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Published: Saturday, 12/2/2000

Deal expected to return Frankel to Mississippi

BLADE STAFF AND WIRE REPORTS

JACKSON, Miss. - Despite vowing to live his days in a German prison, Marty Frankel may be extradited to Mississippi to face charges of fleecing three insurance companies here of $200 million.

The 45-year-old Toledo native could be released from a Hamburg prison and turned over to state officials in an agreement between Mississippi law enforcement officials and German authorities, Mississippi Attorney General Mike Moore said in a statement yesterday. State officials are unclear about when Frankel could be returned.

If the ex-stockbroker is released to state officials, it would supercede a request by federal prosecutors to try him in this country on 36 counts of fraud, racketeering, and money laundering.

Facing similar charges in Mississippi - with the prospect of serving jail time in a state prison - is one of the former fugitive's worst fears, said a woman who spent the last 72 days with him before he was arrested.

“He talked about that a lot and how much it scared him,'' Cynthia Allison said in an interview with The Blade this year. “He used to say a federal prison was better than being sent to a state prison.''

Over the last year, Frankel has been fighting extradition attempts to send him to the United States, saying any criminal justice experience here would be tantamount to a death sentence.

He was arrested in a Hamburg hotel suite in September, 1999, after leading the FBI on an international manhunt through several countries, including Italy, France, and Germany. He escaped to Europe in May, 1999, after he was ordered by Mississippi insurance officials to return more than $160 million of the cash reserves of his insurance firms to a state bank there.

The money did not belong to Frankel, but to the policy holders of three life and burial insurance companies under his control. Instead of returning the money, he and two female companions left on a private jet for Italy.

Though he was indicted in October, 1999, by a federal grand jury in Connecticut, where he had been living, he was also charged by Mississippi authorities for the same crimes there. He owned seven insurance firms, with the three largest incorporated in Jackson, Miss.

State officials here vowed to extradite him if federal officials were unsuccessful. “We had been trying to extradite him for some time,'' said Shepard Montgomery, a spokesman for the state insurance office.

Lee Harrell of the attorney general's office said last night that the question now is how soon officials can bring Frankel back.

“It's my understanding that we're negotiating on whether we can bring him back before he finishes the rest of his sentence there, which is about two more years. We just don't know now when he can be extradited,” Mr. Harrell said.

“We're not going to wait around [for the federal government]. We'd like to show him some Southern hospitality.''

Born in a well-known, middle-class Toledo family, Frankel is accused of fleecing funds from insurance companies in other states, including Arkansas, Missouri, Oklahoma, and Tennessee. Regulators in those states are seeking more than $600 million in damages from Frankel.

When he was arrested last year, police found two British and seven Greek passports in his room and millions in diamonds that he had brought into the country without declaring them.

Frankel's quest to stay in Germany was hurt last month when Germany's Federal Court of Justice rejected his appeal of a three-year sentence for diamond smuggling and of possessing fake passports.



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