Man who masterminded fraud sentenced to more than 8 years

January 27, 1998|By Michael James | Michael James,SUN STAFF

Martin Bramson, the Columbia resident who masterminded one of the nation's largest insurance fraud schemes, was sentenced by a New Jersey judge to more than eight years in federal prison yesterday.

Bramson, 52, who faces additional prison time when he is sentenced Feb. 11 in Maryland, ran a giant con game with two of his relatives that swindled thousands of doctors and others in 48 states. The scheme bilked victims of more than $12 million and laundered the money in 588 banks around the world.

Yesterday, Judge Garrett E. Brown Jr. in U.S. District Court in Trenton sentenced Bramson to 97 months in prison followed by three years of supervised release. Bramson has agreed as part of his plea agreements in Maryland and New Jersey to cooperate with authorities in the search for other money that might remain in overseas accounts.

The New Jersey sentence related to Bramson's attempt in the fall of 1990 to transfer $348,000 from a Dean Witter account in the United States to New World Bank Ltd. in Zurich, Switzerland, Assistant U.S. Attorney Timothy J. McInnis said.

Off-shore accounts

Wire transfers and off-shore bank accounts were essential elements of the scheme, according to federal court documents.

Martin Bramson, his brother Leonard and father, Norman -- all of whom pleaded guilty in the scheme -- offered bargain-priced malpractice insurance but rarely paid claims.

Premiums paid by doctors, nurses and others were typically sent by the Bramsons to banks in such countries as Panama, the Cayman Islands, Israel and Belgium, prosecutors said.

The purpose was to hide the funds from authorities and policyholders, hundreds of whom filed claims when the scheme began to unravel in the early 1990s, prosecutors said.

Caught by border patrol

Martin Bramson became a fugitive in 1991, at one point opening a bar in Ensenada, Mexico, under an assumed name.

He was captured in January 1995 in the tiny European nation of Liechtenstein, where a border patrol caught him trying to enter the country with $4.8 million in gold and Swiss francs in his car.

After a long extradition battle, Bramson was returned to the United States last year, but the money and gold remains tied up in Liechtenstein courts.

Attorneys representing the swindled doctors are pursuing civil action in Liechtenstein to get the money back.

Bramson told the judge yesterday that he was sorry and asked to be sent to a prison in the southwestern United States, so that he could be close to Mexico and a woman he met there, whom he described as his wife.

James A. Gordon, who heads a Maryland company appointed by a Maryland judge to recover money that the Bramsons bilked from clients, said Bramson is believed to have met the woman while on the run in Mexico. Bramson, while a fugitive in Europe, paid for the woman and her two children to live in an apartment in Luxembourg, Gordon said.

Pub Date: 1/27/98

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