Crime, Money, Mystery: Vanished Exec Joins a Club Graphic, LaserPhoto
NEW YORK (AP) _ When the chairman of a Florida cosmetics company vanished this week amid allegations of phony stores and cooked books, he joined a growing roster of missing businessmen.
In the last two years, at least five company leaders have disappeared - sometimes because of criminal wrongdoing, sometimes because of bad business and sometimes for no apparent reason.
Law enforcement experts said Thursday that such prominent cases are rare. Familiar in their communities and with broad contacts, business executives typically vanish in a desperate bid to avoid failure or in a calculated scheme.
″These are not your run-of-the-mill scam artists,″ said Stephen B. Higgins, the U.S. Attorney in St. Louis, who is pursuing the case of Malcolm Cheek, president of a failing engineering firm who disappeared in March.
″These are people who until they defrauded their lenders or defrauded their investors were regarded as respected, successful businesspeople,″ he said. ″Malcolm certainly is an example of that.″
Private investigators said that scores of white-collar disappearances go unreported because companies fear bad publicity if they admit searching for an executive who has fled with assets.
Known to private eyes as a ″skip trace,″ more and more such cases today involve fraud in the insurance, real estate, savings and loan, and banking industries - direct fallouts of the get-rich 1980s, investigators said.
″With the recession we’re having, we have a few executives leaving the airplane with the golden parachute,″ said Vincent Parco, a New York private detective.
-Victor Incendy, chairman of Cascade International Inc., of Boca Raton, Fla., was last seen Sunday. Investigators believe Cascade, which makes and sells women’s cosmetics and clothing, lied for years about its products, profits and other particulars like the number of stores.
Incendy fled as pressure from investors and regulators about his company grew. The FBI is investigating.
-Malcolm Cheek. Police found unpacked clothes in the New York hotel room of the former president of Y&A Group. He also left behind allegations of bank fraud, a collapsing company, mysterious withdrawals and inflated assets. Cheek’s wife says she believes he’s dead. Investigators believe otherwise.
-Joseph Mollicone Jr. has been missing since Nov. 8, 1990, when his son drove him to a Boston airport. He is accused in Rhode Island of embezzling $13.8 million from his Heritage Loan and Investment Co., of having mob connections and of triggering a deposit insurance crisis in the state.
-Willam Alley Jr., of Dallas, vanished in March while attending a toy and sports collectibles show in New York. His Hartland Plastics Co., a maker of sports statuettes, had financial problems, but there is no hint of fraud. His wife last month gave birth to their fifth child.
″The long and short of it is no one has a clue,″ said Ken Movold, sales manager for the company.
-Eddie Antar, founder of the New York-area retail electronics Crazy Eddie, has been missing since February 1990. He is rumored to be in Israel, accused of inflating the company’s stock and generating $73 million in illegal stock- trading profits.
Other cases are more bizarre. A Manhattan attorney, Steven Romer, is currently on trial for his alleged theft of more than $7 million from clients. He vanished last Dec. 31 and showed up at prosecutors’ offices 55 days later claiming he was kidnapped.
″Some people can’t live up to the stress of a failing business and they go away for a time and hope with sympathy or apathy the thing will go away,″ said former FBI agent Tom Tolan, president of a New York detective agency.
Others never return, like Robert Vesco, wanted since 1973 on charges of looting an investment firm of $224 million, or Marc Rich, a commodities trader now reportedly living in Switzerland.
According to latest count by the U.S. Marshals Service, there are nearly 350,000 federal, state and local fugitives. Most are small-time criminals. Almost 18,000 face federal arrest warrants.