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A prominent and politically connected South Florida attorney was being investigated by his own firm for financial irregularities in an investment business that led his law partner to seek dissolution Monday.

The attorney, Scott Rothstein, and partner Stuart Rosenfeldt founded the firm Rothstein Rosenfeldt Adler in 2002. Now Rosenfeldt is seeking to dissolve their partnership and have the 70-lawyer firm placed into court-supervised receivership "to minimize any further damage caused by Mr. Rothstein," according to court documents.

"A review of the firm's records undertaken this past weekend indicates that various funds unrelated to the direct practice of law cannot be accounted for, circumstances suggesting that investor money may have been misused by Mr. Rothstein who controlled all such accounts," Rosenfeldt said in the court papers.

A lawyer for some investors, Jeff Sonn, said initial estimates of the missing cash range from $100 million to $185 million.

"Nobody knows for sure," Sonn said.

At a brief hearing, Circuit Judge Jeffrey Streitfeld put off a decision on appointing a receiver by a day, in part to find out if Rothstein plans to return from an undisclosed foreign country to contest the move.

"This is an extraordinary effort that would have to be undertaken on an immediate basis," Streitfeld said. "Let's take a deep breath and see where we're going."

Neither Rothstein nor his attorney immediately returned telephone calls and e-mails seeking comment. An attorney hired by Rosenfeldt, former Miami U.S. Attorney Kendall Coffey, said he has been assured that Rothstein will return to the U.S. Coffey also said he has notified federal prosecutors about possible criminal wrongdoing at the firm.


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