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U.S. readies for return of fugitive financier

FRANKFURT, Germany — Former fugitive financier Martin Frankel departed Germany today for the United States, where he faces dozens of state and federal charges in defrauding insurance companies in five states.

Frankel, 46, departed on a flight from Frankfurt's international airport after being transported from the northern port city of Hamburg, where he has been held since his 1999 arrest in a waterfront hotel, said border patrol spokesman Klaus Ludwig. Frankel was headed to New York.

A scheduled earlier departure was scuttled by snow in Hamburg. Because of the delay, authorities in New Haven, Conn., where Frankel is to be tried, said he would not be arraigned before Monday.

The trip home ends an odyssey that started in May 1999, with Frankel's disappearance as firefighters found a blazing filing cabinet and two fireplaces stuffed with burning documents in his Connecticut mansion.

After four months on the run, Frankel was arrested in September 1999 in Hamburg, where he has spent 18 months in jail. In a failed escape attempt Tuesday evening, the Toledo, Ohio, native was caught trying to saw through his cell window bars with a small wire with the help of a fellow inmate.

German authorities agreed in December to extradite him after he was eligible for parole as soon as he had served half his three-year sentence here on charges of using fake passports and tax evasion.

Insurance regulators in Arkansas, Mississippi, Missouri, Oklahoma and Tennessee are seeking more than $600 million in damages against Frankel, who is accused of bilking insurance companies out of about $200 million.

Frankel has said he wanted to stay in Germany, but his appeal on the German charges failed.

"Obviously, I'd rather stay in Germany," Frankel said during a court hearing last summer.

In the only media interview he's given since his arrest, Frankel said he wanted to make money to help the problem of world hunger.