When Scott Rothstein's massive Ponzi scheme was exposed in 2009, the disgraced Fort Lauderdale lawyer sang like a bird to federal authorities, implicating friends, family and former colleagues in crimes and promising to testify against them.
Rothstein, the flashy mastermind of one of South Florida's biggest scams, later pleaded guilty and is serving a 50-year federal prison sentence.
Now, many local lawyers say the clock is ticking on a deadline for federal prosecutors to file criminal charges against Rothstein's alleged associates.
Experts say the statute of limitations will run out in late October or November — on the fifth anniversary of when Rothstein surrendered and started cooperating.
The feds have charged more than a dozen people with crimes related to the Rothstein name and many pleaded guilty and are locked up. Others are fighting the charges.
Some victims and observers have grumbled that many others who Rothstein said committed crimes have not been charged.
Still, there are signs that some of the potential targets don't think they're free and clear just yet.
Rothstein's former law partner, Stuart Rosenfeldt, filed court documents Thursday to try to avoid testifying in next month's criminal trial of a junior lawyer accused of playing a role in Rothstein's fraud.
Rosenfeldt plans to "plead the Fifth," or refuse to answer questions that might incriminate him, court records show, if he is forced to testify for the defense in attorney Christina Kitterman's trial on fraud charges. Her trial is scheduled to start Feb. 3 in federal court in West Palm Beach.
"Rosenfeldt … still faces the possibility of being indicted on federal charges stemming from his professional association with Rothstein," Rosenfeldt's lawyer, Sherleen Mendez, wrote.
Since Rosenfeldt, 58, of Boca Raton, "may face significant criminal exposure" and "believes that a criminal investigation … may be in progress," he won't answer any questions "that would incriminate or reasonably lead to incriminating evidence against him," Mendez wrote.
Rosenfeldt's name appeared on the shingle outside the now disbanded Rothstein Rosenfeldt Adler law firm on Fort Lauderdale's Las Olas Boulevard and Rothstein implicated him in some crimes.
Rosenfeldt denies any wrongdoing.
Kitterman's defense attorney, Valentin Rodriguez, is trying to also force Rothstein to testify in her defense. Rothstein may testify via a video conference link because of the prohibitive security costs — $20,000 or more — the defense would have to pay to bring him from the secret location where he's serving his sentence.
Kitterman, 39, of Boca Raton, has pleaded not guilty to three wire fraud charges, each with a maximum 20-year prison term.
Prosecutors said she helped Rothstein's scam in April 2009 by pretending to be the head of the Fort Lauderdale office of the Florida Bar.
According to the indictment, Kitterman read from a script during a phone conference with Rothstein and some of his investors. She pretended that Rothstein's bank accounts had been frozen because he was facing disciplinary action, all in an attempt to free up money, prosecutors charged.
Senior U.S. District Judge Daniel T.K. Hurley has not yet ruled on Rosenfeldt's request to throw out the subpoena.
Michael Steinbach, the special agent in charge of the FBI's Miami division, said the investigation is continuing. A spokeswoman for U.S. Attorney Wifredo Ferrer said Friday that prosecutors had no comment on the pending investigation.
Jeffrey Neiman, a former federal prosecutor who handled white-collar crimes and who is now a defense attorney in Fort Lauderdale, said he thinks the delay in filing more criminal charges is linked to Rothstein's lack of credibility as a prosecution witness.