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Billion-Dollar Vanishing Act?

Authorities Tuesday are searching for an unlicensed money manager who vanished, allegedly with millions of dollars in clients' money, and left behind burned, shredded documents and astrological charts.

Estimates of the amount of money missing range from $218 million to $3 billion.

The New York Daily News, citing unidentified law enforcement sources, reported that a sealed warrant has been issued for the arrest of Martin Frankel.

Federal authorities looked for Frankel on May 5 after the Greenwich Fire Department responded to a suspicious blaze at his $3 million back-country mansion, reports Correspondent Kendra Farn of CBS Station WCBS-TV.

Left behind inside were financial transactions and evidence of front companies the broker had established.

The 12-room home had been turned into a castle of fraud, complete with 100 computers, satellite data feeds and armed guards patrolling the property, according to court papers filed by the FBI. Some of the rooms had electronic locks.

Last month, insurance company regulators said Frankel's unlicensed brokerage was responsible for the disappearance of assets from a dozen small insurance firms in six states.

The companies, based in Mississippi, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Missouri, Arkansas and Virginia were placed in receivership when they were unable to account for assets that had been invested with Frankel's Liberty National Securities Inc.

An FBI affidavit said: "Frankel systematically drained these assets through various financial accounts and transferred them into accounts in and outside this country under his control."

Regulators say the insurance companies are missing at least $218 million, but a lawsuit filed by some of the companies puts the loss at $915 million.

Also missing is as much as $1.98 billion from the St. Francis of Assisi Foundation, which investigators say was established by Frankel in the British Virgin Islands last August. The foundation's mission was to buy insurance companies and their assets, in order to establish hospitals worldwide.

Manhattan Attorney John Kelly represents the Rev. Peter Jacobs, who was recruited by Frankel to lend credibility to his cause.

"Father Jacobs was presented with what appeared to be an opportunity to do a large number of good works with a very substantial amount of money to give to charity," Kelly said. "He was approached by someone who he knew as David Rosse and a representation was made that there would be billions of dollars he wanted distributed to Catholic charities."

David Rosse was an alias used by Frankel. Law enforcement officials have said Frankel used several aliases after being barred from trading by the Securities and Exchange Commission in 1992.

Retired newsman Walter Cronkite was recruited to be a board member for the foundation. He declined, but his name was used anyway. The Vatican, of course, denies any affiliation with the foundation.

Among the papers seized by uthorities was a handwritten list of tasks such as "launder money," investigators said.

Also seized, according to the FBI affidavit, were personalized astrological charts answering such questions as: "Will I go to prison?" "Should I leave?" and "Will I be safe?"

This is a complex puzzle that Frankel has left behind for federal authorities to figure out. Meanwhile, he is somewhere in the world on the run with what might be billions.

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