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Manager and Up to $3 Billion Missing

Securities: Clients of unlicensed brokerage included a dozen small insurance companies.

June 23, 1999|From Associated Press

GREENWICH, Conn. — A money manager has vanished with as much as $3 billion in clients' money, leaving behind a things-to-do list (item No. 1: "Launder money") and astrological charts designed to answer such pressing questions as "Will I go to prison?"

Martin Frankel, 44, has not been seen since May 5, when an automatic alarm called firefighters to his high-security mansion. There they found a blazing file cabinet and two fireplaces stuffed with burning documents.

Last month, insurance company regulators said Frankel's unlicensed brokerage--apparently run out of the mansion--had siphoned off money from a dozen small insurance companies in five states. The companies, based in Mississippi, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Missouri and Arkansas, were placed in receivership when they were unable to account for assets invested with Frankel's Liberty National Securities Inc.

Regulators said the insurers are missing at least $218 million, but a lawsuit filed by some of the companies put the loss at $915 million. Also missing is as much as $1.98 billion from the St. Francis of Assisi Foundation, which was established by Frankel in the British Virgin Islands last August. It was supposedly a charity to help sick children, but investigators suspect it was only a front for fraud.

A federal grand jury in Bridgeport, Conn., has been investigating Frankel since mid-May, the Greenwich Time reported last month. A sealed warrant has been issued for his arrest, the New York Daily News reported Tuesday, citing unidentified law enforcement sources.

Among the papers seized after the fire was a handwritten list of tasks, the first of which was "Launder money." The second item on the list: "Get $ to Israel get it back in," according to a May 25 FBI affidavit. Also seized, according to the affidavit, were personalized astrological charts answering such questions as: "Will I go to prison?" "Should I leave?" and "Will I be safe?" The affidavit does not indicate what the stars held for him.

In the months before the fire, Frankel spent more than $1 million on shopping sprees at Baccarat, Tiffany and Gianni Versace and trips to Rome, Geneva and London, according to financial records obtained by the Time.

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