FRANCE’S refusal to extradite fugitive Michael R. Mastro is a scandal. In Seattle, the bankrupt developer has been indicted on 43 counts of bankruptcy fraud and related federal offenses. In France, a court has brushed this aside, arguing that Mastro is 88 years old and too frail to return to the United States.
Give us a break. It’s an airplane flight. Air travel is hardly a gantlet, and Mastro and his wife, Linda, 63, would not deign to fly less than first class.
They have lived that sort of life, until a few years ago in the Seattle area with a 2008 Rolls-Royce Phantom Coupe and a 2007 Bentley Continental, a $9.1 million house on Lake Washington, and several millions in jewelry.
They tried to hide the house and cars from creditors, according to the indictment, and they failed in that.
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But when the court ordered them to surrender their jewelry, they fled the United States taking 27.8-carat and
15.9-carat diamond rings. Together these two ostentatious rocks are valued at $1.4 million.
After being on the lam for 16 months, the Mastros popped up in Annecy, France. “Google ‘Annecy, France,’ ” suggests Seattle bankruptcy trustee James Rigby. “Look at the pictures. It’s Disneyland for adults.”
It’s fine to live rich if it’s your money. But the Mastros skipped town owing $220 million to unsecured creditors. These people are rightfully sore. They have been repaid 1 cent on the dollar, and if the French court’s ruling holds, Rigby says, that’s all they’re likely to get.
Many of them are investors who dealt with Mastro as a personal banker. It was foolish to treat him as if he were insured by the FDIC, but the foolishness of the victim is not an excuse.
And there can be no excuse for the leniency of the French government. France has its own absconders and deadbeats, and some of them may come to the United States. The French should remember that.