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The Pretender: How Martin Frankel Fooled the Financial World and Led the Feds on One of the Most Publicized Manhunts in History (Wall Street Journal Book) Paperback – October 2, 2002

4.0 out of 5 stars 32 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Ellen Joan Pollock's The Pretender is a biography of Martin Frankel, an unsavory financial savant whose vast illicit empire reached into very high places on two continents before collapsing with thundering suddenness. By the time of his arrest in 1999, Frankel had bilked various insurance companies out of $200 million via an elaborate (and oddly haphazard) Ponzi scheme. Pollock chronicles not only Frankel's phantom stock trades, fictional portfolios, asset skimming, and money laundering, but his mind-boggling personal extravagances--both financial and sexual. (His Greenwich, Connecticut, headquarters served both as business office and home to a shifting harem devoted to Frankel's sadomasochistic interests.) Pollock is a scrupulous writer, but for those unversed in financial subtleties, her novelistic treatment too rarely steps back to present overviews of the tangled crimes and their implications. Absent as well, finally, is any compelling psychological portrait of the bizarre and saurian Frankel. --H. O'Billovitch --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Publishers Weekly

A senior Wall Street Journal writer, Pollock (Turks and Brahmins) expands on her articles about the FBI's four-month manhunt for scam artist Martin Frankel, engagingly chronicling his journey from mama's boy to corporate mogul to international fugitive. Though he refused to grant Pollock interviews, Frankel comes to life here thanks to her exhaustive research in court documents, newspapers and Frankel's diary, plus interviews with lawyers, government and law enforcement officials, insurance executives, clergy, Frankel's girlfriends and business associates. In the 1980s, he launched the fraudulent Frankel Fund investment firm from his Toledo, Ohio, bedroom. Sued by investors in 1992, he was barred by the SEC from trading stock, but two years later undertook an intricate insurance scam from his new Greenwich, Conn., compound, where he surrounded himself with a "multitude of women." Frankel became an expert on Catholicism and St. Francis of Assisi and established a phony Catholic charity, duping priests with Vatican connections into a $55 million deal. Frankel's fiefdom crumbled in 1999 when insurance regulators became suspicious. After the eccentric embezzler fled, investigators found among his shredded and charred files an intact to-do list including a conspicuous item: "launder money." The final, suspenseful chapters track Frankel's flight across Europe and his 1999 capture at a posh Hamburg hotel. Some readers might recall the fugitive financier from the Court TV documentary House of Cards or ABC's 20/20, but Pollock's account delivers fresh, in-depth details. 16 pages of b&w photos not seen by PW. (Jan. 22)Forecast: First serial in the Wall Street Journal and a 20-city radio satellite tour will help this juicy book win respectable sales.

Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.

--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Series: Wall Street Journal Book
  • Paperback: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Free Press (October 2, 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0743204190
  • ISBN-13: 978-0743204194
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.8 x 8.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 10.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (32 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,060,903 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
This is a very good read, in many senses better than many novels on the market. Yet I ultimately found the book quite empty and deficient in explaining just HOW the scam that Frankel pulled off actually worked and who was actually harmed in the process. I was with Pollock through the early part of the book when Frankel is in Ohio, living with his parents and working at Dominick and Dominick, but then I got completely lost by Pollock's account of Frankel moving to his mansion in Greenwich, setting up Thunor trust and Franklin American. Just how did he get the resources to do all this? Pollock doesn't tell us (at least not in my reading). It is as if he just instantly became a multi-millionaire. Moreover, the actual scamming Frankel perpetuated doesn't become at all clear to this reader until page 195 where Pollock quotes the neat 4 paragraph summary of Tennessee's chief examiner. Nowhere in the book does Pollock come even close to matching the clarity of that statement and nor does she seem to spend any effort in extrapolating from the concerns articulated there. This is a pity. Certainly this is a well researched book and is probably the definitive account of the Frankel case. But in her myopic journalistic attention to details, what she leaves out is a certain analytical or critical dimension which would explain in simple terms the nature of Frankel's crimes and how they fit into broader categories and contexts of white collar crime. I was hoping in the final chapter that some of these issues might be raised by Pollock, and was disappointed when they were not. I think Pollock would have done well to answer Frankel's lament (that appears as the last paragraph in her book)..."This is just a white-collar crime. Why are they making such a big thing about it?Read more ›
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Format: Hardcover
Martin Frankel was an odd genius. In his twenties, he was still living with his parents and had only fantasies about women, not dates. He had fantasies about making millions in investments, too, and took as heroes Warren Buffet and Bill Gates. He had a truly encyclopedic knowledge of financial markets, and yet he relied on casting astrological charts to make his millions. And it is certainly true that he made his millions, and lived a geeky nerd's version of a millionaire's life. But Frankel was a genius in insurance fraud, and his huge but ephemeral fortune was built on a pyramid scheme of robbing one insurance fund to pay into another. Ellen Joan Pollock covered Frankel's scam for The Wall Street Journal, and has put together a page-turner, full of socialites, celebrity priests, custom limousines and aircraft, sadomasochistic sex, and of course the boom and bust that was Frankel's career. The Pretender: How Martin Frankel Fooled the Financial World and Led the Feds on One of the Most Publicized Manhunts in History (Wall Street Journal Books) is not an uplifting tale, but it is exciting, and lots of it is over-the-top unbelievable, except that much of the unbelievable parts come from solid, stolid, financial reportage.
For starters, Frankel would never make it as a character in a novel; he and his even temporary success are just too unlikely. He was, indeed, vastly knowledgeable about the financial world he moved into. He was good at picking successful trades. But besides being generally amoral, his great fault as a trader was an almost comic one: he could not trade. Once he had accounts and investments to make, he froze. But he must have talked a good game to get financiers interested in him, and women interested in his sadomasochistic hobbies.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This guy is a buffoon but somehow fooled many. I had heard of this case but didn't know prior to his investments in small insurance companies he had already been charged with improper handling of money and denied the ability to manage money by securities regulators.
Frankel was a shy, slight built man with minimal self-confidence. While very young, he developed an interest in the stock market and performed substantial research. Living in a small Ohio town, this took on somewhat of a mystique and people assumed he knew more than they did and would entrust him with money. Amazingly, once he had this money, he complained of "traders block" and executed very few trades. Oh well, there was still something else he could do with the money. Spend it. Amazingly, this guy parlays this Ponzi scheme into an insurance empire all the time spending the investments of the companies. It's absolutely amazing he was able to do this.
Even more bizarre, the goober then develops an interest in S&M sex. Well, since he has no social skills, he puts ads in alternative newspapers. When he meets the girls and none resemble Playmates, he quickly moves through them but keeps them on payroll. Imagine a Mormon and his wives but he isn't married and all them women want to marry him for money. What a crazy cast of characters!!!!
This book will make you want to be a thief once you see how easy it was for this idiot. The writer did an excellent research job consistent with her past as a Wall Street Journal reporter. I recommend this book if you like business "whodunits".
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