Four of disgraced former attorney Scott Rothstein’s associates were charged in U.S. District Court earlier today with conspiracy to commit wire fraud. They include one of his former law partners, two Internet technology specialists and a partner in a nightclub owned by Rothstein.
They are the first defendants to be charged in the almost year-and-a-half investigation since Debra Villegas was charged in a money laudering conspiracy last June.
Sentenced to 10 years in prison, Villegas, 43, was chief operating officer of the now-defunct Rothstein Rosenfeldt Adler law firm. She remains free while continuing to cooperate with FBI agents and prosecutors.
The former RRA partner, attorney Howard Kusnick, worked on a Palm Beach County civil case in which Rothstein admitted defrauding car dealer Ed Morse and his wife out of $57 million, using fictional court orders involving litigation they had filed against a kitchen designer.
The Internet technology specialists, William J. Corte and Curtis Renie, allegedly developed fake websites that were used by Rothstein to deceive investors into believing he had hundreds of millions of dollars in accounts with TD Bank.
The fourth defendant, Stephen Caputi, was Rothstein’s partner in the Café Iguana nightclub in Pembroke Pines. Prior to fleeing the country in the fall of 2009, Rothstein wired $1 million to Morocco in Caputi’s name.
He is alleged to have posed as a banker and a plaintiff in litigation being handled by Rothstein, in order to scam investors.
“Caputi, posing as an official from TD Bank, provided investors with fraudulent bank statements that reflected purported balances of trust accounts at TD Bank. In this way, Caputi lulled the investors into believing that the account balances were sufficient to fund their investments,” alleged prosecutors. “On another occasion, Caputi posed as a plaintiff during a meeting with potential investors who had requested to meet with plaintiffs.”
Corte and Caputi made their initial appearances in U.S. District Court this morning. Renie and Kusnick have appearances scheduled for next week. The wire fraud charge is punishable by up to five years in federal prison.
“The house of cards supporting Scott Rothstein’s elaborate Ponzi scheme continues to crumble,” stated U.S. Attorney Wifredo A. Ferrer, in a written release. “As today’s charges confirm, we will follow all leads and continue to bring to justice those who helped Rothstein execute this billion dollar fraud and any other crimes that may have been committed through RRA.”
Scott Rothstein was sentenced last June to 50 years in federal prison for using his Fort Lauderdale law firm – Rothstein Rosenfeldt Adler – to run a $1.2 billion Ponzi scheme that enriched him with fancy homes, yachts and sports cars while allowing him to make sizable contributions to numerous charities and politicians.
Rothstein had faced up to 100 years behind bars after pleading guilty to two counts of fraud and three counts of conspiracy. The sentence imposed by United States District Judge James Cohn was ten years more than prosecutors requested and 20 years longer than the term Rothstein had hoped to receive as a result of his reportedly extensive cooperation with federal investigators.