Article Courtesy of The
Palm Beach Post
By Holly Baltz and John Pacenti
Published June 30, 2019
State attorney investigators sought to find out if a
guardian married to a guardianship judge got an ‘unfair financial
advantage.’ But they didn’t subpoena the guardian’s business bank
records or talk to either the judge or his wife.
State Attorney Dave Aronberg’s office ignored key
facts and potential leads while investigating whether a judge abused his
position to illegally profit from his wife’s work as a professional
guardian for incapacitated seniors, The Palm Beach Post has found.
Aronberg’s public corruption unit looked past
$120,000 in deposits of cold hard cash by then-Circuit Judge Martin
Investigators also looked past thousands of dollars that went back and
forth between the judge and attorneys, some of whom had practiced before
him and received lucrative appointments.
Colin’s wife, professional guardian Elizabeth “Betsy” Savitt, cut nearly
$50,000 in checks from her guardianship business account directly to her
husband — one labeled “loan” — according to five years of Colin’s bank
statements subpoenaed by investigators.
If the cash deposits were income, Colin would have been required by
state law to report them on his financial disclosure forms. He didn’t.
He also didn’t report a loan from a Lake Worth man convicted of being a
bookie in an illegal online gambling ring.
Aronberg’s office is prosecuting a former public official right now on
felony charges after she didn’t report income on her disclosure forms.
But Aronberg exonerated Colin and Savitt.
The bank statements and court documents also show Colin, while he sat on
the bench, withdrew a total of $115,000 at Broward County casinos over
Former Guardianship Judge Martin Colin and his wife,
Elizabeth 'Betsy' Savitt, were investigated and exonerated by the
state attorney in a 2016 criminal probe. The Palm Beach Post found,
however, that investigators didn't examine facts like Colin's
payments to a bookie who was busted in an illegal gambling ring as
well as large deposits of cash, not checks, into Colin's checking
An expert in addiction said the judge’s high-wire act
of managing his finances — a whirlwind of cash deposits, overdraft fees
and large checks from family members — could indicate someone who
Colin and Savitt have insisted they’ve done nothing wrong while
maintaining clear boundaries between their professional and personal
Aronberg’s office found no financial improprieties, no favoritism and
But The Post found the state attorney overlooked stunning
Investigators never subpoenaed the bank account of Savitt’s business to
find out where she got the money she gave her husband. About the same
time, Savitt had withdrawn tens of thousands of dollars from seniors’
bank accounts without first getting court permission.
Investigators never examined the constant flow of cash into Colin’s
accounts or interviewed the family law attorneys who sent him money, the
Investigators never questioned Savitt’s guardianship attorneys, one who
said she felt Judge Colin pressured her into helping set up his wife in
Investigators never spoke to any families of incapacitated seniors in
Savitt’s guardianships. Many had long complained that the judge’s wife
was fleecing their loved ones. Some families had reams of documents to
turn over — if only they had been asked.
And, finally, Aronberg’s public corruption unit never questioned Colin
A legal ethics expert called the probe “cursory.” The son of a
vulnerable senior once under Savitt’s power called it “a whitewash.”
The state’s chief advocate for guardianship reform, Dr. Sam Sugar,
called Aronberg’s probe an investigation in search of an exoneration,
saying it was “a sadly predictable outcome.”
“The reason is very obvious: They are part of the problem, not part of
the solution,” said Sugar, founder of Americans Against Abusive Probate
Guardianship. “It just shows you how zipped up this abuse of power is
because it has been able to neutralize law enforcement.”
Aronberg’s office defended the investigation, calling it “thorough” and
pointing out that the criminal burden of proof is high.
Lead Detective Diana Burfield said in her final case memo that she had
reviewed financial records and found no evidence that Savitt received
“an unfair financial advantage” because she was married to a
But four months after Aronberg’s public corruption unit closed the case
in November 2016, the chief guardianship auditor for Palm Beach County
made a civil finding that “Savitt was involved with corruption and
collusion of judges and lawyers in Delray Beach for financial gain.”
Burfield was privy to the auditor’s preliminary findings in 19 of
Savitt’s cases, but records offer no evidence that she ever investigated
The Post’s investigative work raises “profoundly troubling questions of
judicial misconduct,” said Anthony Alfieri, a University of Miami law
professor and expert on government ethics who has studied judicial
misconduct and public corruption in Florida for decades.
