The Florida Bar

Florida Bar News

One lawyer’s close encounter with fraudster Scott Rothstein

Senior Editor Regular News

One lawyer’s close encounter with fraudster Scott Rothstein

Senior Editor

A real estate broker colleague’s tip about a new investment opportunity landed Florida lawyer Alan Sakowitz in the glitzy Ft. Lauderdale office of Scott Rothstein, talking business.

 Alan Sakowitz Sitting on an alligator-skin couch, Sakowitz eyed the trophies of success that hung from the walls, including a picture of Rothstein’s wife holding six shopping bags from expensive stores.

Taking in a breathtaking view of the ocean from the 16th floor, Sakowitz listened to Rothstein’s smooth spiel:

Rothstein’s 70-attorney law firm had won several significant settlements in sexual harassment cases for clients. The clients had pressing bills and wanted lump-sum payouts, and there were great investment opportunities to buy funded settlement agreements. A niche market had emerged: Three $900,000 settlements could be purchased for $660,000 each — a $240,000 profit in three months.

But the numbers didn’t add up to Sakowitz. The real estate developer in Bay Harbor Islands, with an LL.M. in federal taxation, would soon see through Rothstein’s too-good-to-be-true sales pitch for what it was: a $1.2 billion Ponzi scheme.

Eighty-four days in 2009, as Sakowitz describes it, would take him through “an exciting, terrifying, intense drama involving the largest fraud in the history of South Florida, and I would witness greed and its blinding powers in truly stunning ways, as well as the dangerous collusion between business and politics.”

Eventually, Sakowitz gathered the courage to call the FBI as a whistleblower, so no one else would be hurt.

It’s all chronicled in Miles Away.. . Worlds Apart, a self-published book that juxtaposes the greed-fueled world of politically connected, charismatic, phony philanthropist, and master manipulator Rothstein — now serving a 50-year sentence in federal prison for racketeering, money laundering, mail fraud, and wire fraud — with Sakowitz’s own Jewish community near North Miami Beach, “where wealth and fulfillment is not measured in dollars, but in deeds,” where people look out for each other, and kindness is bestowed without fanfare.

Riveting details of Sakowitz’s first-person account dealing with Rothstein are juxtaposed with life lessons learned from rabbis, family, friends, and legal colleagues.

“I want to spread the message that leadership and community and family and integrity are things that are not only important, but make a person happier,” says Sakowitz.

Detailing how the scheme unraveled before his eyes, while asking Rothstein a lot of questions that reaped unbelievable answers, Sakowitz writes: “[I]t was all simple arithmetic, which obviously no one else had taken the time to do.. . . Once people saw the pot of gold they would receive from Rothstein, they were not about to let the facts interfere with their decision.”

But the facts shouted to Sakowitz and his two friends who had three meetings with Rothstein.

“We quickly learned that our $50 million would not even plug a small hole in Scott’s investment world,” writes Sakowitz, who clearly details a dozen red flags that waved them away from investing a dime.

On Amazon.com, 54 reviewers give Sakowitz’s book four out of five stars. One reviewer from Salt Lake City, Utah, wrote: “It’s guys like Scott Rothstein that give attorneys a bad name. And it’s guys like Alan Sakowitz that prove that humanity is, at its heart, good.”

(To buy the book and for more information, go to www.LegacySeriesPress.com. )

News in Photos