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Feds Raid Offices Of Florida Lawyer And Political Booster Scott Rothstein

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FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. — Federal agents seized computers, bank and investment records, cash and even the key to a Ferrari during an all-night search at the office of an attorney suspected of operating a massive fraud scheme.

The firm, Rothstein Rosenfeldt Adler, released a 10-page list of items taken by FBI and Internal Revenue Service agents who completed their search at 5 a.m. Thursday at the Fort Lauderdale office. More than 40 boxes of records were seized.

The investigation focuses on attorney Scott Rothstein, who is suspected of misappropriating millions of dollars through investments in legal settlements that may have been faked.

No charges have been filed, although Rothstein has met at length with investigators since returning from Morocco on Tuesday. Rothstein's attorney, Marc Nurik, would not confirm reports that Rothstein is cooperating in the probe or has admitted any wrongdoing.

"A lot of people are reporting things they don't know anything about," Nurik said. "There's a lot of speculation and conjecture out there."

Rothstein, 47, a flashy attorney who has raised millions of dollars for charities and politicians, has made no public statement since the fraud allegations surfaced earlier this week. The state Democratic and Republican parties are both returning tens of thousands of dollars in Rothstein's donations, and Gov. Charlie Crist is giving back $9,600 from his U.S. Senate campaign.

A spokesman for the law firm, Charles Jones, said the firm cooperated fully with the search and had reopened for business Thursday morning. Rothstein was removed as chief executive officer by a judge who also appointed a receiver to unravel its finances. Attorneys for investors say well over $100 million may be lost.

Attorney William Scherer, who represents a dozen investors out some $80 million, said lawsuits are in the works against banks, insurance policies and Rothstein's assets. He also plans to file lawsuits seeking the return of charitable and political contributions.

"This is an amazing situation," Scherer said. "It was apparent to people in the legal community that the law firm couldn't generate the kind of money he was spending, that it had to be from outside investments. I think the money is all gone."

The law firm opened its doors Thursday afternoon to news reporters to show how physically separated Rothstein was from the other attorneys: He had his own private elevator, a secure entrance, soundproofing, and video and audio monitors outside his suite. Rothstein's partners claim they knew nothing about any shady investment deals.

"He kept himself walled off," said Kendall Coffey, a former U.S. attorney who represents the firm. "He was a highly secretive man."

The 16th-floor office, with a stunning view of the Atlantic Ocean, features loads of valuable sports memorabilia and photographs of Rothstein chumming it up with numerous politicians: Crist, former President George W. Bush; U.S. Sens. John McCain, Joseph Lieberman and Arlen Specter; Alaska's ex-Gov. Sarah Palin; former New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani; and California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger.

The list of items seized by federal agents includes boxes of investor documents; bank records including wire and other transfers at various banks; computers and images of computer hard drives; records of Rothstein's many luxury car purchases; and the Ferrari key. Financial records include accounts at TD Bank, which has headquarters in Maine and New Jersey, and Coral Gables-based Gibraltar Private Bank & Trust.

TD Bank spokeswoman Rebecca Acevedo said the bank "will work with the authorities to the fullest extent" and is also conducting its own internal review of Rothstein's accounts. Gibraltar issued a statement saying the firm has payroll and other operations accounts with the bank and that officials have been in touch with the court-appointed receiver.

Agents also seized "an unknown amount of currency" from a credenza behind a desk and a charter jet itinerary showing that Rothstein flew from Fort Lauderdale on Oct. 27 to Casablanca, Morocco, and planned to return at noon Friday. Instead, with the law firm teetering on the verge of collapse and federal investigators asking questions, he came back Tuesday.

The investment business Rothstein operated involved paying discounted lump sums for legal settlements that would pay out higher amounts in installments over time. Promises of returns of 20 or 30 percent were common, investor attorneys say.

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