“The magnitude of the apparent violations warrant investigations by the
Florida Bar, the Judicial Qualifications Commission and federal and
state law enforcement agencies,” said Alfieri, director of the Center
for Ethics and Public Service.
Conflicts, complaints, financial trouble
Adult guardianship is a lucrative and complex legal niche where senior
citizens are deemed by the courts to be incapacitated and their lives
are placed in the hands of professionals required to have a mere 40
hours of training.
In guardianship, all fees — whether to a guardian, a lawyer or any other
professional — come right out of the senior’s life savings. Guardians
can make a bundle off just one senior with a large bank account.
Savitt became the poster child for the need for guardianship reform
after The Post’s January 2016 expose´, “Guardianships: A Broken Trust,”
which led to widespread reforms that curbed Savitt, including a halt to
her habit of taking fees from seniors before judicial approval.
The Post reported on Colin’s vast conflict of interest involving
attorneys who represented his wife, the numerous complaints in Savitt’s
guardianships and the couple’s financial trouble.
Colin, paid $146,000 a year as a circuit court judge, announced his
retirement effective at the end of 2016. Aronberg’s office opened its
probe a month later and obtained Colin’s bank statements from 2011
through March 2016.
Within nine months, the investigation was closed. Soon after, Colin left
the bench and hung his shingle as a defense attorney and court mediator
in guardianship and other cases.
Savitt would operate as a guardian until the state in March revoked her
registration, putting her out of business.
Neither Colin nor Savitt answered questions posed by The Post about this
And Aronberg’s investigators didn’t find “criminal predicate” to
interview either one of them, said Chief Assistant State Attorney Al
Johnson, who headed the public corruption unit at the time.
The public corruption unit — made up of investigators and prosecutors —
also decided there wasn’t enough evidence to subpoena bank records for
her business, Savitt Guardians.
“Since only Judge Colin held a public office, the public corruption unit
had limited oversight and jurisdiction over the finances of Ms. Savitt,
a private citizen,” Johnson said.
But a former FBI special agent who put several county commissioners in
prison said he subpoenaed records of private citizens in his corruption
investigations all the time.
Investigators also found unsubstantiated a complaint that Savitt stole
money from a guardianship to pay off a mortgage after a foreclosure
While Johnson said investigators took into account “numerous witnesses
and thousands of documents,” the case file shows evidence of only two
witness interviews — one with a volunteer who had no substantive
information and the other a 30-minute educational discussion on the
guardianship system. Recordings of those interviews were included in the
case file released to The Post under the state’s public records law.
Aronberg’s office was in no hurry to hand over its investigative records
to The Post.
The existence of the criminal probe didn’t become publicly known until
September during a disciplinary hearing for Savitt. It took four months
for Aronberg, the county’s top legal officer, to turn over records — and
only after The Post threatened to sue.
The Post shared details of the investigation with several experts. One
pointed out that it was incumbent upon the state attorney, at the very
least, to find out the nature of Colin’s cash deposits.
“If you are a judge and you are on a state payroll and you are taking
money out and putting money in — cash in — you’ve got to ask if it is
from gambling winnings or some totally off-the-wall whack-a-do payoff
happening,” said forensic accountant and certified fraud examiner Dawn
Brolin. “We don’t know because they didn’t ask.”
Cash flows into judge’s bank account
When it came to smoke, the judge’s checking account was a forest fire.
In dribs and drabs, over five-plus years starting in 2011, Colin
deposited a total of about $120,000 in cash into his checking account
while his wife served as a professional guardian, The Post found in his
That amounted to an average of about $22,000 a year. Though Colin’s cash
deposits appeared to follow no particular pattern, in some months he
deposited as much as $5,000 in cash.
Where did the judge get so much cash?
“He is not in a cash business. It’s not like you are running a pawn
shop,” said Brolin, the CEO of Powerful Accounting in Windham,
The state attorney, though, never bothered to ask Colin about his cash
“How can you not recall putting five grand into a bank account and you
are a judge?” Brolin asked.
In summer 2015, Colin’s efforts to keep his finances from cratering were
dizzying, records show.
