2011 Safety, Security and International Affairs

Taryn Guariglia

Led the investigation of a complex Ponzi scheme that resulted in a 50-year prison sentence for a South Florida lawyer who swindled investors out of $1.2 billion.

Taryn Guariglia, an unassuming but relentless Internal Revenue Service (IRS) special agent, led the complex investigation that resulted in the indictment, guilty plea and 50-year prison sentence of South Florida lawyer Scott Rothstein, the flamboyant mastermind of a Ponzi scheme that fleeced investors of an estimated $1.2 billion.

Within days after Rothstein fled to Morocco on a private jet in 2009, just as his massive swindle was unraveling, Guariglia worked closely with prosecutors and a team of IRS and FBI agents to quickly amass the necessary evidence to charge Rothstein with racketeering, money laundering, and mail and wire fraud.

“Taryn was the lead agent in probably the most significant case to come out of our office in years. The case was incredibly complex and had lots of moving parts,” said Jeffrey Kaplan, an assistant U.S. attorney in the Southern District of Florida. “It would not have reached completion as quickly as it did, if at all, without her.”

Guariglia led the effort to gather evidence and prepare detailed affidavits needed to obtain a search warrant for Rothstein’s Ft. Lauderdale law firm after he fled the country, and worked long into the night and early morning to ensure the warrant was properly, safely and effectively executed.

She coordinated interviews of dozens of investor victims, analyzed countless financial documents to trace the flow of the Ponzi scheme funds, negotiated with attorneys for potential targets of the investigation, and was the lead investigator responsible for the forfeiture and seizure of tens of millions of dollars in assets.

Rothstein, who returned to Florida within days after taking flight, admitted to authorities that he operated a fraudulent scheme over four years that involved selling shares in confidential employment discrimination settlements—all fictitious—to wealthy investors.

The investors were led to believe that they were purchasing a discounted, lump-sum settlement from a plaintiff in exchange for the full settlement proceeds which would be paid in installments over a period of time. In reality, none of the purported plaintiffs or defendants existed and the $1.2 billion in confidential settlements sold were all bogus. In a classic Ponzi scheme, Rothstein used funds from new investors to pay off old investors while living an extravagant lifestyle.

Lisa Klitz, an acting IRS supervisory special agent, said Guariglia’s attention to detail and diligence enabled the government to develop the case and quickly take control of Rothstein’s remaining assets, ensuring their value would be maintained for ultimate disposition to the victims of the fraud.

The assets seized included 24 properties located in Florida, Rhode Island, and New York City; and numerous luxury cars, including a Bugatti Veyron, a Bentley, a Rolls-Royce, a Ferrari, a Corvette, a limousine, a Cadillac, a Mercedes-Benz, a Maserati and a Lamborghini.

In addition, Guariglia was involved in locating and seizing yachts; more than 300 pieces of jewelry; sports memorabilia; currency; 46 bank accounts; 23 business interests; and more than 85 corporate entities.

Klitz said Guariglia succeeded in the Rothstein case because “she has an incredible work ethic and does whatever it takes to get the job done.”

“She has an ability to forge relationships. She is not consumed by minutiae. She has a goal, stays on task and works through all the obstacles,” said Klitz.

Guariglia said she and her multi-agency team had to work quickly once the scheme was uncovered to “understand the scope and breadth” of the fraud, to prevent the destruction of records needed to prove the crimes and to protect the assets.

Her motivation to work long hours day-in and day-out on the case for more than a year and a half, she said, was grounded in her strong “sense of right and wrong,” and the feeling that the conduct of white collar criminals like Rothstein are egregious and harmful.

“For people like Rothstein, greed takes over,” she said. “These people have the ability to be successful in life, but it is never enough.”