2 new BSO suspensions tied to Rothstein investigation, sources say

'I'm a straight-up cop,' suspended lieutenant tells Local 10


FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. – Two ranking Broward Sheriff's Office deputies -- Lt. Frank Ballante and Sgt. Matthew Baldwin -- have been suspended with pay as part of the ongoing and wide-ranging investigation into imprisoned Ponzi schemer Scott Rothstein, according to sources close to the investigation.

"I'm suspended with pay but I have not been informed what the allegations (are)," Ballante told Local 10 investigative reporter Bob Norman.

Norman asked Ballante, a 26-year veteran who was the second-highest ranking member in BSO's Tamarac bureau, if his suspension was tied to the Rothstein investigation.

"I don't know that," Ballante answered. "They're not telling me. On the form from (internal affairs) it just said 'conduct unbecoming,' so that's all I know."

Ballante said he had no connection to Rothstein personally but acknowledged he knew both Lt. David Benjamin and Detective Jeff Poole, who were recently convicted in federal court for serving as muscle for Rothstein in the agency, including using their badges to falsely arrest Rothstein co-conspirator Doug Bates' estranged wife, Marcy Romeo Flaster, and do other illicit favors for the fraud artist.

Both Benjamin and Poole have pleaded guilty and are cooperating with the government.

Baldwin couldn't be reached at his gated home in Weston, but he has at least one direct tie to the Rothstein case; he was the supervisor who signed off on Poole's false arrest of Flaster on bogus prescription drug charges.

There is no public evidence Baldwin was involved in any criminal act, but he has a history of trouble at the agency, including a recent five-day suspension for abusing the overtime system and receiving reimbursement for dubious work. Before that he was suspended 10 days after a motorist snapped a cellphone photograph of Baldwin carrying an unsecured basketball hoop home on his patrol car.

Ballante doesn't have such a history and defended his name.

"I am a good guy," he said. "I'm a straight-up cop. I've just got to wait and see."