MLK said: "Injustice Anywhere is a Threat to Justice Everywhere"

End Corruption in the Courts!

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Thursday, July 31, 2008

Connecting Statewide Dots of "Ethics" Oversight Corruption

Ex-Spitzer aide Dopp suspects 'improper conduct' by 3 on Troopergate panel
The New York Daily News by KENNETH LOVETT - July 29, 2008

ALBANY - Eliot Spitzer's former spokesman wants a committee that investigates lawyer misconduct to probe three members of the ethics panel that looked into the Troopergate scandal. Darren Dopp said he sent a letter to the Third Judicial Department Committee on Professional Standards asking for the review into possible "improper conduct" during the Troopergate investigation.

Dopp was one of four former top Spitzer aides the Public Integrity Commission charged last week with violating state ethics law. He is fighting those charges. His letter asks for a formal review of Commission Chairman John Feerick, Executive Director Herbert Teitelbaum and Commissioner Andrew Celli. All three are lawyers and fall under the purview of the Committee on Professional Standards, which investigates allegations of professional misconduct against attorneys. "Those who enforce ethics laws must be above reproach," Dopp wrote to committee chief lawyer Mark Ochs. In his letter, Dopp cited reports that Albany County District Attorney David Soares has evidence about improper communications between Teitelbaum and senior Spitzer aides during its probe. Soares alerted Feerick to the evidence.

"At a minimum, Mr. Teitelbaum and Mr. Feerick failed to recognize that their actions created the appearance of impropriety," he wrote. "More troubling is the possibility that some form of tampering or obstruction may have occurred." Dopp said Celli was quoted as defending Teitelbaum even though he officially recused himself from the Troopergate investigation because he's a friend of Spitzer's. "The conduct of Mr. Feerick, Teitelbaum and Celli have a direct bearing on my ability to get a fair hearing from the commission in an ongoing case," Dopp wrote. Commission spokesman Walter Ayres had no comment on the letter, though he and Teitelbaum have strongly defended the commission's performance. The state investigations commission is looking into several different Troopergate probes, including one by the Public Integrity Commission. klovett@nydailynews.com

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

NY Court Reporter Busted for Dealing Cocaine

NY Court Reporter Busted for Dealing Cocaine
The New York Law Journal by Vesselin Mitev - July 30, 2008

A year-long probe into two Long Island cocaine rings has netted a freelance court reporter, according to Suffolk County District Attorney Thomas J. Spota. Barbara Divello, who had worked as a court reporter in Suffolk courthouses, was arrested along with several others on charges they funneled drugs into clubs and neighborhoods on the East End. Ms. Divello was a "major player," Mr. Spota said yesterday at a Riverhead news conference. Ms. Divello was charged with being a distributor for an East End auto-body shop owner, Salvatore Sapienza, who allegedly supplied Ms. Divello with the drugs. There was no immediate word on how long Ms. Divello had worked as a court reporter. CLICK HERE to see RELATED STORY, "Confessions of a New York Court Reporter."

Officer of the Court Rips Off Church Money

Lawyer a suspect in church ripoff
The New York Daily News by WILLIAM SHERMAN - July 30, 2008

A lawyer close to the Brooklyn Democratic machine is suspected of stealing $218,000 from an East Flatbush church in a mortgage foreclosure deal, the Daily News has learned. The Brooklyn district attorney's office is probing allegations that Alan Rocoff, the court-appointed referee for the foreclosure, refused to turn over the money to the Faithway Deliverance Center. "My father founded the church with his own money and couldn't make the mortgage payments. When the property was foreclosed and sold, we were supposed to get what was left over," said Robert Booker Jr., son of the founding pastor of the Pentecostal church at 2525 Snyder Ave. Pastor Robert Booker Sr., who founded the church in 1978, died in May after struggling in the courts for more than five years to collect the debt.

Five different judges have heard the case and ordered Rocoff to pay up, but he hasn't; nor has he been charged. Foreclosure referees, often appointed through connections with judges, are typically paid $1,000 for what amounts to two hours' work. It involves collecting and then depositing the cash proceeds of a sale with a court clerk for eventual disbursement. Rocoff was appointed referee by his friend Brooklyn Civil Court Judge Michael Garson, who later admitted stealing $163,000 from an aunt's bank account. Garson was tossed off the bench. He quit the bar, reimbursed his aunt's estate and pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor to avoid jail.

The church property was sold on Nov.26, 2002, in foreclosure for $301,000. There was $218,556 left after the mortgage and other debts were paid. "A check in that amount was deposited in Greenpoint Savings Bank account in Cherry Hill, N.J., but Rocoff said he didn't know where the money was, and told other stories about what happened to to it," said Rubin Ferziger, who replaced Rocoff as referee on the case. At one point, Rocoff claimed the Mafia stole his bank accounts and files. Two years ago, he voluntarily suspended himself from the bar, saying he is medically unable to practice law. Neither Rocoff, his lawyer, nor a spokesman for the Brooklyn district attorney's office would comment. Described by a former associate as a "shadowy figure out of the Truman Democratic Club," Rocoff was a confidant of jailed former Brooklyn Democratic Party boss Clarence Norman.  wsherman@nydailynews.com (With Scott Shifrel)

Monday, July 28, 2008

IRS Looking at Surrogate, Lawyer and Bank Chairman Link

Source Reveals the IRS is looking at the connection between Westchester County Surrogate Court Judge Anthony A. Scarpino, attorney Frank W. Streng, of White Plains-based McCarthy Fingar, and Yonkers-based Hudson Valley Bank Chairman William Griffin.

WOULD THE IRS BE INTERESTED IN WHAT’S GOING ON UNDER THE TABLES BETWEEN SCARPINO, GRIFFIN AND STRENG?

Are tax-free loans the new brown-bag payoffs that corrupt our courts?

Equity loans to judges and “gifts” to a judge’s family are not subject to annual reporting by judges, and are not income reported to the IRS. Loans for $400,000 to Surrogate Anthony Scarpino were made by Hudson Valley Bank which is controlled by William Griffin. At least $300,000 just happened to be paid to Scarpino prior to trials in which Griffin appeared before Scarpino as a witness and litigant against the Carvel family, who were represented by Frank Streng.

