Broward County Sheriff’s deputies aiding Ponzi schemes, prostitutes and corruption

Broward County Sheriff’s deputies aiding Ponzi schemes, prostitutes and corruption

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Image by Elvert Barnes via Flickr.
Image by Elvert Barnes via Flickr. (Creative Commons 2.0)

MIAMI, FLORIDA-  Last month the US Department of Justice, IRS-CI, and Broward Sheriff’s Office (BSO) filed charges against BSO Lieutenant David Benjamin, 48, of Boca Raton, and BSO Detective Jeff Alan Poole, 47, of Weston, for fraud and conspiring to commit crimes.

According to the charges, both defendants used their respective positions within BSO unlawfully to further the interests of the former Fort Lauderdale law firm of Rothstein, Rosenfeldt and Adler, P.A. (RRA), its Chairman and CEO, Scott W. Rothstein, and other persons associated with Rothstein.

According to the indictments, up until October 2009, Rothstein was operating a $1.9 BILLION ponzi scheme via RRA. Benjamin set up a front corporation called “DWB Consulting Group, LLC” for the purpose of accepting $185,000 in bribes from Rothstein in exchange for providing Rothstein and his employees with extra ordinary access to law enforcement and illegal corporate “benefits.”

Poole and Benjamin were also charged with rigging a child custody case for Rothstein’s attorney accomplice and arranging to use force and threats against the boyfriend of an escort who was threatening to expose the illicit relationship which existed between the escort and one of the partners at RRA. The pair is also accused of assisting Rothstein in loading cash and jewelry onto the private airplane used by Rothstein to flee to Morocco on October 27, 2009 as the Ponzi scheme began to unravel.

Experts say “pay to play” scams involving the banking industry’s elite aren’t just expensive for taxpayers, they may have deadly consequences for abused children with rigged cases.


In 2009, Rothstein crony Douglas Bates, a Broward County attorney, asked Rothstein for “help” rigging his child custody case against ex-wife Marcy Romeo. According to court filings, at Rothstein’s instruction, Benjamin met with Bates and accepted fees to conduct surveillance on Romeo’s home, then had Poole arrest Romeo on trumped up charges in 2009.

According to a federal lawsuit filed by Romeo against BSO, on the evening prior to her arrest, Bates provided Romeo with several unmarked bottles containing medication for their severely disabled son. The following day, Poole arrested Romeo during a targeted traffic stop and charged her with operating a “mobile drugstore.”  Bates was given a copy of Romeo’s arrest report, which Bates misused in family court to gain the upper hand obtain custody of the couple’s children under false pretenses.

All charges against Romeo were later dropped after tests showed that all pills were lawfully obtained with valid prescriptions.

“Benjamin told me, ‘Look, arrest this bitch … make sure you arrest her,’ “and I did it,” Poole told the judge last week during a sentencing hearing.

In May, Bates was sentenced to five years in federal prison on wire fraud conspiracy charges in connection with his role in helping Rothstein swindle more than $60 million from investors, and what the judge called Bates’ “unsavory” role in having his ex-wife arrested for personal gain.

“In terms of his actions, I would [call it] evil rather than unsavory,” said the judge during the sentencing hearing. “Is there any other way to look at it?”


The fact that authorities waited several years after Romeo’s bogus arrest to charge Bates and the deputies with rigging a custody case involving a parent engaged in organized crime and at least on disabled child raises serious questions about the justice system’s priorities.

“I’m glad to see that the Department of Justice is finally starting to take court corruption seriously,” says Linda Marie Sacks, Co-Chair of the Florida NOW Child Custody & Family Court Committee, “but is anyone else worried that there are other victims out there?”

Sacks also wonders how much money was paid out to family court professionals to resolve the false allegations against Romeo?

“There is a national crisis for women and their children in the family law courts of this country,” says Sacks. “For over a decade, NOW has been documenting the fact that criminals are often aided by offender friendly judges and court-appointed personnel, along with militant aggressive ‘male offender rights’ networks, who deliberately place children into profitable and dangerous homes to justify the appointment of various evaluators, advocates, and other professionals onto the case.”

Sacks says she has heard hundreds of stories from families allegedly victimized by what they say are unethical professionals working within the justice system. According to Sacks, Romeo’s case is exceptional because most victims with open family court cases are falsely discredited by authorities as “conspiracy theorists” or as a case of sour grapes when they try and present evidence of criminal activity to law enforcement.

Records show Sacks is right to be concerned about how the family courts are doing business. In January 2014, Windermere Police Chief Daniel Saylor was sentenced to eight years in prison for perjury, giving unlawful compensation for official behavior, and official misconduct. The charges stem from an incident where Saylor snuffed out a criminal child rape investigation for crony Scott Frederick Bush, who is now serving a life sentence for sexually assaulting several children.

Saylor began working for the Windermere police in 1997, just one year after he resigned from his position at the Melbourne Police Department while under investigation for soliciting a prostitute. During court hearings on the recent corruption charges, Saylor’s attorney argued for leniency in setting bail on the grounds that Saylor himself has sole custody and care taking responsibility for his own now 12-year old daughter.

In 2012, family court bailiff Juana Olga Durand was arrested for accepting cash bribes outside the Miami-Dade courthouse to fix cases and steer clients to a local attorney. The Tampa Bay Times also reported last year that powerful Valrico based custody evaluator James Flems continued to be appointed onto cases involving children who are victims of violent crimes, despite the psychologist’s own violent criminal history. In 2008, and a Florida jury found that Flems had “a felonious intent to steal” several thousand dollars from a client assigned to him by the family courts, and ordered him to pay the victim over $19,000.

Sacks points out that in Florida, the law often requires the Department of Children and Families (DCF) to work with the sheriff’s department to resolve cases involving the state’s most vulnerable children.

“Recent reports show that 477 children have died in DCF care. Should authorities be taking a more aggressive look into the business dealings of the State vendors and officials turning a profit off the backs of these dead children?” asks Sacks. “Absolutely. It would not shock me at all if it turned out that the problems in Broward are just the tip of the iceberg.”


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