FILE-In this July 27, 2009 photo, Fort Lauderdale, Fla., attorney Scott Rothstein is shown in his office. Rothstein is set to plead guilty Wedensday, Jan. 27, 2010 in Fort Lauderdale federal court to five charges, including racketeering, fraud and money-laundering conspiracy. The 47-year-old faces a maximum of 100 years in prison. (AP Photo/Charles Trainor Jr., The Miami Herald, File)
A day before his 48th birthday, convicted South Florida Ponzi schemer Scott Rothstein learned he'll be spending the next 50 years behind bars.
The stiff sentence was handed down Wednesday by U.S. District Judge James Cohn in federal court in Fort Lauderdale, as Rothstein's parents, Harvey and Gay, and wife, Kim, looked on.
Rothstein, wearing dark pants, a white shirt and sporting a beard, appeared before Cohn shackled at the arms and legs to apologize for his actions.
"To my clients and to those in the community who I hurt by my actions, I am truly, deeply sorry for what I've done," Rothstein said during a brief statement. "I don't expect your forgiveness.
"No matter what happens here today I do promise I will try to undo the terrible harm I caused," he said. "I'm ashamed and embarassed."
The disbarred lawyer had been facing as much as 100 years after he pleaded guilty to running an estimated $1.2 billion Ponzi scheme out of his now-defunct Fort Lauderdale firm, Rothstein Rosenfeldt Adler.
In stead he'll do 50, 10 more than what prosecutors had asked for and 20 more than what Rothstein's attorney, Marc Nurik, had asked for.
Nurik made an impassioned, hour-long plea Wednesday for a 30-year term for Rothstein, but Cohn had a harsher sentence in mind.
Allowed to speak at the sentencing was a former client of Rothstein's, Steve Bitton, who was represented by Rothstein in a case against the city of Plantation.
Britton said that after he won a $650,000 settlement, he never heard from Rothstein.
Also not helping Rothstein's case was the fact he forged the signatures of judges on federal court orders.
It was quite a fall from grace for the man who once rubbed elbows with Florida's political and celebrity elite, including Governor Charlie Crist and Dolphins great Dan Marino.
Rothstein's scam imploded last October, when investors began demanding the money they'd invested with him back, but there was nothing to pay them with. Rothstein had promised the investors huge interest for investing in settlements of cases his 70-lawyer firm was working on.
The cash nearly depleted, Rothstein took what was left -- about $16 million -- packed his bags and fled to Morocco. He later decided to come back to Fort Lauderdale and face the music.
It took investigators months to pour through the tangled trail of money Rothstein had burned through. Much of it was spent on himself, as he bought a fleet of 20 luxury cars, a handful of boats, mansions and other properties, and jewelry and sports memorabilia.
Not to mention all the money given to wife Kim for her pricey shopping sprees. She was later sued for $1.1 million in an attempt to recover Ponzi scheme funds.
Rothstein had invested in several businesses with the ill-gotten gains, including restaurants like Bova Prime and the trendy club in the Versace Mansion.
It didn't all go in Rothstein's pockets though. He also gave millions away to local charities, and millions more to politicians, including Crist, gubernatorial candidate Alex Sink, and the Florida Democratic and Republican parties.
Rothstein's law firm office, also called the Bat Cave for its heavy security and lack of access, displayed pictures of Rothstein with just about every GOP heavyweight of the past decade, including John McCain, George W. Bush and Sarah Palin.
By late November, nearly all of Rothstein's assets had been seized by the FBI.
Then, on December 1, Rothstein was taken into custody and charged with wire fraud, mail fraud, racketeering, conspiracy to commit fraud, and conspiracy to commit money laundering. He has been in custody ever since.
He pleaded guilty to the scheme, which spanned naerly four years, in January.
In March, Debra Villegas, COO of the Rothstein law firm and the Ponzi schemer's "right hand woman," became the second person busted in the scam, when she was arrested and charged with conspiracy to commit money laundering.
Also in March, it was revealed Rothstein had gone undercover for the Feds to try to bring down suspected Mafia Members. Rothstein wore a wire as he asked alleged Mafiosos Roberto Settineri, Daniel Dronerhauser and Enrique Ros to help him destroy evidence and launder $79,000, according to law enforcement officials.
Last week, Rothstein wrote a letter to Judge Cohn, admitting his crimes and hoping for leniency. Nurik also wrote a letter, asking for a 30-year sentence for Rothstein in light of his confession, cooperation and his return from Morocco to face the charges.
Prosecutors countered with a letter of their own, asking that he be sentenced to 40 years.
In addition to the 50-year term, Rothstein will have three years probation.