The Fugitives: Prosecutors Getting Tough Stung by Liebermans, Officials Tighten Polity

Article excerpt

"Pulling a Lieberman" is the new description federal prosecutors have here for defendants who go on the lam.

That's Lieberman, as in brothers Alan and Harold Lieberman, fugitives holed up in Santiago, Chile. They are fighting extradition to the United States on fraud charges linked to their collapsed home-building company in St. Louis.

In Baltimore, federal prosecutors might call fugitives "Billmans." That would be in reference to Tom Billman, a central figure in Maryland's savings-and-loan crisis nearly a decade ago.

Billman and the Liebermans are among nearly 20,000 federal fugitives. The FBI suspects that about 1,100 of them are outside the United States.

Stung by the Lieberman case, federal prosecutors here are now tougher on people suspected of white-collar crimes.

Conditions of bond and whether suspects should be allowed to surrender to authorities voluntarily "are central questions we ask ourselves these days in white-collar cases," said Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael W. Reap.

To make leaving the country more difficult, prosecutors now ask that white-collar defendants surrender their passports.

Such was not the case with the Liebermans, who took off in May 1992, just before they were indicted here on fraud charges, authorities allege. The FBI traced the Liebermans to Santiago, where they entered Chile legally. Chilean authorities cooperated by arresting the Liebermans on the U.S. charges.

But after a few weeks in jail, the Liebermans were allowed to move to a new apartment to wait out their extradition case. Frustrated, prosecutors here hope for a favorable decision by Chile's Supreme Court.

"I think it's fair to say the entire legal community has become more sensitive to the issue of flight and conditions of bail," Reap said recently. "We've seen a lot of aberrant behavior."

An example of the tougher policy is the scrutiny this month of Arthur A. Blumeyer's bond, which keeps him out of jail pending his trial in January on charges of insurance fraud.

Federal prosecutors sought this month to revoke the $250,000 bond after they learned that Blumeyer no longer owned his house, which secured the bond. In August, Royal Banks of Missouri foreclosed on the house, in Town and Country, court records show. …

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