builder, a Broward circuit judge and the daughter of former
Gov. Lawton Chiles were among the winning bidders who hauled off relics of
collapsed law firm at a bankruptcy auction held Saturday.
"Look – they're almost kissing!" Miami builder Sergio Pino said as he looked at his new $2,100 possession, a framed photo of Rothstein with
, which Crist signed: "Scott – you're amazing!"
"I can't believe I got it," Broward Circuit Judge Marc Gold said after spending $400 for a campaign donor photo of Rothstein with
Rhea Chiles, the late Lawton Chiles' daughter, bought several pricey items, including a $5,500 desk clock and a $3,250 limited-edition designer pen.
"By buying anything you're helping to make restitution for people who were victimized – and that's what really matters," said Chiles, who recently moved to
and doesn't know Rothstein.
As Rothstein sat in a Miami detention center, 168 registered bidders came to
in Fort Lauderdale to pick at the carcass of his former high-flying life. Rothstein is expected to plead guilty in federal court on Wednesday for allegedly orchestrating a $1.2 billion Ponzi scheme, and he faces up to 100 years in prison.
A crowd of more than 300 turned out on Saturday, parking on an overflow grass lot and checking out a showroom floor filled with mahogany desks, leather chairs, Oriental rugs, mementos and knickknacks from the offices of the defunct
law firm, which collapsed in November.
There was something for nearly everyone, with sports memorabilia, political photos, a martini set, cigar cutters and an electric guitar.
All told, the six-hour auction raised some $182,315 for Rothstein creditors and bilked investors.
"I knew this was a happening when I saw Ken's Weiner Wagon parked out front," said Mitch Ceasar, the head of the Broward
, who spent $150 on a framed letter signed by Broward Sheriff Al Lamberti.
Among those in attendance: former RRA managing partner Grant Smith; bankruptcy trustee Herb Stettin; and Moe Sohail, a Rothstein friend and Fort Lauderdale cigar store owner who was involved in a August car crash that drew Rothstein and Fort Lauderdale Police Chief Frank Adderley to the scene.
"I just wanted to see what was going on," said Sohail. "It's sad."
But the mood among most attendees was festive, a prize-fight atmosphere filling the room as bidders lined up to plunk down their $500 refundable deposits. Most crammed into rows of folding chairs. A few sat in leather chairs or on desks where Rothstein and his attorneys once did business.
"Only in South Florida – it's never-ending entertainment," said Rich Stadler, of Fort Lauderdale, who attended with his brother Howie.
This auction was strictly for Rothstein's office items, but photographs including Rothstein's wife Kim were up for sale after a judge ruled the photos with athletes like
and assorted politicians weren't personal.
Another auction will soon be held at AMC Liquidators for Rothstein's office computers and surveillance equipment, auctioneer Benny Fisher said. The auction idea was hatched by AMC founder Michael Grimmé, who last year brokered a sale of items from the Miami office of accused financial fraudster R. Allen Stanford.
Fisher Auction Co., owned by
Mayor Lamar Fisher, ran the auction and took a 10 percent "buyer's premium" added to all sales. AMC Liquidators received $38,400 to transport and store the items, and stage the auction at its showroom.
It's unclear what will happen to Rothstein's personal possessions, including homes, cars, boats, jewelry and other items that have been seized by federal authorities.
Bidders spent thousands of dollars on hundreds of items, everything from the sublime (a Jaeger LeCoultre Atmos Swiss desk clock that sold for $7,500) to the ridiculous (a talking
doll that says, "I am not a crook," which fetched $150).
The cheapest item: a canvas tote bag with RRA luggage tags that went for $10.
Chiles said she found all the autographed photos of politicians (
) posing with Rothstein "disconcerting…it's hard to see how deeply in bed this guy was with people who should be our statesmen."
After Pino snatched up Crist's "You're amazing!" photo, I approached to ask who he was.
"I'm Charlie's nightmare," he said.
The photo could surely cause trouble for Crist in his primary campaign for
Pino also spent $1,500 on an autographed photo of Rothstein with
. Pino, president of Century Homebuilders, is politically active, having held past fundraisers for Bush and Crist. He said he didn't know Rothstein.
"I've got something that's historic," Pino said. "Pictures of Rothstein with our best governor and our worst governor. Charlie's been a disappointment. I was amazed to see how many pictures he's in here."
He was coy about his plans for the "You're amazing!" photo.
"Somebody already offered me $2,400 for it, so I think I made a good investment," said Pino. "Hopefully, this will raise a lot of money today, because the guy (Rothstein) hurt so many people.
"You're never going to get back a billion two, but at least this is something."
Michael Mayo can be reached at