ST. PETERSBURG (FOX 13) - In a Ponzi scheme for the history books, a south Florida attorney scammed investors out of more than a billion dollars. Now, a portion of his estate is in Tampa Bay and will soon help bring justice for the victims.
Old Northeast Jewelers in St. Pete is in possession of $8-10 million in jewelry and watches - leftover evidence of Scott Rothstein's once-lavish lifestyle. The evidence will soon be divided up as part of an auction and the money earned will go to those Rothstein scammed.
With diamonds and gold spread out on display, Old Northeast Jewelers owner Jeffrey Hess points to a sparkling diamond necklace.
"This has about 35 to 45 carats," he explains.
Some of the items on the list are worth more than a half-million dollars.
From watches to exquisite pens - the spread gives a glimpse into the extravagant lives of Scott Rothstein and his now ex-wife. They're the spoils of a foiled scheme that bilked investors out of $1.2 billion.
Hess points to items on the table, saying, "that retailed for $3,000-$6,000 each. Each one is one of a kind."
"It's a pretty extraordinary group of stuff. The fellow had very good taste in watches and very good taste in diamonds," Hess continued.
The Fort Lauderdale attorney pleaded guilty in 2010 to federal racketeering, wire fraud and money laundering charges and was sentenced to 50 years in prison.
While he was still a free man, Rothstein promised he'd make it right.
"I will not stop until every single penny is paid back," Rothstein said.
His cars and boats were auctioned on the east coast, raising $5.8 million for the victims.
When it came time to offload Rothstein's jewels, Hess got a call from attorneys involved with the case. They asked if he could help liquidate the millions of dollars worth of jewelry.
Hess explained the process is strict. He is not allowed to buy any of the items himself. The profits from the online auction will go back the victims.
"We've handled some very big estates in Tampa Bay, sometimes in the millions of dollars, but nothing with this kind of flash and nothing with this kind of extraordinary, outrageous design," Hess said.
"Outrageous" is a good word to describe a $109,000 ladies' watch, the most expensive of its type manufactured by Rolex.
"Every surface of the watch is covered in diamonds," Hess said.
A piece sure to grab the attention of buyers is a 12.08-carat fancy intense yellow diamond ring.
"This is, without a doubt, going to be the star of the show," Hess said.
The goal is to raise about $400-500,000 on the ring.
The money spent on these luxury items hurt a lot of people the first time around. This time, it's helping them rebuild their lives.
"Everything here is historical in nature and all of these things are going to be treasured and seen and known about for the next 100 or 200 years," Hess said.
Though the retail value of all the jewelry is between $8-10 million, the online auction is expected to bring in much less. Hess expects it will raise somewhere between $1-2 million.