Colin visited South Florida casinos at least 35 times between June 1 and
Oct. 1, withdrawing from his checking account about $23,000 — nearly 20
percent of his annual judicial salary, bank records show.
Colin appeared to lean heavily on family during this time to keep him
Savitt cut him 13 checks for $9,850 that summer from her guardianship
business. The judge’s sons, Matthew and Michael Colin, wrote their
father $4,850 in checks. And the judge’s brother, Steve Colin, also
loaned him $4,000.
Over the five-plus years of the subpoenaed bank accounts, Colin withdrew
more than $115,000 at casinos, almost exclusively in South Florida,
according to The Post’s analysis.
During that time, Colin received about $73,000 from his wife — more than
half from Savitt doing business as Savitt Guardians, a sole
Colin’s sons wrote their father more than $54,000 in checks. Often, each
would write checks for the same amount on the same day.
In the flurry of money constantly swirling in Colin’s household, the
judge wrote his sons $64,000 in checks from 2011 until April 2016. The
sons could not be reached for comment.
Matthew Colin, according to a financial affidavit in a paternity matter,
had about $64,000 in one of his two savings accounts in October 2015.
The other had about $1,700. Three months later, the larger account had
been reduced to about $8,000. He’d written his father $10,000 in checks
and put down $10,000 on a Lexus hybrid.
To keep all these plates spinning, Colin visited the bank several times
a week, sometimes twice a day, records show.
For instance, on Feb. 10, 2015, a Tuesday, Colin made a cash deposit of
$800 around noon at Sabadell Bank in Boca Raton. Then at 3:30 p.m.,
Colin deposited an additional $700 in cash at the West Palm Beach
Colin, by declining to answer questions, did not confirm whether the
withdrawals at Isle Casino in Pompano Park, Seminole Casino Coconut
Creek and other gaming dens were indeed for gambling.
But many of the withdrawals made by Colin at Pompano Park included the
notation “VIP PREFER” on the bank statement. Under VIP Preferred, a
gambler can simply present ID to the casino cashier and obtain cash, the
company’s website says. It also offers electronic check cashing.
People close to Colin told The Post that the judge is a gambler, drawn
to the horse races and electronic craps. Isle Casino Pompano has a posh
and elaborate track parlor where wagers can be placed on races simulcast
from throughout the country.
Dr. Stefan G. Kantrowitz, a New York City gambling addiction expert,
said the odds are always with the house. A compulsive gambler can’t help
but dig deeper and deeper into the hole, he said.
Compulsive gamblers often compile massive amounts of credit card debt,
“They are able to work the system until there is no end and they are
forced to declare bankruptcy or they end up doing some fraudulent type
of things and eventually the addiction manifests itself to the public,”
Aronberg’s investigators never obtained Colin’s credit card
statements, documents show.
Colin’s bank statements show more than $100,000 in debits to American
Express. The e-payments to Amex, on average, occurred several times a
week — sometimes several times in the same day — and most often in
amounts in the hundreds of dollars.
In summer 2015, for instance, Colin paid Amex 58 times totaling more
than $6,000 directly from his checking account.
Colin often would make multiple Amex payments in a day even though he
would incur an overdraft penalty in his checking account. Also, Amex is
often the preferred credit card for offshore online casinos, according
to cardschat.com, a hub for online casinos.
‘Hey, it’s a reporter ... asking about Marty’
Colin appeared to have a financial relationship with Jay Goldman, a Lake
Worth man arrested in 2013 by the feds in a $9.6 million illegal
internet gambling ring.
The judge paid Goldman nearly $14,000 — writing him a $520 check nearly
every month for 2˝ years before and after Goldman was arrested. Goldman
paid Colin $4,000 total in two checks. One, for $3,000, was noted on the
check as a six-month loan.
Three other locals were arrested in the gambling ring. The main
operator, Philip “Florida Phil” Gurian, of Boca Raton, previously had
been convicted in a stock scam case involving the DeCavalcante crime
family out of New Jersey, reputedly the model for the TV series “The
Colin presided over Gurian’s uncontested divorce in 2012. Gurian pleaded
guilty and was sentenced to time served, which amounted to one year
Goldman pleaded guilty in 2015 to placing bets — transmission of
wagering information — and was placed on two years of probation.
