Add One More to the Charlie Crist Jailhouse Brigade
Around the State
Trust me, you might not want to be one of Charlie Crist's friends. They seem to have such bad luck.
Too many of them, especially the ones involved with Charlie's campaign cash, end up in the clink.
As we speak, another donor/bro is suiting up for the Big House. This time it's Lee County real estate broker Greg Eagle. If the name sounds familiar, that's because Greg is the father of Rep. Dane Eagle, R-Cape Coral.
Greg is looking at 30 years and a fine of up to $1 million. He pleaded guilty to a trifecta of fraud charges -- bank, mail and wire.
Charlie's favorite newspaper, the Tampa Bay Times, reported Thursday that, on top of everything else, Greg "will have to pay back money he ripped off his victims."
The Times says, "In 2006, (Greg) Eagle put $1 million into a third-party political group, Floridians for a Better and Brighter Florida, before the September primary. The money later was transferred to another group that helped Crist secure the Republican gubernatorial nomination."
Basically, the story boils down to this: To get himself out of a $19 million hole, Greg mortgaged trust property without the knowledge of the other beneficiaries.
Greg Eagle was more than a donor, he and the former governor were tight, especially while Charlie was gunning for the governor's office. Charlie would sometimes stay at Greg's Useppa Island home, and he even hired Dane Eagle to serve as his travel aide.
Greg is the fourth high-profile, Charlie Crist money-buddy whose misdeeds will land him in some dank federal penitentiary.
As a reminder, the other three:
-- Jim Greer. Charlie Crist's close friend and hand-picked chairman of the Republican Party of Florida from 2006 to 2010. Greer was facing a possible 75 years in prison for fraud, money laundering and theft -- including a scheme to take $100,000 from the party for his personal expenses through a fundraising company he created, Victory Strategies LLC. In February he took a plea deal and faces a possible maximum sentence of 35 years. More likely, he'll get 3 1/2 years in prison plus probation. His sentence will be decided at a March 27 hearing.
-- Scott Rothstein. Disbarred lawyer, former managing shareholder, chairman, and chief executive officer of the now-defunct Rothstein Rosenfeldt Adler law firm. He was accused of funding his philanthropy, political contributions, law firm salaries, and an extravagant lifestyle with a massive $1.2 billion Ponzi scheme. Before the scheme imploded in 2009, Rothstein and Charlie Crist were in regular and close contact, including the birthday party Rothstein gave for the governor, gifting him with $52,000 -- $1,000 for every candle he blew out. Rothstein was sentenced to 50 years in 2010 and moved from the Federal Detention Center in Miami to an undisclosed location. His inmate number has been removed from the federal prisoner-locater Web page.
-- Alan Mendelsohn. Former Hollywood ophthalmologist, GOP fundraiser, lobbyist and adviser to former Gov. Charlie Crist -- was sentenced to four years in prison in 2011 after he pleaded guilty to a conspiracy charge alleging he was scheming to bilk the U.S. government -- trying to hide $82,000 in political donations.
What is it about Charlie Crist? You have to ask yourself.
Is Charlie so charismatic his friends are willing to "go bad" for him?
Does it have nothing to do with Charlie, really, it's all about the temptation and proximity of so many Ben Franklins?
Is Charlie a look-the-other-way friend? Is he a make-a-deal friend? Is it all just a big coincidence that four of Charlie's donor-pals in aggregate victimized dozens of Floridians?
I'm sorry, but I don't think I've ever seen anybody south of Tony Soprano attract so many budding criminals.
I asked an old friend, Gus Crassis, retired from the U.S. Department of Justice, for his take on the "Charlie Crist Bad-Friend Phenomenon." Here's what he had to say:
"I'd treat Crist like I was a cop with a quota and he was a bar on a Saturday night. I'd park outside him, hang out with my handcuffs and wait for the next drunk to come out to his car. I'd say there's another disaster waiting to happen. Politics is big business these days. A lot of money is at stake."
I'm genuinely sorry for Dane Eagle, not yet 30, a bright addition to the state House this year. The feds haven't implicated him, but no doubt he and his family share his dad's ordeal. What a distraction this must be.
Reach Nancy Smith at email@example.com or at (850) 727-0859.