There's More to Rothstein Story the Feds Probably Don't Want to Know

Now that Scott Rothstein is caged in the Federal Detention Center in Miami, we all wonder what is next for the federal investigation.

We know that his inner circle is going to get hit -- I would be shocked if Debra Villegas, David Boden, and Irene Stay aren't nabbed. Lower-level administrative-corridor types like Ingrid Sahdala and Amy Howard are wildcards. Some of the lawyers will surely get popped; I can't see Stuart Rosenfeldt or Russell Adler surviving the campaign financing issue alone, and I'm sure there are myriad other issues for them as well.

On the financial side, a couple of guys associated with George Levin's Banyan hedge fund also look to be in serious trouble. Take Michael Szafranski, who had an office at RRA and allegedly independently verified the accounts. The feds mention the "independent verifier" in the information used to jail Rothstein. The feds also mention the "lock letters" from TD Bank supposedly issued by regional VP Frank Spinosa. We aren't sure if some or all of those letters were forged, but Spinosa is possibly the most intriguing figure of all on the financial side of this thing.

The situation, I believe, is still very fluid, so anything could happen. The feds are also going deeper into the political arena. Democratic U.S. Senate candidate and former Miami Mayor Maurice Ferre is jumping on the issue of buying judgeships and Rothstein's position on the Fourth District Court of Appeals Judicial Nominating Commission. Rothstein allegedly boasted to friends of buying judges from Gov. Charlie Crist and state Republican Party Chairman Jim Greer.

"State campaign finance records show a troubling pattern of large contributions from Mr. Rothstein and immediate and subsequent appointments of Judges to the Fourth District Court of Appeals," wrote Ferre yesterday in a press release. "Is this pattern a coincidence? Could it indicate real corruption in the

Judicial nominating process and raise legitimate questions about a possibility of Crist's integrity and his fitness to govern?"

Following that, the Miami Herald reported some of the numbers:

Rothstein's law firm gave $52,000 to the state GOP on July 28, 2008, the same day that Crist appointed Jay Hurley to the Broward County court. A day later Rothstein's firm donated another $25,000 to the party.

Crist appointed Rothstein to the 4th DCA Judicial nominating commission on August 25, 2008, four days before Rothstein contributed $140,000 to the RPOF.Rothstein and his firm gave $100,000 to the RPOF on January 26, 2009. Crist appointed Judges Carlos Rodriguez and Barbara McCarthy two days later. Ferre also questioned Crist's appointment of Spencer Levine to an appellate judgeship in the 4th circuit, saying Rothstein pushed his appointment despite lack of judicial experience.

"Are all these incidents just coincidence?" asked Ferre. "Perhaps the U.S. Attorney's investigation into corruption in South Florida should be expanded to include the Governor's possible auctioning of judicial appointments in Broward County.  We need to know what Charlie Crist knew and when he knew it."

I concur. But this investigation isn't going to be fast, and I'm afraid a lot of the good stuff will be ignored by the feds at this point. Why? Because prosecutors are done with Rothstein as a target and now are using him solely as a witness. Rothstein is a wrap, and ironically, that means the feds need Rothstein to be as credible as possible. I don't think they want to hear about insane shakedowns of Italian aristocrats, stories of prostitutes and extortion plots, of bodyguards gone amok, of wiseguy drivers from New York, and other bizarre tales involving the guy at this point.

But that's where the fun is, and that's where I'm heading.

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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