Two suspended Broward Sheriff's Office deputies with ties to convicted Ponzi schemer Scott Rothstein now face federal criminal conspiracy charges.
Federal prosecutors filed charges Friday in Fort Lauderdale against Lt. David Benjamin, 48, of Boca Raton, and Detective Jeff Poole, 47, of Weston.
They're accused of abusing their law enforcement powers to help Rothstein, who is serving a 50-year prison sentence after pleading guilty to orchestrating the scam that involved investments in nonexistent legal settlements.
Specifically, the charging documents allege Benjamin received about $185,000 in cash and other items of value from Rothstein in return for providing his assistance when needed. That included arranging with Poole to arrest the ex-wife of an attorney who was engaged in a child custody dispute with her, arranging to use force and threats of force against the boyfriend of an escort who was threatening to expose the illicit relationship which existed between the escort and one of Rothstein's partners, and assisting Rothstein in loading cash and jewelry onto a private plane which was used by Rothstein to flee to Morocco on Oct. 27, 2009, as the Ponzi scheme was beginning to unravel.
"The allegations, as you know, were very serious," Sheriff Scott Israel said. "The implications were great."
According to court documents, Poole faces up to 10 years in prison for conspiring to violate civil rights, while Benjamin could be sentenced to five years for extortion and civil rights violations. Both charges carry fines of up to $250,000.
Israel said both deputies were fired. They had been serving suspensions with pay since Israel took office last year.