Toxic shock of Rothstein's fall felt across South Florida

Scott Rothstein, pictured, will plead guilty to some charges Wednesday morning, his attorney, Marc Nurik, said. (The Miami Herald, file)

To victims, colleagues and members of his once-swinging entourage, he's a superstar of flimflam, a lawyer gone spectacularly rotten — maybe even a sociopath.

Scott Rothstein's attorney says his client is truly remorseful and ready to atone with many years behind bars.

As the fallen Fort Lauderdale lawyer and accused super swindler heads back to court and an anticipated guilty plea Wednesday in his alleged $1.2-billion Ponzi scheme, toxic fallout from what may be South Florida's most colossal fraud in history still reverberates across the region.

A handful of very wealthy investors, out hundreds of millions of dollars, are frantically trying to claw back some of their vanished assets through warring lawsuits.

Smaller investors and some law firm clients, the proverbial little guys, are hurting even worse. Some have been virtually wiped out.

A large law firm — Rothstein Rosenfeldt Adler, with dozens of innocent employees — has been destroyed, leaving many without jobs.

Fort Lauderdale's police chief and two high-ranking Broward Sheriff's Office officials are under scrutiny for their chummy ties to Rothstein.

The running house-party that was Rothstein's life for the past five years is over, and his brigade of hangers-on has done its best to melt into the shadows. The martinis have dried up, the Montecristos aren't burning bright and the colorful Ferraris and Lamborghinis no longer growl down Las Olas Boulevard.

Rothstein, 47, himself is a changed man — nearly two months in federal detention can be transformative. His once spiky blond hair is now graying; there is no dye in lockup. His double chin has disappeared; there are no rich meals or liquor in lockup. He's doing his best to remain strong in his forced isolation.

The five federal counts of racketeering, money laundering and fraud filed against him carry a potential 100 years of prison time. Rothstein's attorney, Marc Nurik, has said his client will plead guilty to some charges Wednesday morning, but it's unclear as to which, and what sort of punishment they may carry.

"The process is very open-ended as far as sentencing occurs," Nurik said in a recent interview. "He is facing a lot of time."

Meanwhile, an intense federal investigation continues to determine who else was involved. Prosecutors, FBI agents and IRS investigators remain tight-lipped, but the 34-page document charging Rothstein refers to "co-conspirators" 42 times.

Simultaneously, the Florida Bar is investigating 35 senior attorneys from Rothstein's firm, to determine whether they were involved in trust account irregularities.

Many who were closest to Rothstein no longer want their names mentioned along with his. Former fast friends won't talk to reporters. Ex-law partners refuse to comment on the record, though two of them privately called Rothstein a "sociopath." Investors don't return journalists' messages.

For former firm co-owner Stuart Rosenfeldt, gone are the stylish Las Olas Boulevard offices, where he and "Scotty" presided over 150 employees occupying four floors of a downtown high-rise. Rosenfeldt has opened a practice with another ex-RRA lawyer and now shares down-at-heels office digs with a building contractor in a depressed area of Fort Lauderdale, next to a convenience store with bars across the windows and across from a thrift store and pawn-shop plaza.

"I have nothing to say,'' Rosenfeldt said one afternoon last week. "I just can't even think about it.''

RRA's other name partner, Russell Adler, gave an adamant, "no comment" to the question the Sun Sentinel asked many people for this article: how has Scott Rothstein's fall changed your life?

Adler now has an office two floors down from his old haunts; his updated profile on the Florida Bar's website lists his firm size as "one." Other attorneys from Rothstein's now bankrupt firm – there were once about 70 of them – have formed their own firms, joined others or struck out on their own.

One of those lawyers, Anna Lenchus, hasn't decided which path she will take. She was with RRA only nine months and on maternity leave when news of the fraud scandal broke around last Halloween.