Frankel’s diamonds fetch nearly $9 million at government auction

A cache of 822 diamonds seized from fugitive financier Martin Frankel sold for nearly $9 million during an auction intended to provide restitution to the victims of his schemes, officials said yesterday.

Hundreds of bidders ranging from retailers to suitors seeking a deal on an engagement ring gathered at the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center in New York City for the two-day diamond auction held Dec. 8 and 9—the largest ever held by the U.S. Treasury Department, The Associated Press reports.

The biggest gem on sale, a 15.67-ct. round brilliant diamond as big as a nickel, sold for $297,500 to an Internet bidder. The other diamonds were mainly loose gems, with a few rings and one pair of earrings.

Shaun Haacke of San Jose, Calif., reportedly said he paid $3,400 for a 0.85-ct. diamond to give to his fiancée. “That’s a thousand less than I was willing to pay,” he said. “As soon as it’s set, I’ll propose.”

Prosecutors said Frankel looted more than $200 million from insurance companies that mostly sold funeral policies to the poor. He was arrested in Germany after disappearing from his Connecticut mansion in 1999, triggering an international manhunt.

Frankel, 50, pleaded guilty to fraud and racketeering in 2002. A federal judge in a New Haven, Conn. Court on Dec. 10 sentenced the onetime fugitive financier to more than 16 years in prison for devising a plot to cheat insurance companies out of $200 million to pay for his luxurious lifestyle.