Tuesday, May 22, 2001

Accused financier says role exaggerated

Claims fraud scheme the work of others

The Associated Press

        TOLEDO, Ohio — Financier Martin Frankel says he was not the mastermind behind an alleged $200 million insurance fraud and that more powerful people were involved.

        In an audiotape released by a friend, Mr. Frankel said from his cell in a Connecticut federal prison that he never “set out to steal money from other people.”

        Mr. Frankel, 46, has pleaded innocent to charges of racketeering, fraud and money laundering and is awaiting trial. He has given just one interview since his arrest in Germany in September 1999 after a four-month search.

        He is accused of gaining control of six small insurance companies in five states — Arkansas, Mississippi, Missouri, Oklahoma and Tennessee — and stealing cash from the company reserves during the 1990s.

Oil money
               Mr. Frankel said his role in the case has been exaggerated and that it was Texas oil money that helped him buy his first insurance company.

        “What I did was make many mistakes,” Mr. Frankel said. “I still in my heart hold out hope that somewhere along the way one of these people is going to be human.”

        Mr. Frankel, a native of Toledo, fled the United States in May 1999. Four months later, he was found at a hotel in Hamburg, Germany, allegedly with nine fake passports and 547 diamonds. He was returned to the United States earlier this year.

        His lawyer, Jeremiah Donovan, was surprised that he allowed the audio tape to be released.

        The tape came from conversations Mr. Frankel had in March and April with George Windau, a friend from his hometown. Mr. Windau released the tape to WBGU-FM in Bowling Green with Mr. Frankel's permission. The station aired the tape recently.

        At times, Mr. Frankel spoke about possible plea deals.

        “This is the way people talk in prison,” Mr. Donovan told The Blade for a story Sunday. “They get depressed. They get sad. I have enormous sympathy for Marty.”

        In the conversations, Mr. Frankel insisted that he is broke and not hiding any money. He did not mention the money he is accused of stealing or the others who have been indicted in the case.

        Mr. Frankel complained about his jail cell, saying he has few books to read and no television. He said he has received hate mail and anti-Semitic threats.

No escape
               Mr. Frankel also denied trying to saw through his cell window bars in a Hamburg jail where he spent 18 months after being captured.

        While Mr. Windau spoke with Mr. Frankel, he told him that he wanted to help his friend with his image. “I know him as a person,” Mr. Windau said. “You know him as a cartoon character. You know him as Darth Vader of the financial world.”


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