By Jerry Markon
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, October 27, 2010; 8:45 PM
Rebecca S. Parrett was convicted in a $2.8 billion fraud that led to the collapse of one of the nation's largest health-care financing companies, a debacle that forced a hospital in the District and hundreds of other health-care providers into bankruptcy.
Then she disappeared.
U.S. marshals and other agents tracked Parrett, 62, around the world, following leads in more than a dozen U.S. states and several foreign countries. But the trail ended Tuesday in a resort town on a lake in Mexico, where Mexican authorities arrested the former owner of Ohio-based National Century Financial Enterprises, the Justice Department announced Wednesday.
"I've been doing this for 12 years, and this was the most detailed and far-reaching investigation I've ever been a part of,'' said Drew Shadwick, deputy U.S. marshal in Columbus, Ohio. "She was difficult to find, because she is intelligent, she was a woman of means and she had plenty of time to plan her escape."
Parrett was immediately deported under Mexican immigration laws and was scheduled to appear Wednesday afternoon before a federal judge in Los Angeles. "Corporate executives found guilty for their fraudulent activity will not be allowed to escape justice by fleeing the United States," Assistant Attorney General Lanny A. Breuer said.
A federal jury in Columbus convicted Parrett in 2008 on charges that included conspiracy, securities fraud and wire fraud for her role in the collapse of National Century. Formerly based in Dublin, Ohio, the company was one of the largest health-care financiers in the nation until it filed for bankruptcy in November 2002.
Parrett held numerous high-level positions at National Century and co-founded the company in 1991. She and nine others were convicted or pled guilty in a scheme to deceive investors and rating agencies about the company's financial health and how investors' money would be used.
The firm's failure helped lead to the bankruptcy filings of about 275 health-care providers, including Greater Southeast Community Hospital in the District.
Parrett, who once owned an art gallery, was arrested outside a doctor's office in Ajijic, Jalisco, Mexico, after an investigation that involved more than 10 federal and state agencies.
"She was living comfortably - making friends and going out dancing," said Shadwick, who added that the full story of what Parrett did on the lam is not yet known.