Broward County Fundraiser Arrested for Fraud
Dr. Alan Mendelsohn, a Broward County ophthalmologist who has raised millions of dollars for Florida politicians, was arrested Wednesday as part of a federal corruption investigation.
A federal grand jury charged Mendelsohn with orchestrating a fraudulent political fundraising and lobbying scheme "through which he secretly diverted to himself more than $350,000 from contributions to political organizations he controlled,” Assistant Attorney General Lanny A. Breuer said in a statement released by the U.S. Department of Justice.
Mendelsohn, 51, of Hollywood, was also charged with concelaing payments he allegedly had his lobbying clients make, including sending money to his children's schools for their tuition, in an effort to get around the lobbying disclosure law that would have required him to disclose payments from the clients.
Mendelsohn appeared before U.S. Magistrate Judge Lurana Snow Wednesday morning and pleaded not guilty. He was released on bond.
Federal authorities say Mendelsohn, who lobbied the Florida Legislature heavily on medical issues, created organizations and corporations with the intent of making it difficult to trace the movement of political money through the organizations.
Prosecutors allege that since 2002, Mendelsohn got more than $2 million from people with a representation that the money would be used for media campaigns on political issues and to support political candidates who agreed with the contributors. But the government says he secretly diverted more than $350,000 of that money to personal use and didn't follow disclosure laws.
The indictment alleges that Mendelsohn used the money in part to buy a house and a car, and to pay for tutors and tuition for his children. He also used money that contributors thought was going to political campaigns to pay his personal credit card bills, and to bonuses for an employee of his medical practice, federal authorities said.
Authorities also charge that Mendelsohn got a contributor to make more than $1 million in payments to Mendelsohn that supposedly was going to contributions and “bribery agreements” to end an investigation into the contributor. In fact, Mendelsohn didn't make any agreement with anyone in the government about any pending investigation.
Government prosecutors also say Mendelsohn tried to conceal the source of campaign contributions, falsely characterized income and expenses and made false statements to investigators.
Mendelsohn's attorney, John Keker of San Francisco, said that he intends to vigorously fight the charges.
Keker also said it was important to note that the charges have nothing to do with Mendelsohn's medical practice.
“Dr. Alan Mendelsohn has been an ophthalmologist in Broward County for 22 years and is considered one of South Florida's best eye doctors,” Keker said. “These politics-based charges have nothing to do with Dr. Mendelsohn’s medical practice. The political tale told in these charges will be addressed in court, where we look forward to Dr. Mendelsohn’s vindication.”