Goldman then petitioned the court to be allowed to play poker for money
with friends, an activity strictly prohibited by his probation. His
probation officer wasn’t too keen on the request, and it was withdrawn.
When contacted by phone, Goldman — a championship shuffleboard player —
said he was at the country club surrounded by others. He yelled, “Hey,
it’s a reporter from The Palm Beach Post asking about Marty Colin,”
before declining further comment.
Colin also failed to disclose the Goldman liability on his financial
disclosure on June 1, 2013. Goldman had loaned him $3,000 in January
2013 and he still owed the bookie $1,000 at the time of disclosure, the
bank statements showed. By that time, Goldman was facing federal
Wife made payments to judge
Savitt was also a big contributor to her husband’s bottom line.
In total, Savitt wrote 67 checks in the name of her business, Savitt
Guardians, to Colin, adding up to $47,038 over five years.
One check stands out.
On Dec. 5, 2014, Savitt Guardians paid Colin $1,009. In the memo field,
Savitt wrote “loan.” If Colin owed money to Savitt Guardians, he failed
to include it on his financial disclosures.
If Colin loaned money to Savitt Guardians, then the check’s memo could
indicate Colin had a direct financial interest in her guardianship
Spouse or no spouse, a guardian paying a sitting judge out of her
business account is improper, said Mitch Kitroser, a probate and
“Such a transfer raises questions, and the public, who put their faith
in the integrity of our judicial system, have a right to an explanation
of what occurred,” Kitroser said.
Former FBI Special Agent Joseph Sconzo, who played a crucial role in the
county public corruption investigations 10 years ago, said it was
puzzling Aronberg’s investigators didn’t seek bank records from Savitt
“If the investigation was related to public corruption, it usually takes
at least two parties in a quid pro quo relationship,” Sconzo said after
reviewing Aronberg’s investigative materials.
“Both parties do not have to be public officials. During my PC (public
corruption) investigations, many of the individuals who received
subpoenas and were compelled to turn over records were not public
Unlike the Colin-Savitt probe, Burfield did indeed subpoena bank records
of a spouse — and a private citizen — when she investigated suspended
Boca Raton Mayor Susan Haynie last year.
Burfield obtained the bank records for companies owned by Haynie’s
husband and found that the mayor’s name was on the accounts and that she
had written checks to herself off of them. Haynie hadn’t listed the
businesses as sources of income on her financial disclosure forms.
All of this led Aronberg’s office to file felony official misconduct
charges against Haynie.
And it all started with Burfield demanding the bank accounts of a spouse
of a public official — something Aronberg’s office said wasn’t
appropriate when it came to Colin.
Haynie is a registered Republican. Colin, like Aronberg, is a
Jeff Danik, a former FBI public corruption supervisor, said he has
worked with Burfield in the past and knows her to be thorough. “She is a
pretty good cop,” he said.
Still, Sconzo, now a Jupiter attorney, said there were “obvious
appearances of impropriety,” but, he added, any investigator would
struggle to distinguish corruption from routine financial housekeeping
between husband and wife.
As such, Colin and Savitt’s marriage could have insulated them from
further scrutiny from Aronberg.
If the money from Savitt Guardians was for household expenses, Savitt
had another avenue to pay Colin. She used a personal account to write
him about $26,000 in checks, his bank deposits show.
Colin also wrote his wife $87,000 in checks. He paid Savitt Guardians
once, writing a check for $850 in July 2012, years before the “loan”
Robert Jarvis, a Nova Southeastern University law professor who reviewed
parts of the investigation for The Post, said he was “particularly
surprised” Burfield did not speak to Colin or Savitt considering what
was in the bank statements.
“Her investigation strikes me as quite cursory, even though it
apparently took months.”
Jarvis noted there is nothing wrong or unethical for a judge to gamble
legally at casinos, but it is a violation of the state’s judicial canons
for a judge to conduct fiscal matters in a way that gives “the
appearance of influence or impropriety.”
“The bottom line is the focus should not be on Colin having debts, but
whether having debts caused him to either be compromised or appear, to a
reasonable member of the public, to be compromised,” he said.
Fees without prior court OK
The unauthorized payments taken by Savitt in guardianship cases often
came around the same time she wrote Colin checks from her business
account, The Post found.
