A five year investigation bore fruit when former police lieutenant David Benjamin and former Detective Jeff Poole of the Broward County Sheriff’s Department surrendered at the Fort Lauderdale federal courthouse. Both detectives faced criminal conspiracy charges for abuse of power in their capacity as representatives of law enforcement. Both defendants were previously released on $250,000 bond.
The investigation tied the two deputies with a close affiliation with convicted Ponzi swindler Scott Rothstein. The allegations indicated that both of the men accepted cash payments and merchandise for help given to Rothstein before his massive Ponzi scheme was uncovered and ultimately collapsed. Rothstein has been serving a fifty year prison sentence after surrendering to federal authorities for his crimes and conviction of five federal offenses in January, 2010.
According to prosecutors, Benjamin received close to $200,000 in cash payments as well as assorted gifts and other benefits including sporting event tickets, free meals, and assorted jewelry in exchange for aiding and protecting the convicted felon by use of his authority in law enforcement. He is further accused of sending Poole, his “then” friend, subordinate and apparent lackey to fulfill the requests that Rothstein asked of him, according to court documentation.
Benjamin was the senior supervisor at the Broward County Sheriff’s Office, as well as being the head of Internal Affairs investigations and one of former Sheriff Al Lamberti’s top aides at the time the activities allegedly took place. Poole worked in the strategic investigations division as a detective. Benjamin, 48, lives in Boca Raton, and Poole, 47, is a resident of Weston.
The two detectives worked with each other in law enforcement since the late 1980’s, beginning their careers at the Pompano Beach police department under the command of Lamberti. They moved onto the Broward Sheriff’s Office when it was integrated into that division. Directly after prosecutors filed charges, Broward Sheriff Scott Israel fired the two within hours of the announcement. Israel replaced Lamberti after defeating the incumbent Sheriff in the previous year’s November election.
After letting the two deputies go, Israel was quoted as saying “The allegations as you know were very serious; the implications were grave… I could not allow these deputies to continue serving, interacting with Broward Sheriff’s deputies and the citizenry, until this case came to fruition.”
Some of the allegations laid out in the Information and other court documents are as follows:
Chiefly, Benjamin is accused of helping Rothstein when the scammer originally faced prosecution when his illegal activities were coming under intense scrutiny. He assisted him by providing protection when Rothstein grew apprehensive of airport security, according to IRS and FBI agents. Departing from Fort Lauderdale Executive Airport, Benjamin went as far as to personally assist Rothstein in filling a private jet with a half million dollars in cash as well as millions of dollars’ worth of valuables when Rothstein fled to Morocco, a country with no extradition treaty with the U.S.
Benjamin also allegedly organized “force and threats of force” subsequent to his law enforcement authority to be delivered against an individual identified as the boyfriend of an escort who allegedly had a sexual relationship with Stuart Rosenfeldt, one of the law partners of Rothstein’s law firm; Rothstein Rosenfeldt Adler, when he threatened to expose his girlfriend’s relationship with Rosenfeldt. According to court records, Benjamin purportedly ordered Poole, and two other unidentified officers to unlawfully use intimidation and force to enter the escort’s dwelling.
According to prosecutors, the three officers searched the house, took the woman’s cell phone and removed any evidence associated to Rosenfeldt after handcuffing her boyfriend. The woman was allegedly also told to “leave Florida or she would be arrested,” by one of the officers. The following day, two police officers arrived at her home and drove her to the airport telling her to return to Pennsylvania, according to court documents.
Based on testimony by investigators Benjamin again used Detective Poole to place Marcy Romeo, the ex-wife of Douglas Bates under arrest on a bogus prescription drug charge. Bates, was an attorney who had previously confessed to helping Rothstein perpetrate the immense $1.4 billion investment fraud. According to Ms. Romeo, the false arrest was illustrated to assist Bates in a child custody fight.
In 2009, Romero filed a federal law suit against her ex-husband and Benjamin, in what she labeled her wrongful arrest after a traffic stop initiated by Poole. Both Benjamin and Poole are accused of abusing their law enforcement influence and authority although Poole’s lawyer said that his client received no monetary compensation for the traffic stop and believed he had legal validation to arrest the woman and was only following orders from his superior officer.
When Poole’s lawyer was asked if he thought his client was betrayed, he responded by saying, “I think he was… He didn’t know what he was getting into or the extent of it.” The attorney also said that his client now regrets his actions and believes that Benjamin will most likely face a longer sentence in federal prison than his client when judgment for their respective actions are considered by use of the sentencing guidelines. “He gets what essentially is a command from his superior officer and he follows it… It’s unfortunate that a distinguished law enforcement career is going to end because of one aberrant incident like this,” said the attorney.
Additionally, Bates is now cooperating with the government and is slated to be sentenced in the near future for his role in the Ponzi scheme.
Despite Poole’s attorney’s comments, Benjamin’s charges of conspiring to commit extortion and violate civil rights has him facing a maximum sentence of five years in federal prison. If convicted, Poole faces up to ten years of incarceration for conspiring to violate civil rights.