The plot begins simply: Jewish boy raised in poverty moves from New York to Florida, where despite his hardscrabble beginnings makes it through law school and is called to the bar in Florida in 1988.
His career is low-profile and apparently unblemished until 2005, when he designs a scheme to attract investors to pay cash for the right to receive the proceeds of large lawsuits where the payments are “structured settlements”. The idea is that litigants will trade their settlement results from their lawsuits to Rothstein’s investment firm in exchange for upfront, lump sum cash. The investors are promised 20% returns within less than three months.
Business was good for Mr. Rothstein whose firm Rothstein Rosenfeldt Adler grew to 70 lawyers and 150 staff with seven offices in Florida, New York and Venezuela. He began to hang with the “big boys” including Bill Clinton, Jeb Bush, Governor Christie and a long line of flamboyant “players”, referred to as the Israeli Mafia.
No doubt they were impressed by his million dollar homes, Boeing 727, 87 foot yacht and a garage full of high-end cars including Ferrari’s, Lamborghini’s, Rolls Royce, Bugatti and Harley Davidson’s.
There was plenty to go around as he accumulated a million dollar watch collection, jewellery galore for his second wife, Kim Rothstein, and gave millions to well-regarded charitable and political causes.
Only the money wasn’t his and his fraud unravelled in 2009 with his arrest for racketeering and money laundering. Yes, like Bernie Madoff, Allen Stanford, Lou Pearlman, and others before him, Rothstein stole every dollar invested to fund a lifestyle that he couldn’t afford, didn’t deserve, and could never have achieved by relying on his own brain or brawn.
Knowing the jig was up, Rothstein researched which countries did not have extradition treaties with the United States, and fled to Morocco, but not before he wired $16 million dollars to an account in Casablanca.
Several days later he sent a suicide text message to his law partners apologizing for his behavior. His partners and his rabbi persuaded him to return to Florida, where he was sentenced to 50 years in prison, even though the prosecutors asked for only 40 years.
All of his prized possessions were forfeited and the law firm he so proudly fronted was dissolved. He was disbarred in 2009 and removed from Best Lawyers in America. His coveted AV rating (the highest available) from Martindale Hubbell ( a firm that rates lawyers) was gone.
This week his wife plead guilty to charges that she, her lawyer, Scott Saidel and her close friend, Stacie Weisman, conspired to hide her million dollar jewellery collection consisting of prize pieces, including a 12 carat diamond ring. She could receive up to five years imprisonment.
I will never understand why some people believe they can steal from others. Perhaps Rothstein answered that question when he said “I grew up poor, I’m a lunatic about money”. I hope he’s just as excited with a lifetime behind bars.
Lawdiva aka Georgialee Lang