In 1982, the Bank and its vice president John Finnerty (who remains on the Hudson Valley Bank Business Development Board) faced and survived indictment for phony “loan” schemes and “various counts of larceny and misapplication of property”.

Why did Griffin’s bank “loan” Scarpino $400K ?

Lawyer William Griffin is the controlling shareholder and chairman of Hudson Valley Bank. Griffin also alleges to control multi-million dollar charities (including Carvel family charities “Thomas and Agnes Carvel Foundation”, “International Institute of Health Foods”, and others).

New York State Department of Banking found that Griffin’s Hudson Valley Bank altered the names on at least $5 million in U.S. Treasury securities allegedly after Thomas Carvel’s death, diverting the funds into an account co-owned and controlled by one of Griffin’s cohorts. Multi-millions that “disappeared” from all Carvel family account records at Hudson Valley Bank were one of the subjects of litigation before Scarpino. Is it any surprise that the diverted money was never returned to Agnes or Pamela Carvel?

What favors did Griffin get from undisclosed “loans”?

Neither Scarpino nor Griffin disclosed their $400,000 financial arrangements at any time. Scarpino denied a trial by jury in all Carvel cases. In the trials before Scarpino, Griffin sought to take ALL CARVEL FAMILY MONEY and end fraud investigations into the theft of over $250 million from the estates of Thomas and Agnes Carvel. Is it any surprise that Scarpino ruled in favor of Griffin against Agnes and Pamela Carvel?

Has Scarpino repeatedly paid Streng hundreds of thousands for estate litigation for throwing cases?

Streng advertised on his web site that he was an advisor to Scarpino. In other words, doesn’t Streng work for Scarpino?  Neither Streng nor Scarpino disclosed their relationship at any time in the Carvel cases. Was it ever disclosed in any case?  Pamela Carvel personally paid almost $1 million to Streng to fight Griffin’s involvement in charity frauds and criminal real estate scams.

Is it any surprise that Streng did nothing against Griffin? Is it any surprise that Scarpino ordered Streng to be paid almost $1 million in legal fees, but Streng refused to reimburse to Pamela Carvel the duplicate payments Streng received?  Does the IRS know Streng actually received payment almost double of what he billed?

Did Scarpino repay $400K tax-free “loans” from Griffin’s bank?

The records of Westchester County Clerk and Board of Elections indicate that Westchester County Surrogate’s Court judge Anthony Scarpino received (tax-free) $400,000 from Hudson Valley Bank.

Of that sum, $100,000 was an alleged pre-election “loan” to Scarpino before his election as Surrogate. What was the security pledged for that loan? Has Scarpino ever repaid any of it?

The remaining $300,000 was alleged equity loans secured by Scarpino’s real estate in Westchester. How much of these “loans” did Scarpino repay after he ruled in Griffin’s favor?

Is the Hudson Valley Bank Development Board just another covert pay-off to loyalist politicos?

Hudson Valley Bank also runs something called “Hudson Valley Bank’s Business Development Board” of which the bank itself says, “members benefit from their association with Hudson Valley Bank” “The Board of Directors looks to fill these positions with highly-qualified professionals, who can assist in achieving the Bank’s goals.”

How much of the Bank’s record “profits” are really from diverted estate and charity assets?

James Landy is President and CEO of Hudson Valley Bank. Landy was also chairman of the board of St. Joseph’s Medial Center (and William Griffin’s wife was on that board) when Griffin bought the property next to the hospital just before a purchase grant for the very same property was given to the hospital from the Thomas and Agnes Carvel Foundation. Not only was charity grant-money funneled to Griffin but Hudson Valley Bank also kept substantial portions of the property for itself.

Mathew Landy is James Landy’s cousin. Griffin hired Mathew Landy as the alleged office manager over one secretary for the Thomas and Agnes Carvel Foundation – a foundation gives grants only to Griffin’s insiders since Thomas Carvel’s death.

Marc Oxman was covertly installed as guardian ad litem for Agnes Carvel without any evidence and without any hearing or trial. Oxman was hired to procure Agnes Carvel’s death by stress in London to eliminate Agnes’ claims against Griffin -- and so he did. Oxman is one of the members of the Development Board who “assists in achieving the Bank’s goals” along with Oxman’s law partner Andrew Natale, Jr.

Another Development Board member is Daniel Hollis, partner to Stuart Shamberg, attorney for Charles Lambert -- the Westchester County Public Administrator who hijacked control of Agnes Carvel’s estate into Westchester through alleged perjury by Griffin’s lawyers. Griffin’s lawyer’s alleged an “emergency” requiring the appointment of the Public Administrator for the sale 2000 acres of Carvel Dutchess County property for almost half the market value to an alleged con-man lawyer who already declared bankruptcy six months earlier -- owing Carvel businesses over $600,000. Is it any surprise that Griffin pulled off this hokey appointment at a moment when the Westchester Court lacked jurisdiction and when the law required that ALL PROCEEDINGS BE STAYED until the formal substitution of Agnes’ executor into the proceedings?

In addition to being a member of the Bank’s Development Board, Edward A. Sheeran is Executive Director of Yonkers Industrial Development Agency (“IDA”). IDA is the agency that played a part in the phony St. Joseph Hospital grant where Griffin purchased a property only after he knew his cronies in the Thomas and Agnes Carvel Foundation approved a $2,000,000 purchase grant for a $700,000 parcel of land. Over $1,300,000 allegedly disappeared along with a corner of the property that was a branch office of Hudson Valley Bank. The IDA then stepped in to provide financing.

Michael Spicer is President and CEO of St. Joseph’s Hospital, which is the recipient of numerous unaccounted-for grants from the Thomas and Agnes Carvel Foundation controlled by Griffin. Is it any surprise that Spicer is also “achieving the Bank’s goals” by being on the Development Board?

