Palm Beach Post (Florida)
June 13, 2002
SECTION: A SECTION, Pg. 1A
HEADLINE: BOCA MATCHMAKER AWAITS HER DATE - WITH A JUDGE
BYLINE: Kathryn Quigley, Palm Beach Post Staff Writer
BOCA RATON - The cops collared Cupid Wednesday, arresting an international matchmaker accused of breaking dozens of lonely hearts and defrauding them of millions.
For $5,000 and much more, Helena Amram promised perfect partners for clients shopping for soulmates at her dating salons in New York, Tel Aviv, Beverly Hills and Boca Raton.
At best, her dates were losers, more than a few complained. Other grateful customers said she did deliver Prince or Princess Charming.
But not too many, according to authorities. After a six-month investigation, Boca Raton police decided that what Amram did to her dissatisfied customers was a crime. They charged Amram, 52, with defrauding 54 clients out of more than $2.7 million.
Also arrested Wednesday was her 55-year-old husband, Itamar, listed as the owner of Soulmate by Helena, 2424 N. Federal Highway. They set up shop here in 1998 and lived in Mizner Park.
Attorney Michael B. Cohen said Helena Amram is a sick woman whose condition has been made worse by unfounded allegations. She suffers from lupus and epilepsy, he said, and spent time in a hospital's intensive care unit last month.
"She vigorously denies the validity of these charges," Cohen said. "She's very sick as a result of the stress."
The couple was released from the Palm Beach County Jail after each posted $15,000 bond.
Amram has jet-black hair, an exotic accent and three Social Security numbers. In an array of publications, including the Wall Street Journal and The New York Times , she boasted of marrying off thousands of couples. Even celebrity news anchor Connie Chung did a piece about her in 1990.
Boca police say Amram left dozens of singles in Palm Beach, Broward and Miami-Dade counties with nothing more than worthless handwriting analyses and dates from hell.
Some clients said they paid $25,000 for dates who Amram claimed had been thoroughly screened for criminal pasts as well as for medical and psychological problems. In reality, police say, Amram faked some reports.
Police said she took money from many men and women but delivered no dates. When they complained, she allegedly told them they were "too fat" for her to find anyone interested.
Her brochure described "The Helena Concept," which claimed that only the "most desirable people" were accepted as clients. But former employees told police that Amram would lie. Instead of using fees to find dream dates, police said, she paid off her own credit card bills and took trips.
Boca Raton police Detective Robert Flechaus cracked the case by tracking down Amram's clients all over the country. He said the Amrams were "cooperative" when they surrendered to police Wednesday morning. The Amrams knew they were under investigation after police served a search warrant on their office in February - and hauled away computers and filing cabinets.
Amram's arrest brings her globe-trotting career to a dead stop, at least for now. She left New York in 1991 with numerous civil lawsuits unanswered and an unpaid judgment of $5.6 million. She moved to Beverly Hills, Calif., in 1992 to run a matchmaker business, but left in 1995 as the Beverly Hills police were about to file grand theft and deceptive advertising charges against her, according to her Boca Raton arrest report.
In 1997, she was running her business in Tel Aviv and living in a luxurious penthouse. She moved to Boca Raton a year later.
Three civil lawsuits have been filed against her in Palm Beach County, including one from 40-year-old Randie Kaiser of Miami-Dade. Kaiser sued the matchmaking company after she paid $20,000 after Helena Amram held her hands and told her she could "see into her soul" to help her find a man.
In her lawsuit, Kaiser said she went out on three dates who were completely unsuitable. When she complained, Helena Amram showed Kaiser pictures of pretty women. Stop being so picky, Amram allegedly told her. "This is your competition."
Amram's arrest showed Kaiser was right to feel cheated, said her attorney, J. Ronald Denman.
"Hopefully the truth will now come out," he said, "and this will prevent others from having to go through what Randie did."