Criminal Justice

Former law firm CFO charged in $1.2B swindle is 18th to face a criminal case, feds say


The former chief financial officer of a defunct South Florida law firm has been charged with a role in the $1.2 billion swindle for which its former managing partner Scott Rothstein is now serving a 50-year federal prison sentence.

Irene Shannon, 50, who was formerly known as Irene Stay, faces a single federal count of conspiracy to commit money laundering and bank fraud. The charging document is a criminal information rather than a grand jury indictment, which often signals a pending plea deal, reports the Sun Sentinel.

Prosecutors said Shannon is the 18th individual to be held accountable for conduct related to the massive fraud by former Rothstein Rosenfeld Adler managing partner Scott Rothstein.

Rothstein operated a Ponzi scheme said to total as much as $1.4 billion. It was cloaked in the legitimacy of the RRA firm’s Fort Lauderdale law offices, which boosted its profile by making illegal contributions to the campaigns of state and national politicians. Rothstein worked there in a soundproof office suite which featured a painting of Al Pacino in character as Michael Corleone in the movie The Godfather, as a previous ABAJournal.com post notes. The revelation of his wrongdoing brought down both Rothstein and the firm, which imploded near the end of 2009.

Shannon is accused of overseeing all accounting operations, working in Rothstein’s secured inner sanctum, and transferring hundreds of millions of dollars from new investors to old investors and to cover law firm operating costs and personal expenses for her boss, the Sun Sentinel reports.

“Scott Rothstein was the mastermind of a massive Ponzi scheme, but he needed a trusted agent who knew how to shuffle money to keep the scheme running,” said George L. Piro, who serves as special agent in charge of the FBI’s South Florida operations. “Shannon … transferred millions of dollars and floated innumerable checks in an effort to make it all look legitimate.”

Attorney Brian Tannebaum represents Shannon. He could not immediately be reached for comment by the newspaper.

Others previously convicted as a result of their association with Rothstein include:

• Name partner Russell Adler, who took a plea in an election-law case in federal court in Fort Lauderdale earlier this month. It involved the bundling of hundreds of thousands of dollars in campaign contributions. Adler could get as much as five years when he is sentenced in June, but agreed to cooperate in an ongoing investigation of lawyers who worked at the firm, reports the South Florida Business Journal and the Miami Herald (sub. req.).

• Attorney Douglas Bates, who worked at a small West Palm Beach law firm, was accused of providing documents that supported Rothstein’s fraud. He pleaded guilty to wire fraud conspiracy in February but apparently has not yet been sentenced.

• Former RRA attorneys Christina Kitterman, Howard Kusnick and Steven Lippman, as well as former chief operating officer Debra Villegas. All got time, and Villegas was sentenced to 10 years.

• Former RRA computer technician William Corte and technology chief Curtis Renie. They were sentenced to 37 months in 2011 for constructing a fake bank website to support Rothstein’s false claims to investors, the Sun Sentinel reported at the time. The next year, office administrator Marybeth Feiss got six months for violating federal campaign-finance laws, another Sun Sentinel article reported.

Also convicted were William Boockvor, who worked for Rothstein at the RRA offices; Rothstein friend Stephen Caputi, a nightclub owner who masqueraded as a banker and a plaintiff in a lawsuit; Kim Rothstein, the former wife of Scott Rothstein, for hiding assets; her lawyer, Scott Saidel; her friend, Stacie Weisman; Patrick Daoud, a jeweler contacted by Weisman; and Eddy Marin, a businessman in Miami who conspired to obstruct justice by lying about the asset-hiding scheme, according to the South Florida Business Journal.

All were sentenced to prison except for Daoud, who got probation, according to previous ABAJournal.com coverage, Sun Sentinel articles about Boockvor, Caputi and Weisman and the South Florida Business Journal.

Related coverage:

ABAJournal.com: “CBS: Lawyer Stung Mafia Suspects to Get Witness Time in $1.2B Scheme”

ABAJournal.com: “Ex-COO for Rothstein Firm Takes Plea, Explains Why She Helped With $1.4B Scheme”

ABAJournal.com: “Kim Rothstein, wife of ex-lawyer jailed in $1.2B swindle, gets 18 months for hiding $1M in jewelry”

ABAJournal.com: “Weeping disbarred lawyer is sentenced to prison for aiding client’s plot to hide jewels”

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