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Cleric Pleads Guilty In Frankel Fraud

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Monsignor Emilio Colagiovanni has pleaded guilty in Hinds County Circuit Court to state criminal fraud charges, Mississippi Attorney General Mike Moore and Insurance Commissioner George Dale announced.

The charges stemmed from a state investigation of an alleged conspiracy by financier Martin Frankel to defraud policyholders of Franklin Protective Life Insurance Company, Franklin, Tenn., as well as Family Guaranty Life Insurance Company and First National Life Insurance Company of America, both in Jackson, Miss., and the Mississippi insurance department.

Colagiovanni, a former judge of the Apostolic Tribunal of Roman Rota, waived indictment and pleaded guilty to one count of making fraudulent statements and to another of taking part in a conspiracy with Martin Frankel to help Frankels plan to plunder the insurance companies of their assets.

Frankel pleaded guilty to state charges of conspiracy and fraud on May 24 in a plea bargain. Other colleagues of his made their own plea bargains with prosecutors last year.

Federal charges are still pending against Frankel in New Haven, Conn.

Colagiovanni, an Italian national, was president of the Monitor Ecclesiasticus Foundation, in Rome, Italy. Prosecutors says Colagiovanni made fraudulent statements to Mississippi regulators supporting Frankels contention that the MEF had financial ties to the Saint Francis of Assisi Foundation, an entity allegedly created by Frankel to help hide his acquisition of the insurance companies.

According to court documents, in 1998 and 1999, Colagiovanni helped hide Frankels control of the SFAF and made false statements to state regulators that funds had been transferred from the Vatican through the MEF to the SFAF to use in buying the insurance companies.

Prosecutors charged that Frankel wanted to channel $55 million through the MEF to his own foundation. They said Colagiovanni also arranged for Frankel to use an account at the Vatican Bank in the name of the MEF to use funds to acquire United States insurance companies.

Prosecutors charged that Colagiovanni agreed with Frankel to falsely represent to state regulators that the SFAF received its funding through the MEF from numerous Roman Catholic tribunals and Roman Catholic charitable and cultural institutions. However, Colagiovanni knew that the SFAF was not funded by the Roman Catholic charities and tribunals, prosecutors charged.

The Mississippi insurance department began to discover missing assets during its financial examinations of two of the companies in 1998 and 1999. Commissioner Dale placed First National Life Insurance Company of America, Family Guaranty Life Insurance Company and Franklin Protective Life Insurance Company under administrative supervision from April 1999. In May, the DOI found all the insurers assets had been stolen.

After Mississippi regulators began investigating the scheme, Frankel fled to Europe, but was later captured and extradited to the U.S. from Germany.

The conspiracy charge carries a maximum penalty of five years in prison and a $5,000 fine, while the fraud charge carries a maximum of five years and a $10,000 fine.

However, sentencing against Colagiovanni was deferred.

“Colagiovannis plea agreement with the State of Mississippi requires his full cooperation with the ongoing criminal investigation concerning his co-conspirators as well as his cooperation with efforts by the Attorney Generals office and the [insurance company] receivers to recover assets Frankel stole,” says state Special Assistant Attorney General Carla Clark.

Reproduced from National Underwriter Life & Health/Financial Services Edition, September 16, 2002. Copyright 2002 by The National Underwriter Company in the serial publication. All rights reserved.Copyright in this article as an independent work may be held by the author.