“Mastros set free in France, but U.S. may still go after them”

June 6, 2013

The Seattle Times on June 5, 2013 released the following:

“Appeals court says the 88-year-old developer and his wife won’t be extradited to the U.S., where they are charged with bankruptcy fraud.

By Sanjay Bhatt
Seattle Times business reporter

Fugitive Seattle businessman Michael R. Mastro may well live out the rest of his life as a free man in the foothills of the French Alps.

A French appellate court Wednesday denied on humanitarian grounds the U.S. Department of Justice’s request to extradite Mastro and his wife, Linda, said Jim Frush, a Seattle attorney who represents the 88-year-old former real-estate magnate at the center of one of Western Washington’s biggest bankruptcies.

“I spoke with Mike, who was understandably very happy and relieved and indicated to me that he and Linda were about to leave for dinner,” he said.

The Mastros had been under electronic monitoring and restricted to their apartment after 6:30 at night as part of an earlier French order.

A federal grand jury indicted the Mastros on charges of bankruptcy fraud in August 2011, two months after the couple disappeared from sight.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office in Seattle declined to comment Wednesday on the French court’s ruling, saying only that it was examining its options, including a possible appeal.

It’s likely the Justice Department filed a “red notice” with Interpol, a global law-enforcement agency, that puts 190 countries on notice of the outstanding arrest warrant for the couple, said Douglas McNabb, an international criminal-defense lawyer in Washington, D.C.

If the Mastros try to leave France for any other country, they could be held there and possibly extradited to the United States to face the criminal charges, McNabb said.

But if the French court’s ruling isn’t appealed and the Mastros stay put in France, “the ballgame is over with,” he said.

The ruling of the appeals court in Chambéry can be appealed to the Council of State, France’s highest judicial body and roughly equivalent to the U.S. Supreme Court, said Juliet Sorensen, a law professor at Northwestern University who teaches international criminal law.

A treaty signed by the two nations in 1996 requires each to honor a request to extradite persons charged with certain offenses that are punishable in both countries.

But there are exceptions, including one that allows either nation to deny extradition if surrendering the person “might entail exceptionally serious consequences related to age or health,” according to the treaty.

The French appellate court ruled that extraditing the Mastros could have such consequences, and wasn’t persuaded by the Justice Department’s arguments to the contrary, Frush said.

Developer’s downfall

Mastro’s four-decade career as a prolific developer ended in a spectacular crash in 2009 when three banks forced him into bankruptcy court.

Mastro told the court he had nearly $587 million in liabilities, including more than $100 million he owed to individual investors and local groups such as the Italian Club of Seattle.

Against those liabilities, Mastro reported assets of $249 million, most of it debt others owed him.

State regulators also charged him with breaking the law by making false statements to “Friends & Family” investors and selling unregistered securities, charges that Mastro denied.

Mastro and his wife disappeared suddenly in June 2011 after they ignored a bankruptcy judge’s order to hand over two giant diamond rings worth more than $1.4 million.

They officially became fugitives a month later when warrants were signed for their arrest. But those warrants were for contempt of court, a civil violation, and experts said it would be difficult to extradite the Mastros without a criminal charge.

Then in August 2011, the U.S. Attorneys Office filed a sealed criminal complaint against the Mastros, charging them with bankruptcy fraud.

The complaint was made public last October after the Mastros were arrested near Lake Annecy, in the French Alps, where they had rented a succession of apartments.

The next month, a federal grand jury issued a superseding indictment containing 43 counts for bankruptcy fraud and money laundering.

The diamond rings, along with nearly 300 other pieces of jewelry, were seized in France in October after the Mastros were apprehended.

The collection is worth more than $3 million, according to the court-appointed trustee in Mastro’s bankruptcy case, James Rigby, who has recovered only a fraction of the money owed to creditors. The Mastros’ attorneys are fighting in court to stop the FBI from transferring some jewelry to the trustee.

The Mastros spent seven weeks in a French jail before a court placed them on supervised release with electronic monitoring pending an extradition proceeding.

Health concerns

In February, the three judges of the Court of Appeal in Chambéry ruled that the Mastros had been charged with offenses that were subject to extradition, but noted that lengthy incarceration likely would have serious consequences on their health.

The court’s 19-page ruling in February mentioned Mastro’s age and a serious head injury he suffered in a fall in Palm Desert, Calif., two years ago. The court also mentioned the “psychological frailty” of Linda Mastro, who is in her 60s, revealing that she attempted suicide shortly after the couple was arrested in France.

At a hearing in late May, the Justice Department’s representative told the French court that if the Mastros were extradited and convicted in the United States, they would not ask for more than two years in prison, Frush said Wednesday, citing information he received from Thomas Terrier, the Mastros’ attorney in France. Moreover, U.S. officials told the court the federal Bureau of Prisons was equipped to manage the Mastros’ health concerns, Frush said.

Terrier could not be immediately reached for comment.

Sorensen, the Northwestern University law professor, said the French government had discretion to extradite the Mastros despite the exception in the treaty, and said the Council of State had heard extradition appeals from the United States in the past.

