Ponzi schemer Scott Rothstein told federal prosecutors in 2011 that fellow attorney Douglas Bates was in his pocket.
Now it appears Bates, 55, will be sharing in Rothstein's fate.
Bates pleaded guilty in federal court in West Palm Beach to one count of wire fraud in connection with the largest financial fraud case in South Florida history. He faces up to five years in prison and significant fines when he is sentenced on May 1.
According to prosecutors, Bates was involved in about $60 million worth of Rothstein's investment fraud.
Bates is the latest South Florida figure to be convicted in connection with Rothstein's $1.4 billion fraud, which was exposed in October 2009. Last week, a jury found Christina Kitterman guilty of three counts of wire fraud. Kitterman worked for Rothstein at the prominent Fort Lauderdale firm of Rothstein Rosenfeldt Adler.
Fourteen other people have gone to federal prison because they committed crimes linked to the Ponzi scheme. Rothstein is serving a 50-year term.
Federal prosecutor Jeffrey N. Kaplan laid out Bates' role in the Rothstein scheme in court Thursday.
In December 2008, Bates arranged for a lawyer at his Plantation firm, Koppel and Bates, to meet with a representative from an investment firm that had given money to Rothstein, Kaplan said.
The attorney falsely told the representative Koppel and Bates had referred numerous clients to Rothstein over an extended period of time.
The clients, who did not exist, were purported to be plaintiffs in sexual harassment cases who had negotiated settlements with their defendants. Investors would buy off the clients with a lump-sum payment, expecting to receive installment checks from the defendants in return.
"Because of that, the investment group of which the representative was a part continued to loan money to Rothstein," Kaplan said.
Rothstein used money from new investors to pay previous investors and to finance his lavish lifestyle.
Prosecutors said Bates provided two fraudulent legal opinions about Rothstein's operation on his firm's letterhead, despite knowing what they said wasn't true, Kaplan said.
"Did you do those things?" asked U.S. District Judge Donald M. Middlebrooks.
"Yes, your honor," Bates said.
It's not clear whether prosecutors are done bringing cases against future defendants.
As part of his plea deal, Bates agreed to provide testimony and documents for investigators. Rothstein's partner, Stuart Rosenfeldt, has expressed concern that he is a target for prosecution and has avoided testifying in related cases, according to his attorney, Sherleen Mendez.
At a 2011 deposition, Rothstein didn't hesitate to name Bates, among others, as one of the men who made his deception possible.
"I had known Doug Bates for many, many years," Rothstein said. "He falls into the category of being a player. And he stepped up … The Koppel Bates firm was a firm that I brought in to help us with the scam."
Bates' trial was originally scheduled to begin Monday, but Rothstein was not expected to testify as he did in Kitterman's trial. After Kitterman's case was over, one juror said she and her fellow panelists found Rothstein credible as a witness.
Leonard Sands, Bates' lawyer, declined to say Thursday whether Kitterman's conviction played any role in Bates' decision to plead guilty.
"There were a number of factors," Sands said. "I can't just point to one. Weighing all the circumstances, we decided that this was best."
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