A newly-installed south Florida sheriff made one of his first priorities the suspension of two deputies connected to Scott Rothstein's $1.4 billion Ponzi scheme, including one that unwittingly provided Rothstein a personal escort to a private plane on the eve of the scheme's collapse. Lt. David Benjamin and Detective Jeff Poole, both employees of the Broward County Sheriff's Office, were suspended last week with pay by Sheriff Scott Israel after the disclosure that the men were "under criminal investigation by an outside agency." During his high-flying days, Rothstein regularly hired Fort Lauderdale police officers for personal protection, including round-the-clock patrols at his residence.
While little is known of Detective Poole's relationship with Rothstein, it was Lt. Benjamin who Rothstein contacted in mid-October 2009 for a police escort to a waiting plane bound for Morocco. However, little did Lt. Benjamin know that this 'business trip' came as Rothstein's Ponzi scheme was on the verge of collapse after missing scheduled investor payments. As detailed in Chuck Malkus's upcoming Rothstein tell-all, the trip's destination was far from random - instead the result of a seemingly-innocuous research project posed by Rothstein to his fellow lawyers just days prior asking which country(ies) did not have an extradition treaty with both Israel and the U.S.
When Rothstein boarded the plane, he not only had a duffel bag containing at least $2 million and a collection of expensive watches, but had already wired at least $15 million to a Moroccan bank account. In exchange for his services, Rothstein allegedly gave Benjamin one of these watches - a high-priced Swiss timepiece. Benjamin later agreed to return the watch, along with $30,000 in payments from Rothstein for various protection services, to the court-appointed bankruptcy trustee.
It remains unclear exactly what conduct the men are being investigated for, though it has long been rumored that Rothstein had extensive connections with law enforcement. The speculation even prompted the publishing of an anonymous e-book purporting to shed light on rampant corruption in the sheriff's office, including the Rothstein connection.