Updated news on the Gambino, Genovese, Bonanno, Lucchese and Colombo Organized Crime Families of New York City.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Rothstein sting tapes: How he won the confidence of a reputed Mafia associate

It is 8:15 p.m. on Nov. 23, and lawyer Scott Rothstein and another man are sitting in a private area in Capriccio's Ristorante in Pembroke Pines. They are talking about laundering millions of dollars. Rothstein's massive Ponzi scheme had just blown up.
An upset Rothstein launches into how he wants one of his former law partners to stop blabbing about him.
"He doesn't shut up for two f------ seconds," Rothstein says. "I never done nothing to this guy. Could you just send a message to him? Yeah?"
"Yeah," responds his dinner companion.
"Good, that's what I need," Rothstein says. "Maybe if he can't walk so good just for a few days that would be f----- enough because I can't have this."
Like so much of Rothstein's life in recent years, the dinner meeting was a charade. Rothstein was wearing a hidden microphone, working as an FBI informant in a sting targeting the man who was sitting across from him — Roberto Settineri, a Miami Beach wine merchant suspected by authorities of having Mafia ties.
Audio recordings of the undercover operation reviewed by the Sun Sentinel reveal how Rothstein won Settineri's confidence. The tapes capture Rothstein working his charm with profanity-laced patter and a tough-guy New York accent. The graduate of Lauderdale Lakes' Boyd Anderson High School often sounds like he stepped off the set of "The Sopranos."
"Where I grew up and where you grew up, when I'd say I'd die for you, we mean it," Rothstein told the Sicilian-born Settineri. "We don't say it like a joke."
Rothstein, 48, began working with federal authorities almost immediately after he flew back to Fort Lauderdale from Morocco on Nov. 3, 2009, a few days after his law firm Rothstein Rosenfeldt Adler collapsed as a result of his $1.4 billion investment fraud. It's that cooperation that he hopes will reduce the 50-year prison sentence he received in June after pleading guilty to five criminal charges.
Rothstein's undercover work led to Settineri's four-year prison sentence handed down last week after he pleaded guilty to conspiring to commit money laundering. Two other men, who had acted on Settineri's behalf, took plea deals that resulted in house arrest.
Records show federal authorities wasted little time in having Rothstein reach out to Settineri. Settineri, 42, had been on the Italian National Police's radar for years and was suspected of having ties to the violent Sicilian crime family Santa Maria di Gesu.
Rothstein began texting Settineri on Nov. 9, 2009 — Settineri's wedding day, according to records reviewed by the Sun Sentinel.
"Hey wedding man, know it's bad timing but if u could have one of your friends call me so I can deal with some of this I would be most appreciative," Rothstein wrote.
Two days later, Rothstein met Settineri's intermediaries — Daniel Dromerhauser and Enrique Ros. The two men co-owned a Pembroke Pines security firm that did work for the Versace Mansion. Rothstein had a 10 percent stake in the famous South Beach location.
In a series of meetings with Ros and Dromerhauser, Rothstein was blunt — he needed documents destroyed before a federal grand jury got them, he needed to hide $5 million he had stolen and he wanted help in laundering millions of dollars more.
"It's all from this f----- scam," Rothstein said. "I don't want the feds to f------ have it. It's not their money. They didn't steal it. I did it." He laughed.
Rothstein met with Ros, often accompanied by Dromerhauser, in spots around Broward County, including twice at a Barnes & Noble in Hollywood's Oakwood Plaza.
"I've always followed the rule 'Hide in plain sight,'" Rothstein told Ros and Dromerhauser. "If you look like you're hiding, people notice you're hiding."
Rothstein claimed the two undercover FBI agents who were driving him around were people hired by his attorney. When asked why he needed two drivers, he said he thought one was for driving and the other was to make sure he didn't run off.
In total, Rothstein handed $59,000 in cash to Ros in their meetings and federal authorities wired another $10,000 to an account set up to move money.
Before meetings, Ros patted down Rothstein for wires. And when it came to the dinner with Settineri, Ros had Rothstein strip down in a restaurant bathroom to make sure he wasn't bugged. The hidden microphone wasn't detected.
"I spoke to some of our friends that are in the security business," Settineri told Rothstein. "They told me to be extremely careful every time we meet because they say that for sure that [authorities] are … looking at you."
"They are looking at me," Rothstein responded. "They just don't know what to look for."
Rothstein said the worst that authorities could get him on was tax fraud, and he could do prison time on those charges "standing on my head."
"I'll go sit next to Bernie Madoff," Rothstein laughed.
Settineri told Rothstein he could get him a Mexican passport and arrange a safe house for him outside the country.
Throughout the conversation at the Pembroke Pines restaurant, Settineri was vague about his background, telling Rothstein he had connections to "professional people."
Rothstein asked: "These guys, if I need a witness to go bye-bye, these are the guys who can do it?"
"Yes," Settineri said.
Settineri pledged loyalty to Rothstein.
"You tell me, 'Let's go to the moon,' and I'll put you on my back and we'll go to the moon," Settineri said.
Rothstein emphasized that outside of him, Settineri, Ros and Dromerhauser, no one else could know about the millions of dollars in play.
"The only fish that gets caught is the fish that opens its mouth," Rothstein said. "Nothing leaves this table. Nothing."
Rothstein was arrested a week after the restaurant meeting. A federal grand jury indicted Settineri, Ros and Dromerhauser in March.
Rothstein is now being held in protective custody in an undisclosed prison.



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