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John Zumwalt, PBS&J chairman and chief executive

John Zumwalt, PBS&J chairman and chief executive

By Dan Christensen, browardbulldog.org

Political gridlock in Washington has let one of Broward’s biggest government contractors off the hook for any liability in a decades-long scheme to win contracts by shoveling out illegal campaign contributions.

PBS&J was not charged with a crime two years ago when its two immediate past chairmen pleaded guilty in federal court in Miami to running the fraud and trying to conceal it from authorities. Instead, prosecutors sent the case to the Federal Election Commission for civil enforcement.

The case was high-profile. A crew of influential politicians received illegal contributions from PBS&J executives, including former U.S. Senators Mel Martinez, a Florida Republican, and Max Cleland, a Georgia Democrat – and PBS&J had projects with cities and government agencies throughout the state.

By Dan Christensen, browardbulldog.org

An obscure Fort Lauderdale businessman with international connections and a history of helping the FBI was a paid informant in the U.S. government’s case against suspended Broward commissioner Josephus Eggelletion, court records show.

How much the government paid Patrick J. Lochrie, and what he did to earn that money, was not disclosed and prosecutors would not comment.

Josephus Eggelletion

Josephus Eggelletion

“Prospective government witness Pat Lochrie received payments for his work in this case from the FBI. The dates and amounts of the payments will be set forth in a separate correspondence,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Neil Karadbil told the court in a document filed last week.

Eggelletion, a Democrat, is set to plead guilty in federal court in West Palm Beach on Thursday morning to conspiracy to launder $900,000 that a federal information says he knew was the proceeds of an investment fraud. He will become the first elected county official convicted in the FBI’s ongoing undercover probe of public corruption in Broward.

Scott Rothstein

Scott Rothstein

By Dan Christensen, browardbulldog.org

 
Jailed ex-lawyer Scott Rothstein arranged a $6 million loan at a high rate of interest last spring to a subsidiary of The Las Olas Company, the struggling owner of Fort Lauderdale’s Riverside Hotel, county land records show.

Las Olas Company president and chairman Irving Bowen mortgaged the venerable hotel to obtain the short-term loan. Three months later, he was fired by the company’s board of directors.

Barbara Wells, heiress to a large Broward family fortune that includes The Las Olas Company, sued Bowen in August for allegedly squandering “tens of millions of dollars” of her corporate and trust fund money. She claimed Bowen used her riches to live the high life, while “running the company into the ground.”

Without naming Rothstein, the lawsuit cites the one-year, $6 million loan as an example of Bowen’s alleged mismanagement. It says Bowen agreed to an initial interest rate of 14 percent, and a rise to 18 percent after six months “even though another loan for the same amount at a much lower interest rate was available to the company.”

Bowen declined to discuss the lawsuit, the mortgage loan or say why he went to a law firm and not a bank to borrow $6 million for The Las Olas Company.

Josephus Eggelletion

Josephus Eggelletion

By Dan Christensen, browardbulldog.org

Suspended Broward County Commissioner Josephus Eggelletion has agreed to plead guilty to a new federal information filed Tuesday that charges him with conspiracy to commit money laundering, according to a trio of sources.

Federal court records show that in exchange for Eggelletion’s plea, prosecutors have agreed to cap the amount of prison time he will do at five years. He can also be fined up to $250,000.

The maximum sentence for conspiracy to commit money laundering is 20 years.

“Mr. Eggelletion is fully apologetic for his actions and intends to rectify, to the extent he can, his conduct and has communicated that interest to the U.S. Attorney’s Office,” said defense attorney Benedict Kuehne, who declined further comment.

Eggelletion’s other attorneys include former U.S. Attorney Kendall Coffey of Miami and Pompano Beach’s Johnny L. McCray Jr.

Barbara Wells

Barbara Wells

Irving Bowen

Irving Bowen

 By Dan Christensen, browardbulldog.org

The heiress to a Broward family fortune that includes Fort Lauderdale’s landmark Riverside Hotel and much of chic Las Olas Boulevard’s priciest real estate is suing her once trusted right hand man saying he betrayed her.

Barbara S. Wells, whose grandfather started The Las Olas Company in 1936, alleges ex-company president Irving Bowen used her riches “to enjoy the trappings of wealth and power” while squandering tens of millions of dollars and “running the company into the ground.”

Two non-family sources familiar with the dispute said Wells’ total losses are believed to exceed $100 million.