updated 12/10/2004 6:54:04 PM ET 2004-12-10T23:54:04

Former financier Martin Frankel, who became a fugitive after bilking seven insurance companies out of more than $200 million, was sentenced to more than 16 years in prison Friday.

Frankel, 50, had pleaded guilty to 24 federal charges of fraud and racketeering. He admitted plotting to loot seven insurance companies in Arkansas, Mississippi, Oklahoma, Missouri and Tennessee that mostly sold funeral policies to the poor.

He had faced more than 20 years in prison. U.S. District Judge Ellen B. Burns sentenced him to 16 years and eight months.

In a rambling, more than 45-minute speech to the court, Frankel quoted from the Bible and St. Patrick and alternated between apologies and justifications.

“Everybody looks at me as if I’m an evil genius,” Frankel told the judge.

He apologized for the scheme but said he began stealing to help his girlfriend’s children, who he said were being abused.

When Burns questioned why Frankel needed $200 million to help the children, Frankel said things got out of hand.

“I hear remorse, yet I hear him blaming everybody but himself,” U.S. Attorney Kevin O’Connor said. “Whatever he feels today, he’s $200 million and 15 years too late.”

Frankel’s attorney, Bill Koch, sought leniency, saying Frankel was mentally ill.

“He as a view of himself in grandiose and exaggerated ways,” psychologist Madelon Baranoski testified Friday.

Frankel defrauded the insurance companies through a trust set up to hide his involvement, since he was barred from securities trading because of a similar scheme he committed years before in Ohio.

Prosecutors said he used the stolen money to finance a lavish lifestyle that included a two-house compound in Greenwich, luxury cars and several girlfriends.

“The last thing I ever wanted to happen to my insurance companies is for them to go under,” Frankel said. “I feel ashamed that I allowed this to happen.”

In 1999, Frankel triggered an international manhunt when he disappeared from his mansion in Greenwich. He was arrested in Germany four months later.

© 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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