Pre-prison high life

Steven R. Green has been establishing residency at the Portofino Island Resort & Spa in Pensacola Beach, Fla. since being convicted. (Brian Cassella/Tribune)

Convicted of stealing millions from investors, a Winnetka man who declared himself so broke he was assigned a public lawyer is living on the 19th floor of a $2,600-a-month luxury resort and spa overlooking Florida's Gulf Coast.

Steven Green, 52, persuaded a federal judge to allow him to delay reporting to prison by a month — from Oct. 26 to Nov. 30 — so that he could move his wife to Pensacola Beach, Fla., before he begins his 78-month incarceration.

Some of those defrauded by Green are upset that he was allowed the sentencing delay and is biding his time on the pristine white sand beaches in sunny Florida.

"I understand that it is a very plush spa," said Robert Clarke, an attorney representing a woman who lost more than $250,000 by investing with Green. "I would just hope that the source of the funds is not any of his victims' funds."

Green cited his wife's mental health "special needs" and provided a Pensacola address to federal court that he described as "permanent" in order to serve his sentence at a federal prison there. The couple recently moved from Winnetka to the deluxe two-bedroom high-rise suite that faces the Gulf of Mexico and features eight pools within a gated, exclusive resort.

Green was convicted Aug. 25 of wire fraud, and was ordered by U.S. District Judge George Lindberg to repay $3.3 million to nearly two dozen people and businesses who invested funds with him. Green also was ordered to forfeit about $2 million and a Range Rover after the court found he had used his victims' money to afford a lavish lifestyle of travel and restaurants.

He has portrayed himself as bankrupt and has not paid taxes for at least two years, public records show.

But last week, Green and his wife, Tara Kersch Green, who has her own legal problems and has filed for bankruptcy, were found at the Portofino Island Resort. They have lived there for the last eight weeks with Tara's young daughter from a previous relationship.

Before hanging up on a reporter who called their suite, Green said, "My wife is here, and we are trying to get redesignated to Pensacola, and that is all I have to offer."

Confronted later at the resort, as they emerged from a green Mercedes sport utility vehicle toting their poodle, he and his wife declined to talk.

"Honey, I think they have the wrong people," he said, before disappearing into one of Portofino's five towers that offer condominiums as well as rentals.

Federal authorities say there is little they can do about where Green resides before he begins his prison sentence.

Randall Samborn, spokesman for the U.S. attorney's office, said prosecutors have done their job and have no reason to question where Green is living now or why he is asking to transfer to the Pensacola prison.

"The discretion is entirely within the U.S. Bureau of Prisons," Samborn said. "It is not up to us to determine where someone will serve their sentence."

Edmond Ross, spokesman for the bureau, said the agency will consider Green's request to change prison locations after reviewing results of a presentencing investigation. The agency can't comment on his current residence in Florida, he said.

Green's attorney, who is paid with taxpayer dollars, has appealed the "reasonableness" of Green's sentence and has asked that he be allowed to return to the securities field. The current court order prohibits him from working in the field for three years following his prison sentence.

The attorney, Eugene O'Malley, of Chicago, could not be reached last week.

Meanwhile, Green has hired a private consulting firm that specializes in helping white-collar criminals prepare for incarceration in a bid to serve his sentence at Pensacola's federal prison rather than at the prison in Terre Haute, Ind., where he was assigned.

The firm, Federal Prison Consultants Inc., is an Orlando, Fla.-based company whose motto is "Helping Families Prepare for Incarceration since 2006." It sent a letter to the U.S. Bureau of Prisons from a licensed psychologist on Green's behalf. The psychologist stated that a former DUI conviction indicates that Green could benefit from an alcohol abuse program and lists the Florida resort as the couple's permanent residence, court records show.