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Is Con Man Dead or Alive?

by Tom Tugend

September 23, 2004 | 8:00 pm

Lucian Ludwig Kozminski was -- or maybe is -- a man convicted of swindling some 3,000 of his fellow Holocaust survivors, who did time in federal prison and died in 1993, according to his death certificate.

Ordinarily, this would end the sordid tale of a man who preyed on his own people. Instead, it is only the beginning of a mystery, full of intrigue and skullduggery, which America's Most Wanted (Fox) will telecast on Saturday, Sept. 25, at 9 p.m. under the title, "The Holocaust Swindler."

The episode is based on the recently published book, "Nothing Is Too Late" (Brassey's Inc.), by Mark E. Kalmansohn.

The author is a Los Angeles lawyer and former federal prosecutor, who for 22 years has sought to bring Kozminski to justice.

Kozminski apparently was in his early teens when the Germans invaded Poland. The Nazis sent him to various concentration camps, where, despite his youth, he quickly rose to oberkapo, the SS-appointed overseer of other Jews.

Despite a criminal record, he managed to enter the United States on a visitor's visa and headed for Los Angeles. He set up office in the Fairfax area, and in 1969, advertised his services in Jewish newspapers as a "reparations counselor" to Holocaust survivors.

Over the next decade, according to court records at his 1982 trial, Kozminski swindled some 3,000 of his clients, charging exorbitant up front and service fees and pocketing the German checks intended for the survivors.

Kalmansohn, who as assistant U.S. attorney prosecuted Kozminski, estimates that he accumulated $1 million, which, with inflation and interest, would be worth about $10 million today.

Eventually, Kozminski pleaded guilty, was sentenced to 12 years in federal prison and apparently was released in 1989. The story seemed to be at an end, when a death certificate bearing Kozminski's name was filed in 1993, and authorities closed the case.

However, Kalmansohn remained skeptical, especially after Kozminski was reportedly spotted on the streets of Beverly Hills after his supposed death. The attorney filed suit and won a ruling that Kozminski's death certificate was fraudulent.

"I really don't know whether Kozminski, who would now be between 78 to 80 years old, is dead or alive," Kalmansohn said. "To cite Winston Churchill, the case remains 'a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma.'"

The show airs Sept. 25, at 9 p.m. on Fox. For more information, go to www.hunt4theswindler.com .

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