Fort Lauderdale attorney took extra security measures

including one of him helping Crist blow out the candles on a birthday cake for the governor. Rothstein had multiple photos of himself with former presidential candidate Senator John McCain, Miami Dolphins legend Dan Marino, and California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger.

The security measures and the photos were all part of a carefully constructed image, designed to convey power and influence, said Roger Stone, a Republican political operative who had a consulting business with Rothstein.

Burstein and Wallman write that in addition to having a private security guard watch his wife, he had off-duty police officers at his law firm and Las Olas Boulevard restaurant, Bova Prime, in addition to paying for round-the-clock police protection outside his $6 million mansion.

In an interview earlier this year, Rothstein said he took such precautions after an attorney with the firm, Melissa Britt Lewis, was strangled in March 2008 by the ex-husband of the firm’s chief operating officer, Debra Villegas. “You can call me paranoid, you can call me extra-security conscious … but at the end of the day no one close to me is going to be killed, raped, attacked, harmed in any way so long as I have the ability to provide the extra protection,” Rothstein said. “I am a businessman. I don’t want to be followed home and shot.”

Fort Lauderdale police stopped the off-duty details on Monday, but a new private security firm has been hired to watch the home, said Joe Alu, a former Plantation police officer who is Rothstein’s head of security. Across the street from Rothstein’s mansion on Thursday, a guard sat in a black car watching the home. “You’re a lawyer, you do certain things, you sue people, you take their money and stuff and ruin their lives, you do stand a threat of people wanting to come and try to retaliate,” Alu said. “It’s business as usual.”

Alu said he met Rothstein at Fort Lauderdale Executive Airport on Tuesday and he was in good spirits. “Scott is the nicest, kindest person you’ll ever meet,” Alu said. “And that’s just his personality and the way he is. He apologizes for stuff he doesn’t do. I don’t think he’s done anything wrong.”

Miami lawyer Alan Sakowitz, though, said he had a reason to fear Rothstein when he met him as a potential investor in August. When Rothstein bent over, Sakowitz saw a gun holstered to his ankle. “He was telling me how politically connected and law enforcement-connected he was,” Sakowitz said. “I was pretty scared … It was like being with an actor. He was on stage when he was with us.”

His former colleagues appear worried about what he could do. Fort Lauderdale Police Chief Frank Adderley said that at least ten officers, some with bulletproof vests, rushed to the law firm’s office Tuesday after lawyers feared he was coming back “with two armed guards.”

Rothstein did not return. “Rothstein had an unusual penchant for control,” Coffey said.