Bloomberg News

Florida Lawyer Admits to Role in Rothstein Investment Fraud

June 14, 2011

(Updates with sentence recommendation in second paragraph.)

June 14 (Bloomberg) -- A Florida attorney pleaded guilty in federal court to aiding Scott Rothstein in a $1.2 billion investment scheme involving fake court settlements.

Howard Kusnick, formerly of Rothstein’s Fort Lauderdale law firm, pleaded guilty today before U.S. District Judge Kenneth Marra in West Palm Beach, Florida, to a single count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud. Kusnick, 59, had pleaded not guilty earlier this month. Prosecutors today said they agreed to recommend a prison sentence of 24 to 30 months.

Rothstein pleaded guilty in January 2010 to five counts of racketeering, money laundering and wire fraud, admitting he sold investors interests in bogus settlements in sexual-harassment and whistleblower suits. He was sentenced to 50 years in prison.

Prosecutors said Kusnick wrote a letter claiming to have settled a pending case in a client’s favor when the case had never been filed and no settlement existed.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Jeffrey Kaplan had no comment after the hearing. Kendall Coffey, a lawyer for Kusnick, also declined to comment. Kusnick remains free on bond. His sentencing is set for Sept. 2.

Plea Hearings

Curtis Renie and William Corte, information technology employees of Rothstein’s firm; and Stephen Caputi, an associate of Rothstein’s, are scheduled for change-of-plea hearings this month, according to case dockets. They had previously pleaded not guilty to conspiracy to commit wire fraud.

Caputi attended meetings with potential investors in the scheme, acting as a banker or as a plaintiff in fictitious suits, prosecutors said. Renie and Corte created a Web page designed to look like it belonged to a bank so investors would think Rothstein’s law firm held as much as $1.1 billion in trust accounts, prosecutors allege.

Each faces a maximum sentence of five years in prison.

The cases are U.S. v. Kusnick, 11-60125, U.S. v. Caputi, 11-60124, U.S. v. Renie, 11-60123, U.S. District Court, Southern District of Florida (Fort Lauderdale).

--Editors: Andrew Dunn, Fred Strasser

To contact the reporter on this story: Susannah Nesmith in West Palm Beach, Florida, at susannahnesmith@yahoo.com.

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Michael Hytha at mhytha@bloomberg.net


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