Lawyer Paul Amicucci is listed as being part of Griffin’s law firm. Paul Amicucci is also listed among the “Hudson Valley Bank Business Development Board” and listed as lawyer to many of the “charities” controlled by Griffin. On 6 October 2006, Griffin, allegedly acting for the Thomas and Agnes Carvel Foundation, sold Amicucci’s brother Agnes Carvel’s $10 million former residence with 19 arcres in Ardsley, New York for only $2 million. On that same day, 6 October 2006, Amicucci’s shell company (formed in March 2006) assigned the whole property back to Griffin through Hudson Valley Bank as an alleged lease assignment for security for an alleged US$1.3 million mortgage from Hudson Valley Bank. Could this be a means for cheating Agnes’ creditors and beneficiaries who are entitled to the real income from the property?

This same Ardsley property was appraised at $1.1 million in 1990 when Thomas Carvel died. While all surrounding real estate has increased in value 300-400%, the Carvels’ unique, exclusive, mountaintop acreage property only increased about 82%. When this real estate scheme was brought before Scarpino when discovered by Pamela Carvel in 2007. Scarpino did nothing. Could this be another one of Griffin’s schemes for transferring control and profit from a property without paying taxes on the transactions? Anyone still surprised at that???

So many questions, too few answers......

Sunday, July 27, 2008

More Smoke from Commission on Public Integrity

Teitelbaum Defends Integrity Of Spitzer Investigation
The New York Law Journal by Joel Stashenko - July 28, 2008

ALBANY - Eliot Spitzer was not charged with violating state law because, unlike four of his top subordinates, he was not involved in the misuse of State Police to discredit the ex-governor's keenest political enemy, said the executive director of the Commission on Public Integrity. Speaking Friday for the first time about the investigation that took more than 10 months to complete, Herbert Teitelbaum also defended commissioners against the "distressing" charge of being biased because of who appointed them and said investigators came to depend on advice from a "working group" of five commission members as their inquiry played out. Mr. Teitelbaum said in an interview that too much emphasis was given by the media to the manner in which purportedly damaging information on Senate Majority Leader Joseph Bruno was released to an Albany newspaper last summer by the Spitzer administration. That was especially true given the obscene tirade Mr. Spitzer unleashed when authorizing the release of the materials, according to testimony by his former communications secretary Darren Dopp. But Mr. Teitelbaum said the compilation of the information, not its ultimate release, was what interested the commission.

The release of the materials "may be interesting to readers of newspapers and books, but our focus was who knew what and who participated in the misuse of the State Police, or the reasonable belief of the misuse of the State Police?" Mr. Teitelbaum said. "You have to look at the record evidence. You can't make those decisions based on surmise. You can't make it on rumor . . . . How would any of us feel if we were sanctioned on the basis of rumor or surmise? It doesn't matter who you are. It doesn't matter if you are the governor or a janitor." The commission last week charged Messrs. Dopp and Preston Felton, the former acting superintendent of the State Police, with violations of Public Officers Law that could subject them to civil fines of $10,000 and $20,000 respectively. The two are challenging the charges. The commission also announced that Richard Baum, Mr. Spitzer's one-time secretary, and the governor's liaison with the State Police, William Howard, had acknowledged committing lesser violations of Public Officers Law which carry no fines. They have settled their cases. Mr. Teitelbaum reiterated Friday that the commission could renew its inquiry into Mr. Spitzer's activities if new evidence surfaces against him. In a separate interview with the Associated Press, Mr. Teitelbaum said Friday the commission might also look into whether Mr. Spitzer or someone in his office orchestrated the "obstacles" placed in the path of commission staffers as they sought information. The commission said the investigation dragged on longer than it should have because Mr. Spitzer's office resisted releasing information.

As time went on, critics openly questioned how serious the commission was about investigating Mr. Spitzer, who had appointed seven of the 13 members of the commission. The chairman, former Fordham University School of Law dean John Feerick, was picked by Mr. Spitzer to run the commission last year. Mr. Teitelbaum said Friday the commission and its staff had to take the "slings and arrows" and innuendos in silence because state Executive Law requires investigations by the agency to remain confidential until charges are brought. That stage was reached last week. "When we're attacked, when the commissioners are attacked, we can't say, 'Well, look, we're putting everybody under oath,'" Mr. Teitelbaum said. "'We're backing every request for documents with a subpoena. We're going to court to get documents. We're threatening to go to court to get documents as to which privileges were being claimed. We're taking the testimony of every high-ranking public official.'" Mr. Teitelbaum said the investigation was the most thorough one he knows of being conducted by either the Public Integrity Commission or its predecessor agencies, the Ethics and Lobbying commissions.

Unpaid Positions

He bristled at criticism that members are beholden to the officials who appointed them, or to their political parties. The unpaid commission positions are filled at the direction of the governor, legislative leaders, the state comptroller and the state attorney general. "I find it distressing, in part because the notion that a person in an unpaid position who is appointed by an elected official, the presumption that that volunteer is going to do the bidding of that elected official, I think is by and large not true, it certainly isn't true in this commission," Mr. Teitelbaum said. "It creates a misimpression in the public mind that the public believes incorrectly that people who, without compensation, who devote very, very substantial amounts of time to public service, are somehow corrupt, because that's what it would be." Mr. Teitelbaum said he has detected no partisanship in the group. "If you put bags over their heads and I put you in a room, and all you could hear is their voices, you couldn't tell who appointed whom," he said. "You wouldn't be able to tell who's a Democrat and who's a Republican. They all come to this mission with an extraordinary dedication and an extraordinary will to do the right thing." He said that with the Spitzer administration probe, he came to rely on the legal advice proffered by a "working group" of five commissioners: Mr. Feerick, former state Court of Appeals Judge Howard A. Levine and attorneys John T. Mitchell, Loretta E. Lynch and Robert J. Giuffra Jr.

