Wednesday, September 30, 2009

News & Notes (UPDATED)

Lots going on today:

1. Another Mutual Benefits arrest: this time it's eye doctor Alan Mendelsohn. From Jay Weaver's article: Dr. Alan Mendelsohn, a Hollywood ophthalmologist who has raised millions for Florida politicians, surrendered to FBI agents on charges linked to his alleged efforts to thwart a 2000-05 state investigation into Mutual Benefits Corp., a Fort Lauderdale life insurance company.
An indictment charges Mendelsohn with 27 counts of wire and mail fraud and five counts of making false statements to federal agents related to a fraudulent fundraising and lobbying scheme, according to prosecutors.
Mendelsohn raised more than a half-million dollars from Mutual Benefits in 2003 to finance the hiring of a dozen lobbyists and make contributions to lawmakers, to stop legislation that would have tightened regulations on the so-called viatical industry. The industry sold life insurance policies of people dying of AIDS and other diseases.
The indictment alleges that Mendelsohn used a variety of false solicitations to raise money, including saying he had brokered illegal agreements with top Florida officials to close state and federal investigations. The indictment says that, in fact, no such agreements existed.
Mendelsohn, 51, is expected to appear in federal court in Fort Lauderdale Wednesday morning. His defense lawyer, John Keker of San Francisco, could not be reached for comment.

UPDATE -- The print version of the article, here, has lots more juicy details:

According to the indictment, Mendelsohn raised the $2 million from Mutual Benefits, an unidentified medical lab, a parimutuel business and a credit-card counseling firm during the past decade. Numerous medical colleagues of Mendelsohn's also contributed.

An unidentified ``accomplice'' assisted Mendelsohn in setting up the three political action committees and three corporations to move and disguise at least $624,000 in campaign funds paid to himself and others, according to the indictment.

Mendelsohn used some of the donations to pay $60,000 a month to his ``mistress'' from April 2003 to February 2005 for her assistance with the fundraising efforts, the indictment says. It also accused him of using $240,000 in PAC funds to buy and paint a residence for them and to buy a car for her.

The mistress is not identified in the indictment. But according to sources familiar with the case and public records, she is Caybre Cothern Ferrari, 39, who once worked as a scrub tech for Mendelsohn's eye surgery clinic.

At Mendelsohn's suggestion, the mistress established a corporation in March 2004 to divert campaign funds to Mendelsohn, herself, Florida politicians and others, the indictment says. It is illegal to divert campaign funds to personal use.

Public records show Ferrari created Broward-based KAC Consulting Inc. in March 2004.

Also in March 2004, records show that Ferrari transferred the deed to a home in Hollywood to her maiden name, Cothern. Mendelsohn is listed as a witness on the deed, records show.

2. The Supreme Court granted cert in 10 cases today, including a bunch of criminal law issues. SCOTUSBlog has all the details. The big one that everyone is talking about is: McDonald, et al. v. City of Chicago -- Whether the Second Amendment is incorporated into the Due Process Clause or the Privileges or Immunities Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment so as to be applicable to the States, thereby invalidating ordinances prohibiting possession of handguns in the home. More interesting to me is the sentencing issue raised in United States v. O’Brien and Burgess: Whether the mandatory minimum sentence enhancement under 18 U.S.C. § 924(c)(1) to a 30-year minimum when the firearm is a machine gun is an element of the offense that must be charged and proved to a jury beyond a reasonable doubt, or instead a sentencing factor that may be found by a judge by the preponderance of the evidence.


South Florida Lawyers said...

Civil lawyers may be interested in this one:

The Supreme Court granted cert today in this statutory fee case that promises to answer the same question under all similarly worded federal statutes: whether the attorney's fee award is subject to off-set to pay a debt owed by the client to the opposing party:

Docket: 08-1322
Title: Astrue v. Ratliff
Issue: Whether an “award of fees and other expenses” under the Equal
Access to Justice Act, 28 U.S.C. 2412(d), is payable to the “prevailing party”
rather than to the prevailing party’s attorney, and therefore is subject to
an offset for a pre-existing debt owed by the prevailing party to the United

No. 08-1322
Title: Michael J. Astrue, Commissioner of Social Security, Petitioner
Catherine G. Ratliff

Docketed: April 28, 2009
Lower Ct: United States Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit
Case Nos.: (07-2317)
Decision Date: September 5, 2008
Rehearing Denied: December 5, 2008
Questions Presented

Anonymous said...

Credit where credit is due: Kudos to whomever is responsible for changing the lettering on the Ferguson building signs. Much better!