FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. - After the fall of her Ponzi-scheming husband, Kim Rothstein was determined to make it back to the top.
She tried to sell a reality show to Hollywood that never took off and was writing a book, titled "Ponzi Princess," that she thought might just make her a fortune.
Before seeing her at the courthouse yesterday, where she turned herself in on a conspiracy charge for trying to hide more than a million dollars in Ponzi jewelry, I had last met Kim about a year ago at the Diplomat hotel. The meeting was arranged by her then-attorney, Scott Saidel, who was also arraigned in court yesterday as one of Kim's co-conspirators.
Kim wanted me to co-write the book with her. I wasn't interested in that; I just wanted to do an in-depth television interview with her. So I tried to sell her on my idea and she tried to sell me on hers and after an hour or two neither of us were swayed. I noticed as we were leaving that she was still driving a white Cadillac Escalade and wondered, as many in have, how she was still affording to live a fairly luxurious lifestyle after Scott's giant Ponzi scheme exploded.
Now we know. She was selling Ponzi jewelry on the down low -- right under the feds' nose -- and converting it into cash with Saidel and her friend Stacie Weisman, who is turning herself in at the courthouse today. That was part of it anyway. The feds were actually kind to her. They allowed to keep her engagement ring, which had to have been worth over a hundred grand and they let her live in the Rothstein mansion and other Ponzi properties rent-free until earlier this year.
But the IRS put a huge lien on her which she said kept her from getting a job. She was furious about that. And the Rothstein bankruptcy filed a clawback suit against her. My belief is that she felt that she'd earned that jewelry -- and the purses and shoes that she cried over as they were taken away by an auction house. Don't forget that Kim was a bartender when she met Scott and that he was one of her "clients" -- a return customer who tipped well. In a puff piece in Las Olas Lifestyle back in 2008, Kim said that with Scott she'd "hit the jackpot." She'd scored a whale.
Was she just a gold digger? No. Kim is much more complicated than that. She tried to leave Scott a couple of times before she finally married him and once married, it was Scott who neglected her, not the other way around. The first time I interviewed her, I mentioned the stripper that Scott kept at the Ritz Carlton on Fort Lauderdale beach and was surprised when tears started falling from her eyes. The late bodyguard Bob Scandiffio said Kim clearly loved Scott and was constantly trying to track him down while he was playing all over town.
She's tough and street-hardened, of that there's no doubt. And she's a fighter, starting from when she was a karate champion as a child. Nothing was given to Kim -- she either earned it with hard work or took it. In the case of the Ponzi jewelry it was the latter and she deserves prison time for that. But when I saw her at the courthouse and asked her a question and she stopped and almost seemed as if she would answer before turning away, I felt a sadness. At one point her current attorney, David Tucker, said that Kim was "human like we are." That's unfortunately all too true.
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