys, Ferraris, Lamborghinis, Rolls-Royces, Porsches, the works. At one time, he had a fleet of high-priced autos worth millions of dollars that he kept in an air-conditioned warehouse.
But in the weeks before he fled the country, he really outdid himself. He was seen driving around town in a Bugatti Veyron, at right, the most powerful street car in the world. Cost: $1.5 million.
When I wrote about Rothstein last year, I led with the cars. Then I wrote about the property, the restaurants, the businesses, the charities. The guy was spending way too much money. It didn't add up. Like many people, I thought the money had to be coming from a criminal enterprise of some kind. What I didn't know is that it wasn't coming from any cartel or mob outfit but from investors, many of them apparently his friends.
Our governor, Charlie Crist, said he heard rumors about Rothstein, but that didn't stop him from
accepting hundreds of thousands of dollars, much of it going to the state Republican Party. It also didn't stop him from going to Rothstein's wedding at the Versace mansion or visiting his home. Rothstein told me that he considered Crist one of his closest friends in the world and that his mother particularly adored the governor.
"I think everybody heard rumors," Crist said about Rothstein. "But I don't put stock in rumors. Neither should you."
Well, in the case of Rothstein, the rumors were a whole lot more accurate than the false front put up by the man. But why listen to rumors when all that money is flying in? All the truth could do would be to mess up a good thing. Looks like the governor still doesn't want to believe what he's hearing now about Rothstein.
"I understand that there may be some difficulties," Crist said yesterday. "And I just hope for the best... I don't want to put the cart before the horse. And I don't want to prejudge anybody. I never prejudge anybody. And so let's see what the facts are first before we jump forward."
What, exactly, is the "best," Charlie? For Rothstein to be apprehended and the entire truth to come out? Or just the opposite?
You may remember that Crist was also tight with Alan Mendelsohn, the GOP fundraiser who claimed he influenced the governor to go light on a billion-dollar fraudulent scheme. Mendelsohn was indicted, but the feds apparently didn't believe his claim about buying Crist's influence.
Question: Why did Rothstein pour so much money on Crist? And what did he expect to get in return?
The answers might be surprising. A former lawyer in his firm told me that Rothstein announced in a staff meeting that clients of the firm could get face-time with Crist if they were willing to pay $50,000. I asked Rothstein about that allegation before he fled the country, and he denied it. I'm investigating now.
-- I wrote yesterday that Broward County Commissioner Sue Gunzburger was going to return her Rothstein campaign contributions. Now state Rep. Ellyn Bogdanoff is giving all her Rothstein money back (she told the Sun-Sentinel that the Rothstein revelation left her "numb"). But we didn't know what her opponent, Steve Geller, would do. He got a cool $50,000 check from Rothstein to his electioneering committee. Well, Geller spoke with the Sun-Sentinel and... well, we still don't know what he's going to do. The former state senator claimed that he took the money in the first place because Rothstein was "well-known as a pillar of the community." Yeah, right, Steve. Then this came spewing out of his mouth:
"Right now, I don't know very much about what has occurred. I don't' think anybody does. When you say give back the money, is it your suggestion that I write Scott Rothstein a check from the CCE? I presume that's not what your suggestion is. Certainly we'll find out in the next couple of days, is he going to be charged with anything, has he stolen money? I don't think anybody knows any of these things. As soon as we find out, we'll be able to reach an appropriate determination about what the appropriate thing to do is. If the allegations are true, I am fairly certain the appropriate thing to do is not to send a check from the CCE to Scott Rothstein."
Looks like somebody doesn't want to let go of $50,000 -- even if it did originate from a fraudulent scheme. Of course, this is familiar territory for Geller. He's gotten plenty of campaign contributions from fraudulent schemes, after all.