|By Jay Weaver, The Miami Herald|
|McClatchy-Tribune Information Services|
But on Tuesday the brothers, both jailed without bail after regulators shut down their insurance brokerage business,
Sporting a prison pallor, Steiner, 61, pleaded guilty before a federal judge to two wire-fraud conspiracy charges in separate criminal prosecutions, entailing duping life-insurance investors in the Mutual Benefits case and health-insurance companies in another case. Sentenced recently to 15 years in prison on a related money-laundering conviction, Steiner now faces up to 20 years that would run concurrently with that term.
Soon after, Steinger, 63, sitting in a wheelchair with a blanket draped over his shoulders, begged the same federal judge to delay his six-month trial set for next Tuesday because he needs surgery for the "excruciating pain" in his spine.
"I need to get to a real hospital to be operated on or I will never make it through trial," Steinger, who spells his last name differently from his younger brother, told U.S. District Judge
"You'll never make it?" Scola snapped back, reminding Steinger that, like his brother, he's also been accused of health insurance fraud. "What do you mean by that?"
"Physically, your honor, I'm spent," he answered. "That's what I mean."
Scola, who had postponed the Mutual Benefits fraud trial once before, would not hear of any more delays, ordering Steinger to appear for the jury trial as scheduled next week. The judge also ordered his defense attorney,
"I am grossly unprepared for this case," said Haguel, who is Steinger's third defense attorney since the brothers and several others were indicted in 2008. The Mutual Benefits trial will entail about five million documents, 1,600 exhibits and potentially hundreds of witnesses.
Assistant U.S. Attorney
"It is my sense the defendant, in his mind, will never be ready for trial," Rochlin told Scola. "And I will submit to the court that this is not acceptable."
Steinger and a one-time Mutual Benefits lawyer,
The once high-flying company sold
In a factual statement filed with his plea agreement,
"Investors were falsely told by [Steiner] ... and by others that as many as 80 percent of all MBC policies matured on time or early," according to the statement filed in court.
Steiner "and others represented that life expectancies on MBC policies were determined by qualified and independent medical doctors who evaluated the health of the insured and spoke or consulted with the insured's treating physician," the statement said.
The statement noted that a doctor named
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