Scott Rothstein law partner gets 2 years in prison
By Kluger Kaplan September 2, 2011
Breaking news regarding the Scott Rothstein saga.
Read the full story here.
By Peter Franceschina, Sun Sentinel
12:23 p.m. EDT, September 2, 2011
West Palm Beach—
Scott Rothstein’s former law partner and longtime friend Howard Kusnick was sentenced to two years in prison Friday morning for his role in one of the notorious Ponzi schemer’s more unique legal charades.
“I stand here at truly humbled as I can [be],” Kusnick told the judge. “Through my actions I hurt innocent people. I damaged them without any justification. I am truly sorry.”
Kusnick, 59, of Tamarac was one of Rothstein’s oldest associates, having first practiced law with Rothstein in the early 1990s when they formed a small firm, Kusnick & Rothstein, in Plantation, long before Kusnick joined the meteoric Rothstein Rosenfeldt Adler firm in downtown Fort Lauderdale.
Through his defense attorney, Kusnick has maintained that he had no knowledge of Rothstein’s massive $1.4 billion investment fraud scheme. But when his old friend asked for help in duping prominent car dealer Ed Morse in a legal case, Kusnick played along in a complex deception, and he pleaded guilty to a federal fraud charge.
He was ordered Friday to pay $310,000 in restitution to Morse.
Kusnick will remain free until Nov. 4 when he must surrender. He asked that he be allowed to serve his prison term in a facility near Montgomery, Ala.
He was drawn into Rothstein’s criminal conspiracy when he worked on a civil case in which Rothstein admitted defrauding Morse and his wife out of $57 million, using fictional court orders involving a lawsuit the couple had filed against an interior decorator.
Although he was not involved in forging those documents, Kusnick admitted to writing a fraudulent letter Rothstein used to convince the Morses that he was pursuing a lawsuit that did not exist.
The fake court orders were forged in the name of U.S. District Judge Kenneth Marra, who was randomly assigned to preside over Kusnick’s criminal case in West Palm Beach.
Ahead of the sentencing, Kusnick’s attorney, Kendall Coffey, wrote in a memo to the judge that Kusnick accepted responsibility for his crimes and was deeply remorseful, prepared to face his judgment. Coffey noted that Kusnick had ethically practiced law for 28 years and served the community, before his entanglement with Rothstein. Kusnick was voluntarily disbarred from practicing law after pleading guilty in June to a single count of wire fraud.
“With his reputation destroyed, his career ruined and his finances devastated, Howard Kusnick now faces federal prison. And yet for him, these matters are not the worst of it,” Coffey wrote. “More than even these things, he now lives with a profound sense that he has betrayed the profession and professional ideals he embraced for more than 30 years, resulting in significant harm to innocent victims.”
Kusnick was the second of four Rothstein associates to learn his fate in recent weeks. Nightclub impresario Stephen Caputi, 54, of Lauderhill, Rothstein’s partner in Café Iguana in Plantation, was sentenced last month to five years in prison. He admitted to impersonating bank officers to help dupe Rothstein investors.
Two of Rothstein’s law firm technology specialists, Curtis Renie, 38, of Pembroke Pines and William J. Corte, 38, of Plantation, await sentencing in late September, after pleading guilty to fraud charges. They admitted to creating fraudulent web sites to make it look like Rothstein’s bank accounts were teeming with hundreds of millions of dollars.
Rothstein, 49, is serving a 50-year prison sentence after pleading guilty to racketeering, money laundering and fraud. He is serving the sentence in an undisclosed location after helping authorities prosecute a reputed Mafia figure. His investment fraud – the largest ever in Florida – collapsed in fall 2009. Investors lost $363 million, much of which went to fund Rothstein’s extravagant lifestyle.
Federal prosecutors have said in court documents that they are moving toward a “multi-defendant” indictment of Rothstein’s top co-conspirators by the end of the year.
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