Florida lawyer sentenced to 50 years for $1bn fraud

SOUTH Florida Ponzi scheme mastermind Scott Rothstein was sentenced to 50 years in prison yesterday for an investment fraud that bilked clients out of more than $1bn.

The sentence was more than the 40 years federal prosecutors had recommended for Rothstein, a disbarred lawyer who pleaded guilty to racketeering and fraud conspiracy charges in January. He had faced up to 100 years in prison but his lawyer had asked US District judge James Cohn to give him no more than 30 years.

Rothstein, 47, fled to Morocco as his fraud scheme imploded in late October, apparently lured by the fact that the country has no extradition treaty with the US. He voluntarily returned to Florida in early November, however, and has been jailed since he surrendered to the FBI in December.

He was charged under a statute often used to prosecute organised crime chiefs. Court documents have said Rothstein acted with co-conspirators to carry out the $1.2bn scheme, creating false bank documents that conned investors while providing “gratuities to high-ranking members of police agencies” in order to deflect law enforcement scrutiny.