Other members of the commission are Daniel R. Alonso, Virginia M. Apuzzo, John M. Brickman, Andrew G. Celli Jr., Richard D. Emery, Daniel J. French, David L. Gruenberg, and James P. King. Mr. Celli, a Spitzer friend, recused himself in this case. Mr. Teitelbaum said he did not regret leaving a secure partnership at Bryan Cave, despite the tumultuous last year for the commission and state government in Albany. He acknowledged, however, that he had never "worked in an arena where media played such a role" as with the commission's work on the Spitzer case. He joked Friday about opening the newspapers and seeing stories about a guy he can't recognize - Herbert Teitelbaum. "It's true," Mr. Teitelbaum said. "Of late, I say, 'Look at this guy. Got the same name as I do. He's also working for state government.' Wow! He's terrible." -Joel.Stashenko@incisivemedia.com

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Lawyer Busted for Putting Too Much Cash in Political Coffers

Lawyer Busted for Putting Too Much Cash in Political Coffers
The National Law Journal by Amanda Bronstad - July 25, 2008

Los Angeles attorney Pierce O'Donnell was indicted on federal charges of making $26,000 in "conduit" campaign contributions by reimbursing employees of his law firm who gave to a committee supporting an election campaign for mayor in 2003. O'Donnell, 61, by reimbursing others, caused 13 illegal campaign contributions to be made by 13 people to the campaign. The three-count indictment includes claims that O'Donnell made false statements to the Federal Elections Commission by failing to reveal the true nature of the contributions.

If convicted, O'Donnell faces up to 12 years in federal prison. He is expected to be arraigned next month. In 2006, as part of charges brought by the Los Angeles County District Attorney's Office, O'Donnell pleaded no contest to five misdemeanor counts of using a false name while making political contributions to the 2001 mayoral campaign of James Hahn. He also agreed to pay a $155,000 fine. Separately, O'Donnell agreed to pay a $147,000 fine to the Los Angeles City Ethics Commission. That same year, the commission also issued a fine of more than $13,000 to more than half a dozen employees of O'Donnell's firm, who he allegedly reimbursed for making contributions. Pierce O'Donnell, of Los Angeles-based O'Donnell & Associates, did not return a call for comment.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Federal Complaint: NYS Commission on Judicial Conduct is Corrupt

Federal Complaint: New York State Commission on Judicial Conduct is Corrupt

A filing in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York says New York’s Commission on Judicial Conduct (SCJC) is a “sham” operation designed to protect certain political insiders, and to target, chill and destroy other “non-player” justices throughout the empire state.

The federal complaint alleges that the SCJC ignores its charge of upholding the ethics of New York judges, all while pursuing a small inside group’s political agenda, and is a fraud upon the citizens, judges and the state’s justice system.

Highlights of the federal filing include:


1.    Plaintiff was encouraged when Appellate Division, Second Department Presiding Judge A. Gail Prudenti, directed that the allegations concerning the fraudulent assignment, internet advertising and financial sanctions be formally sent by Chief Clerk of the Court of the Appellate Division, Second Department, James Edward Pelzer to the Commission on Judicial Conduct.

2.    The Commission on Judicial Conduct sent plaintiff a form letter declining to take any action.

3.    Plaintiff has received numerous copies of the same denial letter sent to other complaints from the SCJC.

4.    Upon information and belief, and upon a thorough review of dozens of published actions by the SCJC against certain judges, the SCJC improperly advances certain agendas against some judges, while ignoring the outrageous conduct of others.

5.    Upon information and belief, the SCJC summarily ignores serious charges against select judges to advance certain agendas and to protect selected judges.

6.    Upon information and belief, the SCJC is a partial arbiter of secreted agendas that provides a grossly improper disservice to plaintiff, the general public, the legal community, the system of law and, in fact, the vast majority of honorable justices of the state’s courts.

Plaintiff Discovers that the Commission on Judicial Conduct is a Sham

7.    On or about Wednesday, March 5, 2008, at 10 o’clock in the morning, plaintiff met at the DDC offices with the newly appointed DDC Chief Counsel, Alan W. Friedberg who, just a few months earlier, had been the longtime Deputy Chief Counsel at the SCJC. Plaintiff had requested a meeting, and Mr. Friedberg scheduled the referenced date and time.


8.    Plaintiff possesses an audio tape of the March 5, 2008 meeting with DDC Chief Counsel, and who was the prior Deputy Chief Counsel of the SCJC, Alan W. Friedberg.

9.    During the meeting, Mr. Friedberg stated to plaintiff that he was a very “hands-on” type of person, and that he had, in fact been very “hands-on” at the SCJC.

10.    Mr. Friedberg took great pride in stating his personal involvement in all matters and did, in fact, voice his pride in being “the person” who put Judge Garson behind bars.

11.    Plaintiff did not discuss the common belief that it was Kings County District Attorney Charles J. Hynes who had prosecuted the matter of ex-judge Gerald P. Garson.

12.    At no time during the March 5, 2008 meeting did Mr. Friedberg use the words “fair and impartial,” “due process” or “integrity.”

13.    DDC Chief Counsel Friedberg again refused to explain to plaintiff how, why or under what authority the McQuade complaint could ever be handled by a non-existent DDC outsider, choosing instead to confront plaintiff, the complainant, personally in order to chill any pursuit of my plaintiff’s right of due process concerning an attorney’s misconduct.

14.    Upon information and belief, Counsel Friedberg did concede that plaintiff was entitled to be properly represented by counsel even if, for the sake of argument, plaintiff was a mass murderer, a bank robber, the one who stole the Red Cross 9/11 monies, beat old ladies, harmed defenseless animals or was a litter bug.

15.    Though he advised he was a very “hands-on” person, Mr. Friedberg told plaintiff he had never heard about the numerous submissions to the SCJC alleging that numerous judges had been involved in furthering a fraud by an attorney friend where: over $100,000.00 in Red Cross 9/11 donation money had been stolen by the justices’ friend’s client; an insurance company had been defrauded by the scheme the justices advanced; their friend’s client had committed suicide; and, the involved surrogate had confronted the pro se complainant-litigant in the courthouse lobby to voice his anger at being asked to recuse himself.

Inherent Unfairness to Judges, Attorneys and Complainants at the DDC & SCJC

16.    Plaintiff’s fully documented March 5, 2008 meeting with Mr. Alan W. Friedberg provides a troubling insight by the current DDC Chief Counsel, and the former SCJC Deputy Chief Counsel, into the lack of due process at both “ethics” entities. Personal agendas and selective enforcement have completely replaced the charge of ethics oversight at the DDC and the SCJC. If, for the sake of argument, Mr. Friedberg was truthful in stating he had never heard of the various issues raised by plaintiff over the past few years, then the issue becomes who is really in charge at the DDC and SCJC.

