Then Susan Brunning pulled out an old one. She asked the Isle of Man court to release funds because she was separated from Terry Brunning -- in fact, seldom saw him. "In typical cases, they put the wife out there, saying she is an innocent spouse," says Devine. Investigators determined they were still living together on the yacht, and this caper is part of the indictment.
Last month, Mexican authorities arrested the couple in Puerto Vallarta and dispatched them to a Mexico City slammer, where they are no longer living the yachters' lifestyle.
But they have some reasons to chuckle. In keeping with questionable offshore practice, the Isle of Man is giving the Brunnings $1500 a month for living expenses, $15,000 for attorney's fees in the U.S., and $8000 for attorney's fees on the Isle of Man. A Mexican attorney has asked for $150,000 to fight extradition, but it hasn't been acted upon, says Devine. "If they remain fugitives, they could conceivably draw all the money out over a period of several years," she complains.
That $150,000 request is a whopper. Is it possible some of that loot might be earmarked for a bribe to a Mexican official? Neither Devine nor Adkisson would touch that question.
"Legal battles are sometimes used as a cover to indefinitely delay the release of the funds or to hide the fact that the funds were embezzled," says Adkisson.
"Right now, the Isle of Man does not recognize civil judgments of the U.S., so it doesn't recognize the bankruptcy or the fact that the trustee is the owner" of the Brunnings' assets, says Devine. In that respect, it's business as usual for offshore banks. "If there is an actual conviction and forfeiture granted by a U.S. court, then the Isle of Man would go along, they say."
But to get a conviction, the U.S. has to get them back. So, thanks to the Isle of Man, and perhaps Mexico, it's conceivable the Brunnings could end up looking like foxes, not opossums.