Criminal Justice

Feds charge 2 sheriff's officers in civil rights case linked to ex-lawyer jailed in $1.2B swindle

Two suspended sheriff’s officers were federally charged Friday in a claimed conspiracy to violate civil rights that is linked to a now-disbarred Florida lawyer serving a 50-year prison term in a $1.2 billion swindle.

Lt. David Benjamin, 48, who once headed the internal affairs department for the Broward County sheriff’s department, and Detective Jeff Poole, 47, are accused of misusing their law enforcement powers to help then-attorney Scott Rothstein and his allies, the Sun Sentinel reports. Benjamin allegedly received $185,000 in cash and gifts from Rothstein for doing so.

Benjamin is accused of escorting Rothstein to a chartered plane in which the attorney fled overseas as his Ponzi scheme was about to be exposed. The lieutenant also is accused of ordering Poole to arrest the ex-wife of Douglas Bates, an attorney and friend of Rothstein. The arrested woman, Marcy Romeo, has contended in a prior federal lawsuit that Bates arranged for her to be arrested to gain an advantage in a child-custody battle, the newspaper reports. An earlier Sun Sentinel article provides additional details.

Benjamin’s attorney, Mike Dutko, declined to comment, but has previously said his client is sorry he ever had anything to do with Rothstein.

Attorney Michael Gottlieb represents Poole, who the attorney says is also regretful and was led down the wrong path by Benjamin.

“He gets what essentially is a command from his superior officer and he follows it,” Gottlieb told the newspaper. “We can look back on it in hindsight and say it wasn’t the right thing to do. It’s unfortunate that a distinguished law enforcement career is going to end because of one aberrant incident like this.”

The two defendants are expected to appear in federal court in Fort Lauderdale on Monday.

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

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