17.    Upon information and belief, lower level employees at the DDC and the SCJC, and who are improperly beholden to political and legal outsiders, advance or thwart selective ethics inquiries without regard to merit.

18.    As a result of the March 5, 2008 meeting at the DDC, plaintiff corresponded with Mr. Friedberg of the DDC and with the Chief Counsel of the SCJC (Exhibit “G”). Plaintiff cannot confirm if the SCJC Chief Counsel has personally received the documents as the typical terminating form letter was the only response.


To see the filed federal complaint and exhibits, CLICK HERE



Thursday, July 24, 2008

"Misprision of a felony" Charges Needed in NY to Clean-Up Court Corruption

MISPRISION OF FELONY - Whoever, having knowledge of the actual commission of a felony cognizable by a court of the U.S., conceals and does not as soon as possible make known the same to some judge or other person in civil or military authority under the U.S. 18 USCMisprision of felony, is the like concealment of felony, without giving any degree of maintenance to the felon for if any aid be given him, the party becomes an accessory after the fact. 

Famed Litigator, Son Ordered to Different Federal Prisons

By The Associated Press - New York Lawyer - July 24, 2008

Famed anti-tobacco lawyer Richard "Dickie" Scruggs has been ordered to report to a federal prison in Ashland, Ky., next month to start serving his five-year sentence for attempting to bribe a Mississippi judge. Documents filed Wednesday in federal court in Oxford, Miss., also showed Scruggs' son, Zach, will go to a federal prison in Pensacola, Fla., to serve his 14-month sentence for failing to report the crime. Sidney Backstrom, also convicted of attempted bribery and sentenced to 28 months, previously was ordered to report to the prison in Forrest City, Ark. Dickie Scruggs and Backstrom are each to report to prison by Aug. 4. Zach Scruggs was told to report by Aug. 15. In documents filed with the court Tuesday, Zach Scruggs asked that he and his father both be sent to the prison in Forrest City, Ark. Zach Scruggs said that sending them to the same prison would "ease the travel burden" on his family, especially his "health-embattled mother," Diane, who has Crohn's disease, a gastrointestinal disorder.

Dickie Scruggs was indicted in November along with his son and Backstrom after another attorney wore a wire for the FBI and secretly recorded conversations about the plan to bribe Lafayette County Circuit Judge Henry Lackey. Prosecutors said the elder Scruggs wanted a favorable ruling in a dispute over $26.5 million in legal fees from a mass settlement of Hurricane Katrina insurance cases. Dickie Scruggs and Backstrom pleaded guilty in March to conspiring to bribe Lackey with $50,000. Zach Scruggs pleaded guilty in March to misprision of a felony, meaning he knew a crime was committed but didn't report it. Dickie Scruggs gained fame in the 1990s by using a corporate insider against tobacco companies in lawsuits that resulted in a $206 billion settlement. That case was portrayed in the 1999 film "The Insider" that starred Al Pacino and Russell Crowe.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Insider Says Bruno Charges Mirror FBI's Currie Corruption Case

FBI: Currie used influence for chain's benefit
The Associated Press - July 23, 2008

BALTIMORE (AP) - Influential state Sen. Ulysses Currie used his office to benefit a company he was working for, according to an affidavit written by an FBI special agent who specializes in federal public corruption cases. Currie worked as a consultant for Shoppers Food Warehouse but did not disclose income from the company on ethics forms. His dealings with the grocery chain are being investigated by the FBI. Currie, 70, declined to comment to The Associated Press on Tuesday evening. An affidavit for a search warrant unsealed Tuesday at the request of several news organizations says Currie, who chairs the Senate Budget and Taxation Committee, also had 320 phone contacts with employees of Shoppers and its parent company over the last five years. The affidavit shows that in 2005 and 2006 while the transfer of a liquor license from one store to another was being considered, phone records showed "frequent contact" between Currie's numbers and those of Shoppers representatives, Prince George's County's chief liquor inspector and a county liquor board attorney. It also shows contacts before the opening of a Shoppers store at Mondawmin Mall in Baltimore and states mall owners needed state land for a renovation key to Shoppers' decision to open a store there.

FBI special agent Steven Quisenberry, who specializes in federal public corruption cases, writes in the affidavit that the Prince George's County Democrat voted on bills that affected Shoppers during the time he received payments from the company and he believes Currie used his influence to benefit Shoppers. "During the time period that Currie received payments from SFW and SuperValu, Currie voted on a number of bills that impacted, or would have impacted, the grocery industry and therefore, SFW and its parent company SuperValu," Quisenberry wrote. "Based on the facts set forth in this affidavit, it is my belief that Currie used his official position and influence in connection with such legislation and in certain business transactions involving the State of Maryland, in ways that benefited or would have benefited SFW and SuperValu."

Information about how much Shoppers paid Currie was temporarily redacted from the affidavit at the request of Currie's attorney, Dale Kelberman. In hearings Monday, Kelberman argued that Currie has not been charged and his right to privacy outweighs the public's right to access. Kelberman has until Monday to file an appeal, effectively extending the redaction until the case reaches the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit in Richmond, Va. Currie's ties to Shoppers, where he worked as an outside consultant, are under federal investigation. His District Heights home and the chain's Lanham headquarters were searched by the FBI on May 29 as part of the investigation. The affidavit indicates Currie is being investigated in connection with mail and wire fraud schemes "regarding money and property and the deprivation of the intangible right to honest services."

Open Letter to Chief Administrative Judge Pfau on DDC Corruption

Will Galison
532 LaGuardia Place # 349
New York, New York  10012

To: 
Hon. Ann Pfau, Chief Administrative Judge
Office of Court Administration
25 Beaver Street
New York, NY 10004        BY FAX AND BY HAND

July 19, 2008

Your Honor,

I am one of a group of ten New Yorkers who have filed federal lawsuits against the Office ofCourt Administration on grounds including obstruction of justice and official misconduct. All of our suits are substantially related to the claims of Ms. Christine Anderson, a former Investigating Attorney of the First Departmental Disciplinary Committee who was fired after reporting systemic corruption at the highest level of the DDC. I recently withdrew my federal lawsuit, because I felt that I had not yet exhausted every non-litigious recourse in resolving my grievances with the OCA.

