Ex-Florida Lawyer Receives 50-Year Prison Sentence for Ponzi Scheme

An alleged Ponzi scheme involving approximately $1.2 billion leads to ex-Florida lawyer Scott Rothstein receiving a prison sentence of 50 years. Mr. Rothstein was convicted of five felonies that included money laundering, racketeering conspiracy and wire fraud. The maximum sentence Mr. Rothstein could have received was 100 years.

The disbarred attorney attracted unsuspecting investors by offering large interest rates from the sale of confidential legal settlements. However, investigators concluded that the settlements were not real. Mr. Rothstein also allegedly produced fake bank statements to investors showing money in the accounts and took money from new investors to pay dividends to old investors.

Mr. Rothstein was accused of using the money to purchase Italian sports cars, an 80-foot yacht and to make political contributions to candidates, such as Florida Governor Charlie Crist, California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger and former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin.

The Ponzi scam operated from 2005 until October 2009. That is when Mr. Rothstein fled to Morocco after wiring $16 million to an account there. He later retuned to the United States and pled guilty on January 27, 2010.

Mr. Rothstein hoped to get a lighter sentence in exchange for his willingness to return to the United States and for his cooperation. However, he received 10 years more than what prosecutors recommended.

“These actions constitute the most egregious wrongs a licensed attorney can commit,” U.S. District Judge James I. Cohn said.

Mr. Rothstein’s assets have been seized and are in the process of being sold in order to pay restitution to the victims.


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