Md. fugitive is arrested in Europe

January 21, 1995|By Michael James | Michael James,Sun Staff Writer

A Maryland fugitive suspected of bilking nearly $10 million from doctors in a phony insurance scheme was arrested this week at a European border patrol, where Liechtenstein police seized a small fortune in gold bullion and Swiss francs he was carrying, federal prosecutors said yesterday.

Martin Bramson, 47, who has dodged authorities worldwide for more than three years, was arrested Thursday with a male friend at the Liechtenstein-Austrian border and is now awaiting extradition back to the United States, authorities said.

He and members of his family -- some of whom hold medical and law degrees -- are alleged to have run one of the nation's largest insurance fraud schemes.

"It was very fortuitous that we caught him. Frankly, all our leads had gone cold since he took off three years ago. It's not like we were hot on his trail," said Gary P. Jordan, an assistant U.S. attorney for Maryland.

Mr. Jordan said details of the arrest were still sketchy, and it is unclear what Mr. Bramson had been doing in Europe, or where he's been the last several years. Liechtenstein police may have captured him when he tried to cross the border under his own name, Mr. Jordan said.

State prosecutors are trying to determine whether they will go after the valuables Mr. Bramson had with him at the border -- 4 kilograms of gold, worth $54,000, and several million in Swiss francs. He is charged with money laundering, mail fraud, wire fraud and conspiracy.

Mr. Bramson, a former pharmacist and law school graduate, had been on Interpol's list of wanted persons since shortly after his disappearance from Maryland in October 1991. He fled from his Columbia home, where he was under house arrest following his indictment on charges of bilking doctors in New Jersey.

The insurance scheme -- which prosecutors say was run by Martin Bramson, his father Norman, and his brother Leonard -- targeted physicians nationwide by offering below-market premium malpractice rates to high-risk doctors. Prosecutors said they primarily operated the unlicensed business out of their luxury condominiums in Columbia between 1980 and 1991.

Prosecutors allege that the Bramsons, using clever methods of deception that utilized aliases, call forwarding, mail drops and elusive bank accounts, used the unlicensed business to finance a seemingly never-ending desire for wealth.

But their insurance companies, known by such names as International Bahamian and Trans-Pacific, never paid major claims, prosecutors alleged.

When a malpractice claim came in against a Bramson-insured doctor, the claim was defended only to the extent of the doctor's $5,000 deductible and a $5,000 surcharge, prosecutors said. If the defense of the claim exceeded those amounts, prosecutors alleged, the Bramson company would attempt to deny coverage, delay paying, or, in some instances, dissolve the company and start again under a different name.

Money collected through the companies was laundered through more than 240 banks in Europe, Canada and the Caribbean, authorities said. About $5 million has been recovered, but millions remain unaccounted for.

The arrest of Martin Bramson wraps up an intricate worldwide search for the wanted Bramson family members.

Norman Bramson, 70, an optometrist who became a Fuller Brush salesman because he thought more money could be made in sales, was convicted in December 1993. He had eluded authorities for two years but was arrested after acquaintances in a swanky oceanfront home in La Jolla, Calif., where he was living, saw him profiled on the television program "America's Most Wanted."

Leonard Bramson was sentenced to nine years in prison in July 1994.

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