Cooperating gets Frankel 16-year term

 Judge's ruling ends what may be last appearance in a Williamson County court

The Tennesean
December 14, 2005
Posted December 19, 2005

FRANKLIN Martin Frankel, the mastermind behind an international scheme to steal more than $200 million from a Franklin-based family of insurance companies, made what will probably be his last appearance in a Williamson County courtroom yesterday.

Wearing thick glasses, an orange jump suit and sporting a long, graying beard, Frankel walked out of the courtroom facing no additional prison time than he did coming in.

Williamson County Judge Jeff Bivins sentenced Frankel to 16 years in prison. But, as part of an agreement with local and federal prosecutors, the sentence will run concurrently with a federal sentence of approximately 17 years.

The deal involved prosecutors in Tennessee, Mississippi, Connecticut and Arkansas agreeing to recommend equal sentences if Frankel cooperated in the recovery of assets looted from insurance companies and stakeholders in those states.

Frankel, 50, spent nearly six weeks at the Williamson County Jail, where he was interviewed by state officials hoping to recover some of those assets. Attorney Graham Matherne, who represented the Tennessee Department of Commerce and Insurance, told Bivins that Frankel had been helpful.

"He answered our questions in relation to matters of asset recovery," Graham said. "We've recovered tens of millions of dollars already as a multi-state effort. We are currently suing people to recover more assets."

Bivins had postponed sentencing last month because he wanted to make sure that Frankel would cooperate with local authorities.

"If this was to go to trial, it would be expensive to the taxpayers of this state," Bivins said. "If the court was to decide not to honor the agreement, it could impact future situations in (Frankel) cooperating with other states and on federal issues."

In August 2002, Frankel pleaded guilty to 10 counts of theft over $60,000 in Williamson County. Frankel admitted that he gained control of several insurance companies and then looted their reserves. He was aided by former Franklin businessman John Hackney and Nashville lawyer John Jordan, who both pleaded guilty to racketeering, conspiracy and money laundering charges.

Hackney joined Frankel in 1991 and became the sole trustee in Thunor Trust and president of Franklin American Corp., a key vehicle used to acquire several Southern insurers. Jordan was the attorney for the insurance companies and helped set up the trust.

Gary Atnip, of Brentwood, was chief financial officer for the venture. Atnip plead guilty to computer fraud.

Federal prosecutors said Frankel, who spent 13 years in college and never earned a degree, was motivated by greed and lust for the high life: a mansion in Greenwich, Conn., fancy cars, diamonds and women.

In 1999, Frankel triggered an international manhunt when he disappeared from his Greenwich mansion. He was arrested four months later in Germany and transferred back to the United States.

District Attorney Ron Davis, lead prosecutor in Williamson County, said Frankel won't have to return to Tennessee for any more hearings.

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