Insurer is said to be target of grand jury probe

September 18, 1991|By Peter H. Frank B

A federal grand jury in Baltimore is hearing evidence about an insurance operation that prosecutors contend is partly controlled by two Columbia businessmen indicted last week in New Jersey on charges of mail and wire fraud, money-laundering and attempted extortion, according to an attorney for one of the defendants.

The grand jury is believed to be considering charges similar to those handed up last Wednesday by a federal grand jury in Newark, N.J., said Joseph P. Kennedy, a lawyer for Martin A. Bramson.

Martin Bramson, his brother, Leonard A. Bramson, and an Ellicott City insurance broker, Warren H. Berkle Jr., who worked closely with the Bramsons, were charged last week with committing fraud and laundering money while illegally operating an insurance company, Preferred Indemnity Insurance Co.

The Bramsons, who each face fines of more than $9 million and more than 180 years in prison, were also charged with attempted extortion by threatening a company's officials who bought insurance policies for an association of 60,000 nurses nationwide.

In addition to the New Jersey indictment, a separate lawsuit was filed by the U.S. attorney's office in Baltimore late last Wednesday freezing assets related to the operation allegedly controlled by the Bramsons and a lawyer, Dennis Simon.

The complaint alleges that the Bramsons controlled an insurance operation based in Columbia that sold millions of dollars in fraudulent insurance policies to thousands of physicians and other health-care professionals. Also named in the lawsuit were the two brothers' father, Norman Bramson, and their siblings, Ronald Bramson, Carl Bramson and Phyllis Bramson Marin.

Although the U.S. attorney's office here declined to discuss the Maryland probe yesterday, Mr. Kennedy said that he assumed the grand jury was considering "similar things" to the action taken in New Jersey.

Ms. Marin was interviewed by the Baltimore grand jury yesterday morning, he said.

"It's fair to say insurance companies do not limit themselves to write policies in just one state," Mr. Kennedy said. He said the grand jury here was likely considering similar indictments "if, in fact, you have an insurance company that is not following the rules," as prosecutors contend.

Mr. Kennedy disclosed the existence of the Baltimore grand jury in federal court yesterday while arguing for the release of Martin Bramson, pending a trial on the New Jersey charges .

U.S. Magistrate Catherine C. Blake ordered Martin Bramson's release on the condition that he put up a $250,000 bond and consent to an electronic home-monitoring system.

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