GREENWICH, Conn. - In a fairy-tale setting of rambling Victorian estates owned by some of America's wealthiest families, the stone mansion on the top of the hill is modest by local standards.
“Not opulent by any means,” says a local real estate agent.
But when the $3 million house is put up for auction in two weeks, it will be the last link to a crime spree concocted by the town's most famous white-collar criminal: Marty Frankel.
For most of the 1990s, the two-story residence is where the Toledo native entertained girlfriends and conducted his business affairs: bilking insurance companies in excess of $200 million, says the FBI.
Seized by federal agents in 1999, the 16-room mansion in the “backcountry” area of Greenwich will be sold to the high bidder on Jan. 23.
“There's no doubt, it has a unique history,” says George Richards, president of National Auction Co., which is selling the home. “I'm not sure I've run across anything this bizarre.”
Now in a Rhode Island prison after pleading guilty to racketeering and conspiracy, Frankel began renting the home in 1993 during the peak of his crime spree, says the FBI. He bought the estate five years later for $3 million. Also to be offered at the auction is a mansion across the street that Frankel bought for his girlfriends for $2.6 million in early 1999.
Each house sits on its own four-acre spread in the backcountry of Greenwich, a scenic stretch of real estate where some mansions have sold for more than $10 million, say local agents. Some of the past and present residents include Leona Helmsley and the Vanderbilts.
“It's an unbelievable setting,” said Mr. Richards, a Florida auctioneer who conducts events throughout the country. “Wooded, private, and one of the prettiest places I've never been.”
For the past year, Mr. Richards' company has been cleaning and readying the homes for the auction, to be at the Hyatt Regency in Greenwich.
The auctioneer said he expects the notoriety of the estates to draw some people, but the values of the homes will not be affected.
“If you look at the area, the woods, the privacy, you're not going to be thinking of the [crimes] there,” he said.
One of the challenges he faced was cleaning the home from the fires that were intentionally set to destroy records after Frankel fled to Europe on May 5, 1999. In the home, police found Frankel's astrology charts with the questions: “Will I get caught?” and “Will I be safe?”
“They were mostly superficial burns” in the kitchen and den, he said. “We cleaned the carpets.”
He also found 30 computer monitors set up in the sunken living room where the self-styled stock guru monitored the stock market.
“They were still sitting on these folding tables that Frankel got from his mother's house in Toledo,” said Mr. Richards.
During Frankel's residency, the house was secured by a private army of guards, surveillance cameras, and six-foot stone walls, said Robert Randolph, 40, a chef at the mansion in 1998. “It was a strange place.”
Screaming matches between employees, X-rated movies, and a harem of girlfriends traipsing in and out of the home were part of the scene, he said. “I'll never forget that place as long as I live,” he said.
The large house features six bedrooms, 51/2 bathrooms, a library, skylights, pool, sauna, and a three-car garage. The other mansion includes five bedrooms and five bathrooms, a pool, a wet bar, and a winding staircase. The public will be invited to view the homes in the week leading up to the auction.
Each bidder will be required to submit a certified check for $200,000, said Mr. Richards.
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