Savitt took nearly $29,000 in fees prior to court approval, The Post
found. She often called these fees “retainers.”
Colin’s colleagues on the bench — among them his close friend Circuit
Judge David French — approved these fees after Savitt already had taken
them. Colin and French exchanged nominal amounts of money, the records
When Savitt took nearly $17,000 in fees without prior court approval for
herself and her attorney in the guardianship of Robert Wein, a family
member sought to have her removed. Circuit Judge Krista Marx — now chief
judge and a chair of the Judicial Qualifications Commission — approved
the fees retroactively in August 2015, remarking that Savitt simply was
“asking for forgiveness instead of permission.”
The son of Albert Vassallo Sr. told The Post that Savitt took a $3,000
retainer on Oct. 29, 2014. The next day, Savitt wrote a check from her
business account to Colin for $825, bank records show.
In the guardianship of Helen O’Grady, Savitt took $1,000 from the
senior’s account between January and May 2012, court records show. She
wrote two checks to Colin from Savitt Guardians totaling $1,450 in
February, bank records show.
Since court records don’t spell out the timing of Savitt’s “retainers,”
investigators couldn’t see exactly when Savitt took them and compare
them to deposits in Colin’s account without her bank records.
“The lack of oversight and failure of investigative bodies to uncover
what an investigative reporter could do is stunning,” said Sugar, the
Burfield saw no problem with Savitt taking money prior to court
She concluded in her closeout memo that “whatever the legal opinion
regarding retainers ... all of Savitt’s fees were properly submitted and
approved by a judge, none of whom were her husband.”
An administrative law judge who oversaw disciplinary proceedings against
Savitt said taking fees prior to approval could make for a criminal
“Obviously, removing assets from a ward’s estate without authorization
could constitute theft or embezzlement,” said Judge Mary Li Creasy,
pointing out that it was “clearly against (Savitt’s) wards’ best
Creasy noted that the “randomly taken” retainers suggest Savitt “needed
The Department of Elder Affairs stripped Savitt of her registration in
March largely because she took fees prior to court approval. It said she
failed to act in good faith, failed to act in the best interest of her
wards and abused her power.
“Revoking Ms. Savitt’s registration is simply the right thing to do
based on her repeated bad behavior and shows our seriousness and
commitment to removing those self-serving bad actors who act
unlawfully,” said the agency’s director, Richard Prudom.
In response to The Post’s questions, Savitt fired off an email to
editors demanding that they stop their reporter from pursuing the story.
Savitt called the story, prior to publication, “one-sided” and
“I decline participation in what will obviously be another one-sided
negatively slanted story about my family,” she wrote.
‘They just blew this off’
Families of seniors in Savitt’s guardianships had been fighting her for
years in court, often to no avail.
The public corruption unit never reached out to any of those family
members, many of whom had been keeping detailed records of what they
called suspicious activity by the guardian. Many were mentioned in The
Post’s stories before the state attorney’s probe started.
James Vassallo’s apartment is filled with reams of guardianship
documents. His father, Albert Sr., died at age 88 in the same month the
criminal investigation closed.
“I’m very disappointed. The facts are there,” James Vassallo said. “They
just blew this off. They really didn’t want to be involved. They knew
what was really going on.”
Thomas Mayes, the son of Helen O’Grady, said no one contacted him from
the public corruption unit, as well.
“Of course, it’s going to be a whitewash,” he said. “You are talking
about judges in the 15th Judicial Circuit.”
Lawyer’s appointment cast aside
Wading into the complex world of guardianship could be difficult for any
investigator, but Burfield was handed a road map by Anthony Palmieri,
the deputy inspector general in the clerk’s office who has audited more
than 1,000 guardianship cases.
Palmieri started his second investigation of Savitt after four
complaints to the clerk’s guardianship fraud hotline.
He said in a memo to Burfield that Colin’s appointments of attorney
Sheri Hazeltine in two cases paved the way for the judge’s wife to get
guardianships. His memo also said that Hazeltine’s involvement in 11
guardianship cases steered appointments to Savitt.
Hazeltine told The Post that the judge had taken her aside at the Delray
Beach courthouse in 2010 and asked her to be his wife’s guardianship
attorney. Hazeltine consented, saying, “There was a measure of fear
The public corruption unit never talked to Hazeltine, records show.
