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EXCLUSIVE — Disgraced Ex-State Rep, Lawyer Steve Effman Accused Of Sexual Harassment — 17 Years After Sex Scandal!

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EXCLUSIVE — Disgraced Ex-State Rep, Lawyer Steve Effman Accused Of Sexual Harassment — 17 Years After Sex Scandal!

Steve Effman accuser Catherine Benjamin

New Steve Effman accuser Catherine Benjamin: He grabbed by boobs! (Special to Gossip Extra)

PLANTATION — Seventeen years ago, Steve Effman admitted he allowed vulnerable women going through traumatic divorces to pay him in sex.

The scandal cost him a high position in the Democratic Party, his seat in the Florida House of Representatives and, for 91 days, his law license.

But in an area where institutional memory extends just a couple years, Effman managed to rebuild a successful law practice — but the old demons have popped back up with allegations he grabbed a client’s breasts under her tank top in November at his office.

The husband of West Broward Democratic Club President Barbara Effman, Steve says he didn’t do it, and the woman is taking advantage of a dispute over his $3,600 fees to make him look bad.

Mom of three Catherine Benjamin, 43, acknowledges it’s her word against his.

But she has filed police, state attorney and bar association complaints that allege that, on a Sunday last November, she was in Effman’s law office to pick up paperwork pertaining to her contentious divorce when Effman touched her inappropriately.

“I felt really uncomfortable from the start that day,” Benjamin tells Gossip Extra. “It was on a Sunday and there was no one in the whole building except for us.”

Benjamin says she was picking up her file because she was unable to pay Effman’s $10,000 retainer for an upcoming custody trial and planned on representing herself. Benjamin was at risk of losing her kids because her then-husband alleged drug and alcohol abuse. We checked her criminal record and found no drug or booze-related arrest.

Steve Effman

Former Florida State Representative Steve Effman is the target of familiar accusations (Facebook photo)

“I told him I was all stressed out and he started talking about how sex would be good for me and whether I have sex often with my boyfriend,” Benjamin claims. “I got up to leave and he stood up and gave me a hug. When I turned to walk away, he started massaging my shoulders and suddenly slipped his hand under my tank top and bra. And he just grabbed my boobs.

“I just walked away fast and when I tried to open the door of his office, it was locked. I got really scared but he opened it and I walked out.”

Getting Paid

Because she didn’t have to money to hire anyone else, Benjamin said, she kept the lines of communications with Effman open and didn’t file complaints immediately. He kept, she said, giving her small pointers to help her navigate the December 2016 trial.

And eventually, she won joint custody of the children.

Steve Effman accuser Catherine Benjamin

Steve Effman accuser Catherine Benjamin (Special to Gossip Extra)

Earlier this year, records show, Effman started filing motion after motion with the court to get paid for work he’d done on the case earlier.

He was owed, he claimed, $3,600 and, eventually, Benjamin paid him in August under the threat of two weeks in jail.

During one of the hearings over Effman’s fee, Broward County Family Judge Andrea Ruth Gundersen dismissed outright Benjamin’s claim she was harassed by Effman.

“I said to myself ‘I’ll be damned if I pay that guy after what he did,'” Benjamin said. “When I brought up that fact Steve put his hands on me, the judge started screaming at me.”

We called Gundersen’s office for comment but the judge is ignoring the calls.

Ultimately, Benjamin said she went to her dad for the money and was able to pay, and stay out of jail.

Effman, meanwhile, said today Benjamin was trying to take advantage of his history to weasel out of paying him.

“Her allegations are completely false,” Effman said, “and they’re made in retaliation to my insistence that I get paid. I continued to give her advice despite the fact for free in a courteous, professional manner.

“I’m aware she filed a police report and took certain actions because she is clearly upset.”

Taking advantage

Effman said he has “the impression” Benjamin looked up his past troubles online and decided to use them against him.

Benjamin’s story, however, and her vulnerable position is strangely familiar to what happened with Effman back in 2000, when he was rising through the ranks of Florida’s Democratic Party.

Steve Effman

Steve Effman’s wife Barbara (left) with U.S. Congress members John Lewis and Debbie Wasserman-Schultz (Facebook photo)

Effman’s downfall was precipitated by the news his law firm made a secret $470,000 payment to a woman he represented in her custody battle.

That woman was facing the loss of her children to state custody because of drug abuse, and she was also unable to pay Effman.

According to news archives, the woman said she freely agreed to have sex with Effman in exchange for his not charging for legal fees.

But, in the end, the woman got pregnant.

Effman had her abort the baby — then charged her some money when he lost the case.

Effman resigned from the law firm he owned in partnership with other lawyers when the story appeared, and resigned his state house seat. In 2003, he admitted to Florida Bar investigators to having sex with three clients, women made vulnerable at the prospect of losing husbands and children, and he was suspended.

When asked who recommended Effman to her, Benjamin said Pembroke Pines Mayor Frank Ortis recommended Effman.

“He is a great lawyer,” Ortis said. “I used him for my own divorce. I have referred a lot of people to him.”

When asked if he knows of Effman’s background, Ortis said: “I don’t want to hear about that stuff.”

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