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Accountant Admits to Role in Scheme

An accountant from Tennessee in the US accused of helping defraud insurance companies in five states of more than $200 million has pleaded guilty to federal money laundering and conspiracy charges.

Gary Atnip, 51, was chief financial officer of various insurance companies acquired by former financier Martin Frankel from 1991 to 1999.

In U.S. district court Friday, Atnip said he helped transfer $200 million from those firms to Frankel's control. The money eventually landed in Frankel's private Swiss bank accounts, prosecutors said. Atnip also admitted he concealed Frankel's involvement from federal and state regulators. Atnip, of Brentwood, Tenn., was paid $1 million by Frankel, prosecutors said.

Atnip pleaded guilty to one count each of conspiracy to violate the federal Racketeering Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act, and international money laundering. He faces up to 40 years in prison when he is sentenced March 10. But under a plea agreement, prosecutors said they will seek a sentence of up to 10 years in prison, and $208 million dollars in restitution.

“Our society and the investing public places its trust in the integrity of those like the defendant, who are certified public accountants,” U.S. attorney Kevin O'Connor said.

Frankel pleaded guilty in May to stealing the money from insurance companies in Tennessee, Mississippi, Arkansas, Missouri and Oklahoma.

The financier fled in May 1999 and was arrested four months later in Germany.

Prosecutors said they have recovered between $70 million and $80 million, including $30 million Frankel told authorities was hidden in a Swiss bank account.

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