Over the past several months, I have endeavored to communicate with Mr. Allan Friedberg and Judge John Lippman, to see if they would work with me to resolve my grievances regarding the OCA so that I might avoid re-filing my lawsuit. Sadly, my good faith efforts have been met with deceit, condescension and adamant adherence to the illegal practices oftheir predecessors, Thomas Cahill and John Buckley.

This letter to you is my final attempt to avoid re-filing my suit against the OCA. The behaviorof your subordinates at the DDC is so audacious, contemptuous and blatantly illegal that they appear to believe they have been given carte blanche to desecrate the rules and reputation of the First Department. I earnestly hope they are mistaken and that the reason they have not been held to account is that Your Honor has been unaware of the improprieties of Mr. Friedberg and his colleagues in their capacities as officers and representatives of the court for which you are responsible.

Violation and Distortion of Section 605.9

Though the list of improprieties perpetrated by Mr. Cahill and the DDC (and perpetuated by Mr. Friedberg) can be found in Ms. Anderson’s lawsuit and her related affidavits, this letter will focus on one specific practice, which is emblematic of the DDC’s disregard for the rules of the First Department and their propensity for protecting favored attorneys.

This practice is the illegal citing of “pending” or “related litigation” as an excuse to defer or close investigations of attorneys he wishes to protect. As I will demonstrate, not only does this practice directly violate of Section 605.9 of the Rules of the Unified Court System, but it leads to outrageous ramifications, including giving unethical attorneys a powerful incentive to improperly delay and prolong legal procedures.

In a letter dated 5/19/06 former Chief Counsel Cahill wrote: “Since your complaint involves parties that are in the midst of litigation, we have decided to close our investigation at this time.” The “parties” cited by Mr. Cahill were, at the time, not defendants in a civil case, but merely lawyers of counsel to parties in a civil case. Even after these lawyers withdrew as counsel in the case, Mr. Cahill’s successor, Allan Friedberg, continues to maintain that they are immune from investigation, solely because they had been of counsel to a party in the civil case at one time. Mr. Friedberg wrote: “As you know, there is pending litigation concerning the same or related facts which you allege here…Accordingly we have decided to close our investigation…The Committee…concluded that we should await the conclusion of the litigation”.

The DDC uses the words “pending” and “related” to refer to any litigation in which the accused lawyer is presently or was formerly involved as counsel. There is no provision in the Uniform Rules that allows abatement or deferment of investigations due to “pending” or“related” litigation. To the contrary, Section 605.9- the only section of the Unified Rules that deals with abatement of disciplinary investigations- is clearly intended to prohibit arbitrary, abatements of ethical investigations due to pending litigation.

605.9.1 states: “The processing of complaints involving material allegations which are substantially similar to the material allegations of pending criminal or civil litigation need not be deferred pending determination of such litigation.” 605.9.1 makes it absolutely clear that even if the ethical allegations are substantially similar to the civil or criminal case, this is not sufficient cause to close or even defer an investigation.Obviously, if the ethical allegations are not similar at all to the civil or criminal allegations,then 605.9 applies even more strictly, prohibiting the abatement of the investigation based merely on “related” litigation in another court.

Moreover, even if the subject of the ethical complaint is acquitted of substantially similar allegations in a civil or criminal case, that is STILL NOT SUFFICIENT to abate the disciplinary investigation against them. 605.9.2 states: “The acquittal of a Respondent on criminal charges or a verdict or judgment in the Respondent's favor in a civil litigation involving substantially similar material allegations shall not, in itself, justify termination of a disciplinary investigation predicated upon the same material allegations.

Acquittal of substantially similar allegations by a court of law in a case directly against accused attorneys does not exempt them from disciplinary investigation. Nevertheless, Mr.Friedman closed the investigations in my case not because the attorneys had been acquitted ofsimilar allegations in a civil case, not because the attorneys had been accused of similar allegations in a civil case, not because dissimilar allegations in the two cases arose from similar facts, not even because the attorneys are in “the midst of litigation”, but merely because the attorneys had at one time in the past been of counsel to a party in a case that isstill pending.

In my case, the civil case is still “pending” precisely due to the fact that the lawyers inquestion have broken disciplinary rules by “unnecessarily delaying and prolonging a procedure”, tampering with evidence, making false allegations, and many other egregious ethical infractions. As a result of Mr. Friedberg’s own private rule regarding abatement, these attorneys are allowed to unethically prolong the litigation precisely to avoid the ethical investigations meant to deter their unethical behavior. Mr. Friedberg’s bizarre rule is actually an incentive for delinquent lawyers to delay and prolong cases as long as possible!

The outrageous ramifications of Mr. Friedberg’s rule are illustrated in the example below:

Mr. A sues Mr. B, on the allegation that Mr. B threw a ball through Mr. A’s window.Mr. B’s lawyer then contacts Mr. A (who is represented by counsel) directly, and threatens to bring criminal charges against him if he doesn’t drop the suit against Mr. B.As a result of this unethical harassment, Mr. A files an ethical complaint with the DDC, The civil claim against Mr. B (of throwing a ball thrown through Mr. A’s window) is in no way similar to the ethical claims against Mr. B’s lawyer, which would include DR 7-104: Communicating with Represented and Unrepresented Persons and DR 7-105: Threatening Criminal Prosecution. Just because the ethical allegations against Mr. B’slawyer arose in the context of the pending broken window case, they are not “similar” or“related” to the civil allegations in any way.

Even if the ethical allegations against Mr. B’s lawyer were somehow “substantially similar” to the civil allegations against him, 605.9 deems this insufficient grounds to defer an ethical investigation. 605.9 does not even mention “related” or “pending” litigation because it would be patently outrageous for the DDC to allow Mr. B’s lawyer to continue harassing and intimidating Mr. A until the conclusion of the civil procedure -potentially for years-simply because the civil procedure is ongoing!

