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White-Collar Crime

Ex-Lawyer Steven Lippman Gets 3 Years, Says Ex-Partner Scott Rothstein ‘Played Me Like a Fool’

Posted Sep 14, 2012 1:19 PM CDT
By Martha Neil

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A newly disbarred South Florida lawyer was sentenced Friday to three years in federal prison, in the latest fallout from the implosion of the Rothstein Rosenfeldt Adler law firm operated by convicted Ponzi schemer Scott Rothstein, who is also disbarred and serving a 50-year federal prison term.

Although Steven Lippman, 50, was not charged in Rothstein's $1.2 billion swindle, he violated banking, election and tax laws by helping the law firm illegally "bundle" contributions for John McCain's 2008 presidential campaign and initially failing to report as personal income some expensive perks that were provided by the law firm, including a 2009 Maserati, according to Bloomberg. The RRA firm was McCain's biggest contributor.

A Sun-Sentinel article provides additional details, noting that Lippman made some campaign contributions from his own personal account. He was then repaid with law firm "bonus" checks.

Lippman said he is "devastated" that he can no longer practice law, and described himself as "a real lawyer ... doing real work." His downfall, he said, was allowing himself to be influenced by his former partner, reports Bloomberg.

"The first mistake I made was an error in judgment regarding Scott Rothstein,” Lippman told the court. “I not only failed to ask the right questions, I agreed to do things that were wrong. Yes, he played me like a fool, but at the end of the day, I should have said no. That’s my fault.”

A prosecutor contended that Lippman did Rothstein's bidding "to keep the gravy flowing." Lippman made $400,000 in 2004, a year before joining RRA, but by 2008 was earning nearly $1.3 million.

The three-year sentence is roughly in the middle of the 18 months suggested by Lippman's lawyer and the advisory sentencing guidelines range of 41 to 51 months sought by the government.

U.S. District Judge James Cohn gave Lippman praise for his abilities as a lawyer and his devotion to his family, the Sun-Sentinel reports. However, Lippman, who was hired to head RRA's commercial litigation practice, was smart enough to know he was violating the law, the judge told those in the Ft. Lauderdale courtroom, including some 60 family members, friends and former clients who came in support of Lippman.

"It is this court's opinion that the sentence must be sufficient to demonstrate to the public that white-collar crime is serious and that it comes with a price," said Cohn.

Lippman must also pay $179,000 restitution and a $15,000 fine.

The South Florida Business Journal also has a story.

Earlier coverage:

ABAJournal.com: "Sun-Sentinel: Steven Lippman, Ex-Partner in Rothstein Firm, Will Take Plea in Conspiracy Case"

ABAJournal.com: "3rd Lawyer from Shuttered Rothstein Law Firm Is Disbarred After Criminal Conviction"

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