Greed and sexual desire drove Martin Frankel to mastermind one of the largest insurance frauds in U.S. history, a federal judge heard on Friday as she sentenced him to nearly 17 years in prison.
Once the target of a worldwide manhunt, the Connecticut financier pleaded guilty in May 2002 to racketeering, conspiracy, wire fraud and securities fraud after he bilked insurance firms in five states out of more than $200 million.
Frankel could have faced up to 150 years in prison and some $6.5 million in fines, but federal prosecutors sought a lesser sentence in exchange for his pledge to cooperate with attempts to recover the money he stole. Authorities have so far recovered at least $60 million, federal prosecutors said.
A native of Toledo, Ohio, Frankel was arrested in a Hamburg hotel room in September 1999 after a worldwide manhunt. Authorities began searching for him when he vanished shortly before a fire destroyed business documents in his Greenwich, Connecticut, mansion.
Prosecutors said Frankel amassed tens of millions of dollars in cash, gold, diamonds and property — all of which he used to support an extravagant lifestyle complete with mansions, luxury cars, bodyguards and mistresses.
During a sentencing hearing on Friday, U.S. District Judge Ellen Burns ordered the convicted financier imprisoned for 200 months, or just under 17 years. He has been in jail since his arrest and will get credit for time served.
At the hearing, psychiatrist Catherine Lewis testified she had interviewed Frankel for 12 hours and agreed with prosecutors that “greed, sexual desire and the need for a luxurious lifestyle” drove Frankel to his criminal behavior.
Later, a disheveled-looking Frankel took the stand for a rambling 75-minute monologue — occasionally interrupted by Burns — in which he blamed his crimes in part on weak will.
“If I could go back, I would not have done any of this. I didn’t have the courage or the guts to stand up to people,” he said. “I thought I could swim with the sharks but look at the damage I’ve caused.”
U.S. Attorney Kevin O’Connor said that while Frankel showed remorse, he was “15 years and $200 million too late.”