Investor reaction

News of the French court’s ruling dismayed Kirkland resident Barry Bloch, one of the “Friends & Family” investors who loaned the developer money in return for pledges of interest payments.

“What a joke,” Bloch said after hearing from a reporter of the ruling.

Bloch and his wife, Teresa, loaned Mastro money and knew him for about four years before the developer’s fortunes unraveled.

“It didn’t bankrupt us, but it’s a sizable amount of money, and it’s disgusting that he isn’t brought to justice,” said Barry Bloch, 68.

He recalled an exchange with the developer at Mastro’s Seattle office on Rainier Avenue South as the real-estate market was imploding, but before the banks forced Mastro into bankruptcy court.

“I asked him how he sleeps at night, and he said, ‘I sleep like a baby.’ That spoke volumes,” Bloch said.”


Douglas McNabb – McNabb Associates, P.C.’s
International Extradition Lawyers Videos:

International Extradition – When the FBI Seeks Extradition

International Extradition – Wire Transfer – Email – Telephone Call


We previously discussed the extradition treaty between the United States and France here.


To find additional global criminal news, please read The Global Criminal Defense Daily.

Douglas McNabb and other members of the U.S. law firm practice and write and/or report extensively on matters involving Federal Criminal Defense, INTERPOL Red Notice Removal, International Extradition Defense, OFAC SDN Sanctions Removal, International Criminal Court Defense, and US Seizure of Non-Resident, Foreign-Owned Assets. Because we have experience dealing with INTERPOL, our firm understands the inter-relationship that INTERPOL’s “Red Notice” brings to this equation.

The author of this blog is Douglas C. McNabb. Please feel free to contact him directly at mcnabb@mcnabbassociates.com or at one of the offices listed above.


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Kakavand Sent To Iran; No Extradition From France to U.S.

May 17, 2010

France has denied that a French academic set free by Iran recently was a French spy, however, there is speculation that her release was part of deal with Iran that will allow two Iranians to go free.

In the weeks prior to the French academic’s, Clotilde Reiss, release France refused to permit the extradition to the U.S. of Majid Kakavand, an Iranian engineer wanted for the alleged illegal export of electronic parts for use by Iran’s military. Kakavand was returned safely to Iran.

France’s interior minister also signed an expulsion order for Ali Vakili Rad, an Iranian national convicted of assassinating former Iranian prime minister Shahpour Bakhtiar in Paris in 1991. French judges requested this document prior to allowing Rad’s parole request. It is thought that the judges approval of his parole at the same time as Reiss’ release was part of a secret prisoner exchange deal between France and Iran. Both countries have denied any such plan.

Reiss was arrested last July for espionage in the Iranian city of Isfahan following Iran’s post election political unrest. She was accused of participating in anti-government protests and transmitting photographs of the protests via email to her family and to a research institute linked to the French embassy in Tehran.

Article 1 of the extradition treaty between the U.S. and France obligates each State to extradite to the other, any person whom the competent authorities in the Requesting State have charged with or convicted of an extraditable offense. Such extradition, however, must be carried out pursuant to the terms of the treaty.

Douglas McNabb and other members of the firm practice and write extensively on matters involving Federal Criminal Defense, Interpol Litigation, International Extradition and OFAC Litigation.

The author of this blog is Douglas McNabb. Please feel free to contact him directly at mcnabb@mcnabbassociates.com or at one of the offices listed above.

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Noriega Extradited to France

May 3, 2010

Manuel Noriega has been extradited to France, where he is expected to face trial on French money laundering charges. After a long legal battle, U.S. officials have approved his extradition from the U.S. to France. Noreiga has been in prison in Miami, FL for the last two decades following his conviction on drug charges.

Noriega has also already been convicted, in absentia, on French charges, however, the French have agreed to hold a new trial as part of the extradition process.

Noriega requested to be returned to Panama, however, that country did not want him back. A handcuffed Noreiga was boarded onto an Air France flight yesterday after a U.S. State department spokesman had confirmed that Secretary of State Hillary Clinton had signed the extradition order.

Noriega’s extradition was expected, however, the timing of it did surprise some. Nearly a month ago, the order calling for extradition was issued, two days later the U.S. Supreme Court said it would not consider Noriega’s request to stop his extradition to France on money laundering charges.

French authorities charged Noriega with money laundering for using drug money to purchase property in Paris. Noriega was convicted in absentia of money laundering in the amount of approximately $3 million in drug proceeds.

Article 8 of the U.S.-France Extradition Treaty, “bars extradition when the person sought has been convicted or acquitted in the Requested State for the same offense, but does not bar extradition if the competent authorities in the Requested State have declined to prosecute or have decided to discontinue criminal proceedings against the person sought.” Had France sought extradition on drug charges alone then the extradition may have been barred by Article 8.

Douglas McNabb and other members of the firm practice and write extensively on matters involving Federal Criminal Defense, Interpol Litigation, International Extradition and OFAC Litigation.

The author of this blog is Douglas McNabb. Please feel free to contact him directly at mcnabb@mcnabbassociates.com or at one of the offices listed above.

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