"I think his exact words were 'Make sure you arrest that bitch..."
- Lt. Jeff Poole
Two terminated Broward County sheriff's deputies have agreed to plead guilty to charges they abandoned their responsibilities in favor of carrying out favors for convicted Ponzi schemer Scott Rothstein - including the illegal arrest of the ex-wife of one of Rothstein's colleagues on trumped up drug charges. Former detective Jeff Poole, 47, entered a guilty plea today to a charge of conspiracy to violate civil rights. And former Lt. David Benjamin, 48, is scheduled to enter a guilty plea on May 13, 2014 to a single charge of a conspiracy to violate civil rights and commit extortion as a law enforcement officer. Poole and Benjamin face maximum jail terms of 10 years and 5 years, respectively.
Before his $1.2 billion Ponzi scheme collapsed, Rothstein regularly hired Broward county police officers for personal protection, including round-the-clock patrols at his residence. Indeed, as the scheme unraveled in mid-October 2009, Rothstein solicited Benjamin to provide a police escort to a waiting plane bound for Morocco. Before boarding the plane, Rothstein allegedly gave Benjamin a luxury watch from his extensive collection. Benjamin ultimately returned the watch, along with $30,000 in compensation from Rothstein, to the court-appointed bankruptcy trustee.
According to authorities, the charges emanated from the June 2009 arrest of the ex-wife of Rothstein's legal acquaintance, Douglas Bates. According to reports, Poole received a telephone call from Benjamin ordering him to arrest Bates' ex-wife on fictitious drug charges in an attempt to deal Bates the upper hand in child custody proceedings. Investigators alleged that Benjamin was paid $1,000 by Rothstein for his assistance. In addition, the deputies were accused of using force and threats of force against the boyfriend of an escort threatening to disclose a relationship between the escort and Rothstein's law partner. In total, Benjamin allegedly received $153,500 in cash and $30,000 in jewelry and tickets to sporting events. Benjamin and Poole were suspended without pay in January 2013.
Both men were arrested several weeks ago. Guilty pleas were expected given that each was charged via a criminal information.