FORT LAUDERDALE — Fort Lauderdale Police Chief Frank Adderley committed no crime as a result of his association with Ponzi schemer Scott W. Rothstein, an investigation by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement has determined.
Adderley’s close ties with Rothstein, including showing up at the site of an accident at Rothstein’s request, flying to a football game in New York on a private jet with Rothstein, and dining at Rothstein’s restaurant, raised questions about whether Rothstein was peddling influence with the police chief of Broward’s most populous city.
But the FDLE investigation found that Adderley committed no criminal wrongdoing.
“I cooperated one hundred percent. I was totally transparent and never had any doubt this would be the conclusion,” Adderley told the South Florida Times on Tuesday, July 6.
Even though a February review by the city of Fort Lauderdale’s Office of Professional Standards reached a similar conclusion that Adderley had done nothing improper, Mayor Jack Seiler, Vice Mayor Bruce Roberts – who preceded Adderley as Fort Lauderdale police chief – and Commissioner Charlotte Rodstrom requested the FDLE investigation.
FDLE Commissioner Gerald M. Bailey wrote in a June 24 letter to Fort Lauderdale city commissioners, “The Department’s Office of Executive Investigations has completed a preliminary investigation into the role Ft. Lauderdale Police Chief Frank Adderley played in the subject traffic incident and other allegations. No evidence of criminal misconduct was identified; additional investigative efforts are not warranted.”
FBI agents on Dec. 1, 2009 arrested Rothstein for defrauding dozens of investors out of an estimated $1.2 billion. Rothstein pleaded guilty in federal court in Fort Lauderdale to five counts of racketeering, fraud and money laundering, and was later sentenced to a 50-year prison term.
Rothstein is cooperating in numerous investigations related to the schemes, and authorities say he befriended high-level law enforcement officials to keep them from exposing his fraudulent activities.
Adderley came under fire for allegedly dining free of charge at Bova Prime, a Las Olas restaurant partly owned by Rothstein.
There were also questions about whether Adderley attended college and professional football games while using tickets bought by Rothstein.
Adderley denied eating free meals at Bova Prime and attending football games without paying for them. He did acknowledge taking a trip on a private jet to see a football game in New York, but he said he was unaware that he was required to report it as a gift.
That flight was on a plane owned by automobile magnate Ed Morse.
But since Rothstein was also on the flight, the incident raised questions. Upon learning that he was required to disclose the flight, Adderley reported it. As per Florida Commission on Ethics guidelines, the flight, with an estimated market value of $10,000, was reported as a $220 gift, the cost of a commercial airline flight to the same place in coach seating.
But among the most puzzling questions about Adderley’s actions in connection with Rothstein was the fact that Adderley showed up at an accident scene involving Moe Sohail, the owner of Ultimate Cigars, an upscale smoke shop in Fort Lauderdale that Adderley frequents.
Sohail was a mutual friend of Adderley and Rothstein, and Rothstein called Adderley to the scene. The move raised speculation about whether Adderley attempted to influence the investigation’s outcome.
Adderley denied the allegations.
“I never said anything to the officer investigating the accident. My concern was with Moe, who I was told had been badly hurt,” Adderley said.
“That’s something I do all the time,” Adderley said. “Today, knowing what I know now, I would do things differently.”
Before his arrest, Rothstein presented himself as a high-profile, high-rolling philanthropist who donated millions to charities. He befriended business leaders, professional athletes, movie stars and members of law enforcement. The law firm he helped found in 2002, Rothstein, Rosenfeldt, Adler (RRA), rose to prominence by hiring high-profile lawyers, former judges and politicians who had courthouse influence and connections inside government agencies.
Another issue that has surfaced in the Rothstein case concerns the use of off-duty Fort Lauderdale police officers to provide security at Rothstein’s home and businesses.
The officers are allowed to earn extra income by working such details. They work for individuals, private companies and at events where they wear their uniforms, drive squad cars, and carry department-issued weapons. The police department is under scrutiny over the manner in which the program has been managed. Among other issues, the department has had little oversight over the program, and officers were allowed to work 24-hour details for Rothstein at his home.
The department’s Internal Affairs Division has been conducting an investigation into the program for six months. According to sources, that investigation is now complete, just prior to the union’s 180-day deadline for discipline. At least one officer, Sgt.
Stephen Greenlaw, will receive a 3-day suspension for acting as a personal bodyguard for Rothstein, chauffeuring Rothstein’s wife, Kim, and failing to complete detail-duty forms. There are 28 other officers, including members of the senior command, who will receive counseling slips. The counseling slips will state that the officers did not follow proper procedures, and will go into their personnel files. A counseling slip is a form of discipline that is one step below a reprimand.
“I.A. [Internal Affairs] did a thorough investigation, and [Greenlaw] did receive some discipline. As far as we’re [the union is] concerned, the case is over and we won’t grieve it,” said Jack Lokiensky, president of the Fraternal Order of Police union. “I can’t say what the discipline is because it still has to go through a State Attorney’s Office review. We voted on the changes to the detail program back in May, and now we’re just waiting on management.”
Adderley, the police chief, said those changes are being implemented.
“We are in the final stages of formalizing the changes,” he said. “When it comes to 24- hour details at private residences, it is no longer allowed without the chief’s authorization.”
“Anyone who is overseeing or supervising the program is not allowed to work detail, and majors and higher [ranked] members of the command are not allowed at all,” he said.
Photo: Fort Lauderdale Police Chief Frank Adderley