Lawyer indicted in credit fraud

Prosecutor says man, 64, fears `millennium problem'

February 26, 1999|By Devon Spurgeon | Devon Spurgeon,SUN STAFF

A former Justice Department lawyer and Air Force officer was indicted yesterday on 13 counts of credit card fraud.

Eugene M. Frese, a Harvard graduate and high-ranking Republican political appointee was arrested at his companion's Edgewater home amid a stockpile of money, food, weapons and credit cards. At his detention hearing three weeks ago, prosecutors said that Frese was afraid chaos would reign at the end of the year.

"We have information that leads us to believe he is preoccupied with the millennium problem," said Assistant U.S. Attorney Lisa Griffin.

So preoccupied, she said, that he amassed cash, gold bars, gems and coins for bartering in case the American currency and banking systems fail. Postal inspectors found more than $10,000 in cash and traveler's checks and $38,000 in government bonds. Griffin did not know whether Frese used the credit cards to amass the goods.

They also found ammunition for an AK-47, knives, machetes and 38 handguns and rifles in a filing cabinet.

The indictment claims that Frese opened credit card accounts in the name of friends, lovers and former clients, dead and alive. The cards represent more than a half-million dollars in credit.

Frese, 64, rose to top levels at the Justice Department, served as chief counsel at the Commerce Department's Office of Foreign Direct Investments and mediated federal labor disputes from 1971 to 1973.

He is awaiting arraignment in Maryland Maximum Security Penitentiary in Baltimore, where he was moved after accusing inmates at the Baltimore City Detention Center of trying to steal his gold Harvard Law School class ring.

Frese was born in Omaha, Neb., to an electric motor repairman and a homemaker, according to friends and relatives. His father opened his repair shop up to homeless people in the community. His sister lives in Nebraska; his brother, a former gun dealer, is now in Virginia, studying to be an ordained minister.

Frese graduated with honors from the University of Omaha with a degree in political science in 1955.

After graduating from Harvard Law School in 1959, he spent three years as a judge advocate officer in the Air Force, serving primarily in Asia. In his free time, he traveled and studied the political systems of other nations.

Frese returned to Omaha in 1962 to join a law firm. He ran unsuccessfully for the city school board and then for City Council in 1965.

During the campaign for City Council, Frese told the Omaha World-Herald that the city "deserves a government in which it can have confidence and respect" and the only "the best possible people" should take part.

Frese was soundly defeated for City Council. The man who beat him, Robert Cunningham, now 75, appraised him this way: "He sounded competent and got 33,000 votes."

Frese next took a position as the top aide to the newly elected Omaha Mayor Al V. Sorenson. Frese represented the mayor at city functions.

"He was a very bright, attractive, handsome young man," said Mary Galligan Cornet, the Omaha city clerk for 42 years. "He was a New Frontier type."

In 1969, Frese was appointed to the Justice Department, where he worked in Washington in the Law Enforcement Assistance Administration as a liaison to other government agencies and Congress. He became general counsel to the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service in 1971.

Two years later, he was appointed chief counsel at the Commerce Department's Office of Foreign Direct Investments. He left government service 1973 and opened a law office in Washington. He is a member in good standing, with no disciplinary actions pending, of the D.C. Bar Association.

After 38 years in the military, Frese retired in 1994, though he continued to practice law and organized an international university in Germany, his attorney said.

At the Justice Department, he met Roberta Dorn, who works in the Juvenile Justice Division. They have lived together for the past four years.

One of the fraudulent credit accounts he is charged with opening is under the name Robert Dorn and carries a $12,000 credit line.

Dorn told prosecutors she was unaware of his activities, although she did become concerned after finding a loaded handgun under his pillow.

"I was appalled," she testified at Frese's detention hearing earlier this month. "I believed he was in some sort of private business."

The two have lived in Edgewater for the past two years. When they moved into the home at the end of a cul-de-sac, they erected a tall wooden fence and moved their mailbox to an empty field down the road, upsetting neighbors and postal officials.

Dorn testified at the detention hearing that Frese "doesn't like gloomy days" and suffers from seasonal affective disorder.

Prosecutors said they think Frese was planning to use credit to fund a move to Israel and the purchase of a condominium. If convicted of the charges they have brought, he could spend 25 years in prison.

"He is not that kind of person. He loves his country so much and trusts the justice system," said Dr. Icgoren Ayten, a friend.

He allegedly opened credit card accounts using her daughter's name.

Pub Date: 2/26/99

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