Posted Feb 05, 2014 08:20 pm CST
A once-prominent Florida lawyer—now disbarred and serving a 50-year prison term while under the federal witness protection program—Scott Rothstein testified Wednesday in handcuffs and leg irons at the wire fraud conspiracy trial of an attorney who worked at his Fort Lauderdale law firm before it imploded over his $1 billion-plus Ponzi scheme.
Defendant Christina Kitterman is accused of participating with her former boss in phone conversations with the institutional investors he defrauded in a scheme operated from his 70-attorney firm, Rothstein Rosenfeldt Adler. At one point, according to a federal indictment, Kitterman pretended she was chief of the Fort Lauderdale office of the Florida Bar and, reading from a Rothstein script, falsely claimed his TD Bank trust accounts had been frozen because of 26 client complaints.
Appearing as a defense witness in the case, the 51-year-old Rothstein said he met Kitterman while teaching law classes as a part-time adjunct at Nova Southeastern University. After she graduated, he offered her a job in what was then a small law firm, where he said a “friends-with-benefits” relationship developed, according to CBS Miami and the South Florida Sun-Sentinel.
“I loved her and cared about her and I believed she loved me and cared about me. It was not sexual harassment,” Rothstein told the jury.
The defense is arguing that Kitterman was fooled by Rothstein, just like the investors he defrauded.
“He said that he put her up to doing something and that she didn’t know what she was doing,” argued attorney Valentin Rodriguez, who represents Kitterman. “She didn’t have the intent to commit a crime.”
Additional and related coverage:
ABAJournal.com (Nov. 2009): “Rothstein Firm Is Running on Fumes, Newspaper Says”
ABAJournal.com (Dec. 2011): “Scott Rothstein Says Other Law Firms Aided $1.2B Fraud by Turning Blind Eye to His Lies”
ABAJournal.com (Sept. 2013): “TD Bank to pay $52.5M to settle regulatory complaints related to ex-attorney Rothstein’s $1.2B fraud”
Sun-Sentinel: “Rothstein’s right-hand woman testifies in South Florida lawyer’s trial”