Under this scenario, if Mr. A files a disciplinary complaint against Mr. B’s lawyer, Mr. B’slawyer can simply cite Mr. Friedberg’s private rule, and be free to continue his abuses untilthe case is over, without so much as an admonition. If Mr. B’s lawyer can figure out ways to unnecessarily prolong and delay the litigation indefinitely, he will fare even better, because hewill be paid indefinitely, he will be allowed to intimidate Mr. A indefinitely, he will exhaust Mr. A’s finances and morale indefinitely, AND he will avoid ethical investigation indefinitely. On the other hand, what motivation does Mr. B’s lawyer have to resolve the case or cease his harassment? That is exactly why Section 605.9 was framed.

That is exactly why Mr. Friedberg and Mr.Cahill cannot be allowed to make up their own crazy rules.

De Facto Motions to Dismiss on Behalf of Accused Lawyers

Finally, the question of whether or not to commence a DDC investigation is procedurally akin to a civil court’s decision to take on a civil case. In the judicial context, if the stated claims and jurisdiction are appropriate to the court, the defendant is obliged to make a motion for dismissal, which is then considered by the court. There is nothing in the rules of the DDC that suggest a substantially different approach to vetting cases, but by citing “pending litigation”, Mr. Friedberg is making and adjudicating a de facto motion to dismiss on the attorneys’ behalf, with no input from the complainant. This is analogous to the Supreme Court undertaking and ruling on an independent investigation on behalf of the defendant to determine if a case against her is in their jurisdiction.

As it is uncontestable that my complaint refers to specific violations of specific LCPR rules by attorneys practicing law in the First Department, the jurisdiction is not in question.Therefore, the DDC’s only job is to send the complaint to the accused attorney. If that attorney has an argument as to why they should be immune from investigation (due to “pending litigation” or anything else), she or her attorney may make that argument, and the DDC must consider them in light of the (real) rules. It is not the DDC’s job to find reasonswhy the lawyers should not be investigated for complaints within their jurisdiction.

Notice, however, how Mr. Friedberg fills his letter of July 16, 2008 with paragraphs about the status of the “pending lawsuits” and discussion of certain judges dismissing claims (albeit irrelevant claims) against defendants (albeit irrelevant defendants). As I have pointed out adnauseum, even if Mr. Friedberg’s letter regarded the pertinent claims against the pertinent defendants, it would be entirely irrelevant by virtue of Section 605.9.2. What possible reason can there be for Mr. Friedberg to waste ink on irrelevant claims, defendants and decisions, other than to fool me into thinking they were relevant to the investigations of entirely distinct claims and defendants and therefore legitimate grounds for abatement?

Of the five complaints that I have filed with the DDC in the past three years, all have been against lawyers in Manhattan, all have cited specific violations of the LCPR and not one has been sent to the accused attorney. They have all been summarily closed due to “pending” or“related” litigation. Just as Mr. Cahill and Mr. Friedberg are not allowed to make up their own court rules, neither are they allowed to advocate for accused lawyers by creating and deciding sham, de facto “motions for dismissal. What they are doing is nothing less than obstruction of justice and fraud against the court.

As a taxpayer and citizen of New York City, I am demanding that the OCA investigate the illegal practices of the DDC, especially in regard to the abatement of investigations in directin violation of 605.9. It is the OCA’s obligation to investigate and rectify this outrageous situation and to punish those who have broken the law. If the OCA is too invested in this matter to fairly and effectively conduct such an investigation, it should be referred to the proper Federal authorities.

Judge Pfau; Over the past five years, I have encountered corruption, cronyism and conspiracy at every level of the Judiciary. When I received no good faith response from Mr. Cahill, Icontacted his successor, Mr. Friedberg. When I received no good faith response from Mr. Friedberg I contacted his immediate superior Judge Lippman. When I received no good faith response from Judge Lippman I contacted his immediate superior; Your Honor.

If you fail to respond in good faith, I will not bother to contact Judge Kaye. Judge Kaye is already well aware of the improprieties of the DDC. I will re-file my federal complaint naming all the parties who failed to act in response to the crystal clear butchering of Rules of the Court by high-ranking officials. By a “good faith” response, I mean a response that is honest concerned, eager to discover the facts and willing to act in earnest to rectify improprieties regardless of political considerations.

I hope and expect that you will live up to your reputation as a fair, courageous and uncorrupted Judge. If you choose to do the right thing, you will be regarded as a hero by millions of citizens and by history. I look forward to receiving your response as soon as possible.

Sincerely,

/s/

Attachments: Letters to and/ or from Allan Friedberg, Tom Cahill and Jonathan Lippman

Expose Corrupt Court NOTE: The attachments noted above will be posted soon

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Disbarred NY Lawyer/Sex Criminal Sues Amex for Ratting Him Out to Cops

Disbarred NY Lawyer/Sex Criminal Sues Amex for Ratting Him Out to Cops
New York Lawyer - July 22, 2008

NEW YORK (AP) - A disbarred Manhattan lawyer who pleaded guilty to statutory rape has sued the American Express Co. for giving police credit card information he says resulted in his capture. James Colliton, formerly an attroney at Cadwalader, Wickersham & Taft, was arrested in February 2006 near Toronto, where prosecutors say he fled after being indicted on charges of having sex with underage girls. The 44-year-old Colliton said Monday from his Poughkeepsie home that AmEx violated its agreement to withhold customer information from third parties. AmEx spokeswoman Joanna Lambert says the company's officials haven't seen the lawsuit and can't comment. Colliton pleaded guilty in October 2007 and was sentenced to three concurrent one-year terms. He was released a few days after sentencing because he had been in custody 19 months.

Daily News Editorial on Commission on Judicial Conduct

Commission on Judicial Conduct must send Lee Holzman packing
EDITORIAL - The New York Daily News - July 19, 2008

Any judge who lets cronies mishandle $20 million belonging to the heirs of the dead deserves to be kicked off the bench. Any judge who puts taxpayers on the hook for $20 million by letting pals wrongly invest people's money deserves to be kicked off the bench. Any judge who awards large fees to a buddy without requiring the buddy to first explain what he did to earn the money deserves to be kicked off the bench. Bronx Surrogate Judge Lee Holzman must go. The state Commission on Judicial Conduct must open a probe leading to Holzman's removal from office. The facts are not in dispute. The whole outrageous story is detailed in Sunday's Daily News by reporter Nancie L. Katz. The cast of characters is a sorry lot.