Burfield concluded that it was not possible for Colin to appoint a
lawyer to get his wife work since she thought attorneys were assigned
randomly to represent guardians.
But she was wrong. Attorneys are assigned randomly only when they are to
represent the incapacitated seniors, not when they represent a guardian.
And Palmieri told the detective in his memo that Colin appointed
Hazeltine to a case and the attorney then brought the judge’s wife
Additionally, the public corruption unit said it looked at whether
Savitt’s lawyers “received improper favorable rulings from Judge Colin.”
If Burfield investigated, the records show no evidence of it.
Morgan Stanley ‘exited’ Savitt
Colin’s retirement announcement before the criminal investigation began
may have insulated the judge from further consequences, West Palm Beach
attorney Gregg Lerman said.
“I suspect that a deal was reached for his resignation or retirement,”
he said. “I am more surprised they did not charge his wife based on what
I have read.”
Immediately after The Post’s 2016 stories, then-Chief Judge Jeffrey
Colbath transferred Colin from the guardianship division and required
the south county judges on his wife’s cases to recuse themselves.
He handed down more guardianship reforms in November that year, the
month the criminal investigation closed, addressing other complaints
about Savitt. Guardians now must register with the courts and disclose
financial solvency and nepotism. Retainers were prohibited.
Colbath wasn’t the only one to take action against Savitt.
After reading The Post’s investigation, Morgan Stanley quickly and
quietly launched a financial crimes investigation into Savitt, who had
at least seven accounts there in three wards’ names, according to
documents Burfield obtained.
The bank found more than $187,000 was transferred from those accounts to
either Savitt, Savitt Guardians or two of her lawyers over about 2˝
Morgan Stanley filed a Suspicious Activity Report against Savitt with
the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network, a bureau of the U.S. Treasury.
The SAR is filed after or during suspicious banking activity, according
to the bureau. The feds have used the reports to piece together complex
“Based on the above, relationship to be exited with client,” the Morgan
Stanley report reads.
Burfield, however, never mentions this in her closeout memo.
Cash flowed between lawyers, judge
Thousands of dollars flowed back and forth between the judge and four
probate and family law attorneys.
Two of the attorneys, Kirk Friedland and Dean Rosenbach, had appeared in
front of Colin and obtained appointments to cases from him.
“It is quite troubling that Judge Colin seems to have taken money from
lawyers who appeared in front of him,” said Jarvis, the Nova law
Such transactions would violate the Florida Code of Judicial Conduct,
which cautions judges to be particularly circumspect with financial
dealings, he said.
Canon 5 of the code states that a judge can accept a loan or gift only
“if the donor is not a party or other person who has come or likely to
come before the judge.” A violation of the judicial code could lead to a
judge being sanctioned or removed from the bench by the state Supreme
As for the lawyers, the Florida Bar prohibits them from knowingly
helping a judge violate a rule of judicial conduct.
Colin appointed Friedland, his former partner, to a position to settle
differences between warring heirs in the $20 million probate case of Wet
‘n’ Wild cosmetic founder Stanley Acker.
Friedland would make at least $700,000 from the Acker case in eight
years ending in 2018, according to court documents.
After appointing Friedland, Colin remained on the case for 18 months
before recusing himself in July 2012.
Colin paid Friedland $6,597 on Jan. 19, 2015, with a note on the check
saying “PD in full.” Two days earlier, Colin had gotten a $6,500 check
from Friedland’s mother, Reba.
The now-90-year-old woman owed her son $200,000, his 2015 divorce filing
showed. She did not return a voice message.
The bank records offer no record of Kirk Friedland paying Colin
directly. If he gave Colin a loan, it could have come before 2011 or it
could have been made in cash.
Friedland did not return phone calls and emails for comment.
Colin and North Palm Beach attorney Dean Rosenbach had a financial
relationship dating back to at least April 2011. Colin paid him more
than $21,000 through March 2016.
Rosenbach, who represented Savitt in several guardianship-related cases,
gave Colin $11,000 in five checks — one for $5,000.
Colin in 2012 appointed Rosenbach as a personal representative in the
probate case of Robert Safranek, which involved a $1.8 million trust.
