Apparently the prospect of testifying under oath held little appeal for Steckel. Within hours Hague and Steckel agreed to a plea bargain in which the state would drop the armed burglary charge and Lisa would plead guilty to second-degree theft. She was sentenced to a year's probation and ordered to turn over to Steckel the $3000 insurance check she was scheduled to receive from the burglary of her house. After seven weeks in jail, Lisa was released.

"I was happy she was out of jail," Driscoll says. "That's what she wanted, and as her attorney that's what she wanted me to do for her, and so that's what I did. I think she probably should have fought the case. She took the deal to get out of jail. Personally, I don't think she was guilty of anything except being in the wrong place at the wrong time with the wrong person."

A.V., who also had hired a new attorney, struck his own deal this past August, after seven months in jail. He pleaded guilty to a reduced charge of theft and was given five years' probation. As part of the bargain, he owes Steckel $25,000 in addition to the $6000 in cash he relinquished shortly after his arrest. A.V. also abandoned any claim to the Nissan 300-ZX. (The car is now in Steckel's possession. The attorney says he received a court order allowing him to retrieve it, but prosecutor Hague claims not to know how Steckel got the vehicle, and the judge refuses to discuss the case. The 300-ZX's titled owner -- A.V.'s friend Ronald Speers -- says he wants the car. Barring that he wants its value deducted from the $25,000 A.V. owes Steckel.)

And what of the missing files, some of which were reportedly labeled "Gersten"? Steckel vehemently denies that any of them concerned ex-county commissioner Joe Gersten. The files, he says, contained original accounting and legal papers that would be difficult, if not impossible, to replace.

That explanation evidently hasn't deflected the interest of another group of law enforcement officials. Investigators from the U.S. Attorney's Office reportedly have contacted a number of people involved in the Steckel case. Both Lisa and A.V. say they have been questioned. Public defender Suzanne Driscoll also confirms she was approached by and discussed the case with federal authorities -- the same investigators who for months have been probing Joe Gersten's conduct during his tenure as a county commissioner.

Though the U.S. Attorney's Office will not comment, it is apparent that some sort of investigation concerning Steckel's case -- by some agency -- has been under way for several months. Prosecutor Andy Hague will only say the case file has been "well traveled." Chief Assistant State Attorney Kathleen Hogue refuses comment except to acknowledge the existence of an extortion investigation. The principals themselves are no more specific. Simon Steckel will not comment. Glass says he is unaware of any interest on the part of the U.S. Attorney's Office, but he suspects the State Attorney's Office is still in pursuit. "I've heard they were looking at me," he says. "They think somehow I've got Simon's missing papers or his money and I was controlling the situation. I offered to take a lie-detector test."

One aspect of Glass's involvement that could be subject to scrutiny is the matter of his fees. In many of his recorded conversations with Steckel, Glass insisted he had never been paid a dime as part of the case. But A.V. has told authorities that in fact Glass received at least $10,000 of the stolen money as a retainer to defend Lisa and Melissa after their arrest. The cash, A.V. says, was delivered by Wacko's brother-in-law. Glass flatly denies the allegation and is quick to direct attention elsewhere. "I heard they were looking into Simon," he offers. "I mean, just the idea that this guy has $50,000 in a briefcase and all that jewelry and is just walking around with it is highly unusual. That's not a normal thing."

Walking around with $50,000 in cash may not be normal, but to some people involved in the case, it was no less strange than Steckel's subsequent actions. Lisa Lobman, for example, continues to be amazed at the time and effort expended by the Miami Police Department and the State Attorney's Office. "Simon has a lot of pull," she observes. "For anyone else would they have gone to this extreme? If it was an ordinary citizen, they would have gotten a little card with the case number on it and that's it."

Prosecutor Andy Hague continues to deny that Steckel was given special treatment. "I don't think there was anything inappropriate done in this case," he says. "I was just following orders, doing what I needed to do." Hague's supervisor, Kathleen Hogue, explains the unusual nature of Steckel's participation by saying the case involved "sensitive-type things" and needed to be handled carefully.

Simon Steckel himself can only shake his head wearily. "If you think I feel like I got special treatment, you're wrong. The only thing I did was act as a catalyst to get the system to work the way I know it can work.

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