Daily news, NY, Sunday, June 27,
to Stars Gets Singed in Scandal
IN FURTHER proof of the
Almighty's affection for irony, the Rev.
Pete Jacobs now stands at the
epicenter of a $350 million insurance
scandal that came to light as a result of
a house fire.
Jacobs has long harbored a special
fondness for firefighters. He performed
the last rites for several of the 12 who
died at the 23rd St. fire in 1966, and he
apparently decided that those who
routinely risk such dangers should not
also have to worry about the fires of
Accordingly, he years ago introduced
the city's firefighters to a novel concept
in the absolution of sin.
"He'd say, 'I absolve you of all your
sins in the future,'" Fire Capt. Pat
Brown recalls. "His thinking was, 'God
knows the things you're going to do in the
future and you're going to be sorry for
them, so I'll absolve you now.'"
Jacobs bestowed his special forgiveness
on everyone present at a Rescue 1 dinner
in the early 1980s.
"The more conservative Catholic guys
were like looking at each other," Brown
says. "Guys like me were eating it
As this was
that time before AIDS dampened the
city's nightlife, Brown was not alone
in finding Jacobs' brand of absolution
particularly handy. Brown's favorite
spots included Da Silvano's restaurant
and he often encountered Jacobs there.
Jacobs demonstrated that he also had a
special fondness for
"He was wherever the big shots were,"
Jacobs' saving grace was that he would
act as if he were only introducing equals
when he presented Brown to the likes of
Paloma Picasso. Jacobs repeatedly
invited Brown to fly off to Europe with
"He'd say, 'You want to go to Monaco?
We'll see the princess and hang out. And
then we'll go to the Vatican. I've got a
couple of friends there. We'll go see the
Pope. We'll get you a private
audience,'" Brown remembers.
And, Jacobs really did have prominent
friends at the Vatican and among the
royals of Monaco. His other buddies
included Walter Cronkite and
Gloria Steinem. He maintained five
phone lines and carried a beeper that once
sent him dashing off from a dinner party.
He returned and opened his hand to show
Ms. magazine publisher Patricia
Carbine six bullets, saying he had
just saved someone from committing
1982, Jacobs opened his own restaurant,
Palatine, on W. 46th St. He announced
that all profits would go toward
scholarships at Power Memorial Academy
and Rice High School, where he served
as chaplain. He was nonetheless ordered
to desist by the Archdiocese of
Washington, D.C., where he had been
He ignored the edict, and each night
the place filled with celebrities and
firefighters. The patrons looked up from
their rabbit en aspic one night to see
Brown and another firefighter dash out to
rescue a man from a blaze across the
street. On another evening, Jacobs
introduced Brown to a countess.
"He said, 'He works up by where Jackie
lives,'" Brown says.
Jackie being Jackie Onassis, who
lived on Fifth Ave. Brown was assigned to
a firehouse up at 115th St."But, it was
Fifth Ave.," Brown says.
In March 1983, Prince Albert of
Monaco celebrated his 25th birthday at
Palatine. The Archdiocese in Washington,
D.C., was not dissuaded from stripping
Jacobs of his right to perform
Jacobs finally closed the
restaurant, but he defied orders
to assume pastoral duties in
Washington and he was never
reinstated. He nonetheless
officiated at the 1985 marriage
of orchestra leader Peter
Duchin and the writer
Brooke Hayward. He also
said a private Mass for the
family in the palace chapel at
Monaco after Princess
Grace died in 1982.
surviving files showed Rosse's
true name was Martin
Back in New York, Jacobs continued to
hobnob. He was friendly with the swells of
the Save Venice Foundation. He was at the
1996 book party for Nancy Friday's
"The Power of Beauty," chatting with
erotic filmmaker Candida
"They agreed sex is good for the skin,"
a gossip column reported.
Around that time, Jacobs sold the
brownstone where he had lived with his
mother. He moved with her to Rome,
settling in an apartment owned by someone
he had met at a Fire Department memorial
had prominent Vatican connections that
dated to the early 1960s, when he
assisted Pope John XXIII's efforts to
bring the church closer to the Jewish
community. Jacobs had been particularly
suited to this task, as his father was
The lure of those connections was
apparently what prompted a man who called
himself David Rosse to make Jacobs
the president of the St. Francis of Assisi
Foundation last summer. Jacobs invited
Cronkite to serve as an adviser, saying
the foundation would be giving $1 billion
to the poor. Cronkite demurred, but he was
listed as an adviser anyway.
On May 5 of this year, the Greenwich
Fire Department responded to a report of a
fire at a $3 million house in that
Connecticut town. The firefighters
discovered piles of records ablaze.
The surviving files showed Rosse's true
name was Martin Frankel. The St.
Francis of Assisi Foundation proved to be
a ruse designed to prop up a pyramid
scheme whereby he siphoned at least $335
million from insurance companies.
Frankel and the money are still
missing. Jacobs insists he was simply a
dupe, and Brown is among those who believe
him. Brown also figures that the
absolution still holds.
"As far as I'm concerned, I'm good the
rest of my life," Brown says.
agents looking for a rogue stockbroker
Martin Frankel who pulled off biggest
fraud ever; authorities fear up to
£2 billion may have been