Former state Sen. Steven Geller is currently running for a seat on the Broward County Commission against incumbent Sue Gunzburger.
I just want to tell him to save his breath. He should quietly exit local politics stage left. Now. If he doesn't, the county should file a restraining order to keep this guy 1000 yards away from the dais and all public funds.
Geller, you see, sold his soul to one of the greatest con artists and ponzi schemers ever to pollute South Florida.
I'm talking about Joel Steinger, of course, the mastermind behind the giant Mutual Benefits scam. Two sources close to the viatical company, which was shut down by the SEC in 2004, say Steinger often collected political campaign checks from employees. The way it worked, they say, is that Steinger would collect the checks from employees and then reimburse the employees with cash.
And, uh, no, that's not legal.
I now refer to you February 26, 2004. On that date, Geller reelection campaign raised a cool $17,500, according to the state's campaign finance database The vast majority of that money -- about $15,000 -- came from Steinger's employees and from some of his numerous companies that he ran like a shell game tohide and distribute money to his cronies like lobbyist Russ Klenet, the husband of Mayor Stacy Ritter. It was Geller who hooked Klenet up with Steinger -- a bad move of historic proportions.
Some of the employees on Geller's contribution list -- like Raquel Kohler and Bari Wiggins -- are already in prison. Steinger, of course, is under federal indictment along with his brother, Steven Steiner, and attorneys Michael McNerney and Anthony Livoti.
Steinger gave Geller friendship and campaign cash. Geller ran interference for Steinger in Tallahassee, backing legislation designed to protect Steinger and his company from state regulators. Geller claims he teamed up with Steinger because he thought Joel was a "white hat" in the viatical industry. Well, at the same time complaints from Steinger's victims were pouring in to regulators, the state's Department of Insurance was auditing the company, and then-Florida CFO Tom Gallagher was trying to crack down on the company. Steinger was also a convicted felon with a long history of running scams in Broward County.
So either Geller was colossally corrupt or colossally ignorant. Pick your poison.
Hey, he made out well. But this is all coming back to bite Geller in a big way and if he thinks it's going away, he's sadly mistaken. So again, I ask him to kindly remove himself from Broward County politics as a public service, if nothing else.
Last thing, I wanted to point out that another Steinger friend was former Broward County Judge Joyce Julian. Yes, the same Judge Joyce Julian who had a drunken escapade at a resort during a conference in 2001 that ended with her arrest after she was found stumbling about without her robe (or pants, for that matter). An MBC source says that while Julian was running for reelection in 2002 (yes, she was allowed to keep her judgeship -- hey, anything goes in Broward if you're connected) after the scandal she came to Steinger in tears, saying it looked like she was going to lose the election. The source says the judge begged Steinger for money.
On October 29 and 30th of that year Steinger's employees -- many of the same ones who gave to Geller -- poured tons of money into Julian's (or Maines-Julian, as she was named then) campaign account. She raised $31,825 during those two days, a good portion of it coming from Steinger et al. Alas, despite the help from the felon, Judge Julian still lost the election to John J. Murphy the next week.