One Florida woman is finding it isn’t so easy to obtain a divorce when your husband is in the federal prison witness protection system. Kim Rothstein, also known as federal inmate 00685-104, is the wife of a convicted Ponzi scheme fraudster. Scott Rothstein, who will be turning 52 soon, is serving a 50 year prison sentence after admitting to running a $1.4 billion Ponzi scheme. The financial fraud is considered to be the fourth largest of all time. Rothstein, a disbarred attorney, is now in witness protection because he agreed to cooperate against organized crime suspects.
Kim Rothstein is currently serving 18 months as an inmate in a federal woman’s prison in Sumterville, Florida. Her conviction stems from admitted concealment of jewelry and other assets from prosecutors and bankruptcy officials.
Just days before Kim appeared for sentencing, she filed for divorce from her imprisoned husband. Kim claimed her husband physically and mentally abused her, controlled her every move, and cheated on her. Kim additionally claimed she and her husband had been essentially separate for some time, as he fled to Morocco in 2009 and was taken into custody soon thereafter.
Despite strong grounds for divorce, Kim is uncovering the complexities of divorcing someone involved in the witness protection program. The program, known as WITSEC, is designed to ensure the safety of federal prisoners who may be in danger because they testified or will testify against other criminals involved in organized crime, terrorism, or drug trafficking.
Scott Rothstein’s involvement in this federal program has complicated the divorce from the start. The original divorce petition, filed sometime in November of 2013, was not served on Scott until earlier last month. It apparently took months for the prison system and the witness protection program to sort out which federal official could accept service of the divorce papers and pass them along to Rothstein.
The judge overseeing the divorce case originally filed a motion to dismiss the action because Scott Rothstein had not been served within the 120 days required by law. An attorney for Kim Rothstein filed an explanation detailing the complications associated with the witness protection program and requesting more time.
Kim Rothstein’s request for a divorce is presenting a unique set of circumstances associated with her husband’s undisclosed location. While Kim Rothstein’s situation appears to be relatively rare, she is not the first person to encounter a problem addressing a family law issue due to the witness protection program. Several people have obtained child support judgments against individuals in witness protection, only to run against obstacles when seeking the enforcement of such judgments. Most have not met with much success, as to enforce the judgment would require disclosure of the location of the individual.
The difficulties faced by Kim Rothstein due to the witness protection program are in some regards similar to situations in which a spouse is seeking a divorce but does not know where their spouse is located. In the case of a missing spouse, if you can demonstrate you have made diligent efforts to uncover his or her whereabouts, you may be able to pursue Service of Process by Publication. If your spouse does not respond, you can proceed with finalizing the divorce by default. However, Kim’s case is additionally complicated by the inability of her husband to respond due to safety concerns.
If you are interested in learning more about your legal options regarding your Florida divorce, contact the experienced Florida Divorce Attorneys at the Law Offices of James S. Cunha, P.A. at 561-429-3924 to schedule a consultation. We serve divorce and family law clients throughout West Palm Beach, Boca Raton, Wellington, Jupiter, Palm Beach County, Broward County, and Martin County areas.