An Anchorage plastic surgeon accused of once driving all the way from Alaska to Panama in a scheme to hide millions of dollars from his wife has been indicted on seven counts of federal wire fraud, the U.S. Attorney's office announced Friday.
The indictment accuses the surgeon, Michael Brandner, 64, of setting up phony companies, loans and accounts in Central America, Colorado and California to prevent his wife, Sheila, and the state court in Anchorage then hearing the couple's divorce from learning the truth about his wealth.
The federal government seized more than $4.6 million from a Bank of America account in Irvine, Calif., that was part of the scheme, the U.S. Attorney's office said. The money was seized in 2011 when Brandner was attempting to shuffle it through a fraudulent investment that would make it appear the millions were lost, when in fact he still had the funds, prosecutors said.
The indictment said Sheila Brandner filed for divorce in Alaska Oct. 2, 2007. "In response to this action by his wife, Brandner set in place the scheme ... to defraud (his wife) and to his assets from (his wife) and the state court, which had jurisdiction over the divorce action," the indictment charged.
The couple had been married 28 years, the indictment said, but she had so little money she couldn't pay her attorney and was forced to represent herself in court, according to a 2012 story in Forbes magazine about the seizure of the Bank of America account.
Brandner made the drive to Panama carrying five cashiers checks totaling over $3 million. He took the trip in secret, not telling friends or even his office, the indictment charged. He deposited the money into an account in Capital Bank of Panama.
The indictment, handed up by a federal grand jury in Anchorage Tuesday, seeks forfeiture of the money seized from the Bank of America and of additional funds in accounts in two Panama banks. Brandner was arrested Thursday by U.S. Marshals, according to a warrant filed in the case.
Brandner was a frequent contributor to the Anchorage Daily News letters column in the early 2000s, writing mainly in criticism of state child welfare authorities and in opposition to state-funded abortions. He also volunteered for a medical mission program in Peru associated with several U.S. Rotary clubs.
Reach Richard Mauer at firstname.lastname@example.org or 257-4345.