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Friday, November 30, 2012 - Page updated at 01:00 p.m.

Medical evaluations ordered for Mastros

By Eric Pryne
Seattle Times business reporter

French judges have ordered medical evaluations of former Seattle real estate magnate Michael R. Mastro and his wife, Linda, to help determine whether the couple should remain in jail, their French lawyer said Thursday.

The evaluations are due Dec. 7, Thomas Terrier said, and another hearing on whether to keep the Mastros in custody is scheduled Dec. 10.

The three-judge panel ordered the evaluations and set the timetable in a ruling issued Thursday after a Wednesday hearing, he added.

Terrier has been pushing for the Mastros’ release -- under house arrest, with electronic monitoring -- almost since the couple was arrested Oct. 24 in a village near Lake Annecy in the French Alps after 16 months on the lam.

He and Michael Mastro’s Seattle lawyer, James Frush, have maintained the Mastros’ health is declining while they sit in a jail near Lyon awaiting U.S. extradition proceedings.

Michael Mastro is 87, Linda 63.

The Mastros disappeared in June 2011 after failing to comply with a bankruptcy judge’s order that they turn over two giant diamond rings valued at $1.4 million.

A federal grand jury in Seattle has indicted them on 43 counts of bankruptcy fraud and money laundering.

Frush said earlier this week that Michael Mastro’s behavior in jail has been “consistent with someone who has had a serious brain injury.” Mastro was injured in a fall in February 2011, and a court-appointed guardian represented his interests in bankruptcy court for several months.

But the guardian later was relieved of her duties after she said Mastro was competent to participate in court proceedings.

Terrier also said Thursday that an inventory of more jewelry found in the Mastros’ apartment and two safe-deposit boxes in France -- in addition to the two big diamonds -- should be available in the next few days.

James Rigby, the court-appointed trustee in Mastro’s bankruptcy case, said last week that the “substantial amount” of impounded jewelry was potentially worth millions, and that the Mastros had been selling gems to pay their living expenses in France.

Terrier questioned whether the jewelry, now in the hands of French authorities, is that valuable.

He also has argued the couple should be released from jail because, without the jewels, they have no assets to sell to leave France.

Michael Mastro was a longtime real-estate developer and lender whose highly leveraged empire collapsed during the financial crisis. He was pushed into bankruptcy in 2009, and his debts to unsecured creditors have been estimated at $250 million.

Eric Pryne: epryne@seattletimes.com or 206-464-2231