The former law partner of convicted Ponzi schemer Scott Rothstein has agreed to plead guilty to charges he violated federal election laws by making hundreds of thousands of dollars in illegal campaign contributions to prominent politicians such as former Florida Governor Charlie Crist and Senator John McCain. Russell Adler, a former name partner in the now-defunct law firm Rothstein Rosenfeldt Adler, could face up to a five-year prison term after pleading guilty to conspiring to defraud the federal government. Because the plea agreement calls for cooperation with the government's ongoing investigation, Adler's ultimate sentence will depend on the extent of his cooperation.
Adler was a prominent trial attorney in Fort Lauderdale, and was a name partner in Rothstein's firm until Rothstein's scheme collapsed in 2009. According to authorities, Adler assisted Rothstein in making hundreds of thousands of dollars in campaign contributions to John McCain and Charlie Crist in 2009, a tactic used by Rothstein to increase his influence in South Florida politics that later led to his appointment to a prestigious judicial nominating commission. In an effort to funnel the maximum amount to his selected candidates, Rothstein enlisted various RRA employees, including administrative staff, lawyers, and Adler, to contribute to the McCain and Crist campaigns by promising to provide reimbursement for the contributions. In total, Rothstein reimbursed Adler nearly $300,000 - including at least $239,000 in contributions to Crist's failed 2010 Senate campaign that placed RRA as the second-largest contributor.
According to Adler's attorney, Fred Haddad, the recent convictions of former Rothstein lawyers Christina Kitterman and Douglas Bates played a role in the decision to approach the government and negotiate a plea agreement. Importantly, Haddad expects that the campaign finance conspiracy will resolve all of Adler's potential criminal liability - meaning that no charges are expected for any allegations that Adler knew of or assisted Rothstein's fraud. While Adler is currently serving a 91-day suspension from practicing law, his subsequent guilty plea to a felony could result in his permanent disbarment.
Adler's agreement to cooperate may indicate that authorities are not through with their criminal investigation of those connected to Rothstein. This includes other employees and attorneys in Rothstein's office that have not yet been charged, including former name partner Stuart Rosenfeldt.