Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Martin Frankel: Sex, Greed and $200 Million Fraud

The Vatican Affair — Cast of Characters

Somehow Frankel got it into his head that he needed to set up a charitable foundation with visible links to the Catholic Church and the Vatican. The exact reasons for this obsession are not entirely clear. Most likely, Marty was looking for an impeccably respectable cover for his insurance fraud and embezzlement. Perhaps he believed that it would make it easier to buy large insurance companies, without their lawyers and accountants doing potentially dangerous investigations into the operations of Thunor Trust, if Thunor was allied with the Vatican. Or possibly  he was convinced that a respectable sounding charitable foundation offered irresistible opportunities for money laundering. And certainly somewhere in his motivation was the huge boost to his ego if he had an alliance with such a lofty institution as the Catholic Church.

Marty spent a lot of time researching individuals that he thought he could con into helping him in this enterprise. Eventually, he found three very prominent people that he deceived into putting their reputations, careers and futures on the line for him: Thomas Bolan, Father Peter Jacobs, and Monsignor Emilio Colagiovanni.

Thomas Bolan
Thomas Bolan

Thomas Bolan was a top lawyer whose impressive list of friends included President Ronald Reagan. Fortune Magazine described Bolan, as "a fervent establishment Catholic whose entry in Who's Who runs four inches long, is a former bank chairman, prosecutor (specializing in fraud), and law partner of the late Communist baiter Roy Cohn. Bolan was also a founder of New York's Conservative Party."

Father Peter Jacobs
Father Peter Jacobs

Father Peter Jacobs was a celebrity priest in New York. He embodied the modern spirit of St. Francis, devoting his life with great success to the poor and downtrodden in the city. Fortune described Father "Jake" as a liberal priest who was well connected in Rome...A longtime friend of Gloria Steinem's and Norman Mailer's, he served for many years as a chaplain to minority kids in a Harlem high school."

Monsignor Emilio Colagiovanni was an elderly judge emeritus of the Roman Rota, an important church tribunal, and president of the Monitor Ecclesiasticus Foundation, which was established by the archdiocese of Naples in 1967.

Now what would bring these distinguished men into the company of a person like Marty Frankel?  The answer, of course, is money. Frankel, using the name and identity of his friend David Rosse, convinced Bolan and the others that he was a wealthy Jewish genius that wanted to give some $50 million and more to Catholic charities. J.A. Johnson Jr. explains how much Marty researched this scam: 

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