Safranek’s family fervently objected to Rosenbach’s appointment but lost
Colin recused himself just as the Safranek family objected to the fees
for Rosenbach and his seven-person legal “team.” Rosenbach employed the
team, which sought $300,000 upfront from the trust, to defend himself.
Rosenbach made more than $30,000 in the Safranek case.
Savitt also had a relationship with Rosenbach. She hired him to
represent one of her wards, Frances Berkowitz, in five cases, including
litigation against a caretaker accused of fleecing the senior of $1.2
One Berkowitz case was briefly before Colin in January 2015. On the day
Colin recused himself, he paid Rosenbach $1,000. The next day, Colin
paid him another $1,000.
Rosenbach two months later wrote a $5,000 check to the judge.
Rosenbach, reached by phone on June 20, declined to address his
financial ties to Colin. “I don’t have time to deal with this. I don’t
care. I have a business and a life to lead,” he said.
‘Something about family medical needs’
Attorneys Louis Silber and Jay Jacknin said they loaned Colin money when
he came to them saying he had emergency family medical issues. They
insist they never appeared before him, did nothing improper and got
every penny back.
Silber credited the judge nearly $12,000 in 12 payments from 2011 to
2015. Silber once was law partner to now-retired Florida Supreme Court
Justice Barbara Pariente.
All the loans between Silber and Colin were short-term, never lasting
more than a month.
“I was a friend of Marty Colin for over 30 years. Based on that
friendship, I made a number of short-term loans at Mr. Colin’s request
for which I have been repaid,” Silber said.
Silber did get a piece of the money-making Acker case. His name appears
on Friedland’s bill as his attorney one month after Colin recused
If Colin was paying large medical bills, he wasn’t doing it out of his
checking account. There are no large checks to doctors or hospitals.
Jacknin also confirmed that he loaned Colin about $10,000 in seven
checks between July 2014 and August 2015.
“While I do not have a specific memory of what he said four or five
years ago about why he needed some loans, I remember generally something
about family medical needs.”
‘Very poorly conducted investigation’
Since Colin is no longer a judge, he is not subject to discipline
recommended by the Judicial Qualifications Commission. The Florida Bar,
though, recently has been inclined to go after former judges who resign
to avoid JQC sanctions.
Under state law, Colin was required to submit financial disclosures to
the Florida Commission on Ethics and the JQC.
Burfield, who did not comment for this story, included only one of
Colin’s annual financial disclosure forms in her investigative file —
from 2009, before Savitt became a professional guardian.
When she investigated former Boca Mayor Haynie last year, she relied on
financial disclosure forms to recommend charges. Burfield, a Palm Beach
County School District detective, no longer serves on the public
Johnson, Aronberg’s chief assistant, said the State Attorney’s Office
would like nothing more than to prosecute cases of guardianship abuse
against vulnerable seniors.
But he added that it is unethical to charge defendants unless there is a
good faith basis to believe the state can prove the case beyond a
Johnson also cited the December recommendation by Creasy, the
administrative law judge, to drop a disciplinary case against Savitt as
validation for the state attorney’s decision not to press charges.
Creasy wrote it two years after the state attorney’s probe ended. And
Creasy’s recommendation was rejected by the Department of Elder Affairs,
which revoked Savitt’s registration.
Savitt has appealed.
“Clearly, the SAO’s statement is a face-saving gesture for what appears
to have been a very poorly conducted investigation,” said Jarvis, the
Nova professor who specializes in legal ethics.
Now a mediator, Colin demands payment
These days Colin is working as court mediator, relying on his former
judicial colleagues to send him work. As a result, he still has his
hands in guardianship.
Scott Pyser and his two siblings had mediation in front of Colin over
disagreements about the guardianship of their mother, Eloise.
Pyser said Colin tried to get Circuit Judge Jessica Ticktin to arrest
him when he balked at paying his portion of Colin’s fee — $900 — for a
day of mediation on March 6, 2018.
When Pyser refused to pay, Colin went to Ticktin’s chambers and had
bailiffs watch Pyser, he said.
Ticktin eventually allowed Pyser to think it over for two days or face
jail. He paid.
Pyser said he couldn’t believe how angry Colin got over $900.
“Colin was so desperate he was yelling in the courtroom ... saying
‘bring him down to Gun Club (the jail) until he comes up with my
money,’” Pyser said.