Top billing goes to Holzman, a creature of the Bronx Democratic organization who presides over the estates of the dead. The post is coveted among machine lawyers because the surrogate dispenses lucrative assignments to attorneys and accountants. The surrogate also appoints the public administrator, who handles estates that have no wills. And the surrogate names a counsel, a private lawyer who gets fees for services. It has long been a swamp, but some laws and rules are aimed at keeping the muck to a minimum. No matter. Holzman, his former and present public administrators, Esther Rodriguez and John Raniolo, and counsel Michael Lippman went out of bounds.

For starters, Rodriguez and Raniolo were supposed to put inheritance money in conservative investments like treasury bonds. Instead, they put $20 million from 37 estates into what are known as auction-rate securities. These are like bonds, only riskier. And the market for them froze with the subprime crisis. So Holzman & Co. can't redeem them. Controller William Thompson has determined the city must cover the $20 million and take the securities in return.

Let's hope trading rebounds someday. Holzman was ultimately responsible for approving the investments. His claim that he "had no knowledge [of the investments] until there was a problem" condemns him. The result: Holzman's crew has denied the heirs access to the money - while doing well for themselves. Lippman pocketed $1.9 million in fees. And, for quite some time, Holzman signed off on payments before Lippman documented his charges. Boot him. Case closed.

Monday, July 21, 2008

City probing top Bronx court officials on heirs' 20M

City probing top Bronx court officials on heirs' 20M
The New York Daily News by NANCIE L. KATZ - July 20, 2008

The city has launched a probe of top court officials in the Bronx accused of improperly investing $20 million left behind by New Yorkers who died without wills, the Daily News has learned. City Controller William Thompson has blasted Public Administrator John Raniolo for "financially irresponsible decisions" that tied up the assets of 37 estates and that taxpayers now have to cover through city payouts. Sources close to Thompson said the matter had been referred to the city Department of Investigation. "There's concern about the making and the magnitude of the investments," the source said. "Where is the due diligence here? It's mind-boggling." A DOI spokeswoman confirmed the agency was "aware of the matter" but declined further comment.

Even though heirs couldn't get at their money, Surrogate Judge Lee Holzman let politically wired lawyers and accountants collect $2.1 million in fees. Lawyer Michael Lippman, who helped get Holzman elected twice, took $1.9 million in fees before filing legally required affidavits saying what he did to earn them. Heirs have been trying to get their loved ones' estates closed for years, yet Holzman never asked Lippman to provide explanations as to why the cases lingered so long. One began as far back as 1990, another in 1995. Lippman told The News he considered the investments legal and that he did nothing wrong. The public administrator is supposed to put assets in secure investments such as Treasury bills. In 2005, former Public Administrator Esther Rodriguez handed the money to broker JB Hanauer & Co., which put the money in investments called auction-rate securities.

Auction-rate securities offer a slightly higher yield than the more conservative investments the public administrators are allowed to make, but the bonds depend on auctions by banks to be cashed. The market for auction-rate securities froze in February because of the credit crisis. Raniolo continued the practice after Rodriguez resigned in disgrace in 2006. Eric Siber, Hanauer's director of marketing and sales, said he considered the securities "relatively liquid." On Friday, JB Hanauer indicated that $825,000 of the $20million might be released to the public administrator this week. Hanauer broker Jason Reback has been investing for Bronx public administrators for more than 15 years. Both Raniolo and Judge Holzman said they were unaware federal authorities had suspended Reback for 10 days in 2005 for unauthorized trades. Reback did not return calls. nkatz@nydailynews.com

NY Daily News Editor's note: Sunday's News exposed how a Bronx judge mishandled dozens of inheritances, allowing cronies to reap lucrative legal fees and leaving taxpayers on the line for millions.

Bronx Surrogate judge oversaw bad investments of cash

Bronx judge oversaw city's bad investments of inheritance cash
The New York Daily News by NANCY L. KATZ - July 20, 2008

A top Bronx judge let political cronies reap lucrative fees from dozens of improperly invested inheritances - leaving taxpayers on the hook for $20 million. The mishandling of the money - overseen by Surrogate Judge Lee Holzman and managed by two aides - let politically wired lawyers and accountants rake in $2.1 million in fees, while heirs of the 37 victimized estates couldn't get their money. "They take their fees and the families be damned," said Robert Southern, who has threatened to sue to get his inheritance from his late aunt, Florence Einstein. "Are they waiting for us all to die?" asked Sharon Gentry, whose 97-year-old mother-in-law is still waiting for her inheritance from cousin Alice Babineau, who was killed in a 1995 car accident.

A Daily News investigation found the risky investments were first made in 2005 by ex-Bronx public administrator Esther Rodriguez, who resigned under a cloud in 2006, and continued by her successor, John Raniolo. Public administrators manage the assets of residents who die without wills until the court approves a settlement. They are supposed to invest estate money in conservative financial instruments such as treasury bills. Judge Holzman appointed Rodriguez and Raniolo to the job and was responsible for monitoring all of the estates. He signed off on all fees and was supposed to make sure the cases moved swiftly through the courts. The problem surfaced in April, when city Controller William Thompson discovered the Bronx public administrator had put millions into auction-rate securities, risky investments that were no longer selling.

Thompson determined the city would have to pay the heirs and wait until it could the sell the now-worthless securities. So far the city has had to pay out $900,000 and hopes to be paid back for everything when the securities become liquid again. "I am extremely troubled by the fact that New York City taxpayers are going to have to foot the bill for these ill-considered and financially irresponsible decisions," Thompson said. Auction-rate securities promise slightly higher returns than T-bills and money markets but rely on bidders at regular auctions.

In February, the auction-rate market froze when banks, chastened by the collapse of the home mortgage market, stopped bidding on them. As a result, the heirs could no longer access their money. This compounded existing frustrations for families who'd been trying for years to close the estates and get inheritances from loved ones who'd died as far back as 1990. Some heirs have died waiting for what's rightfully theirs. More infuriating for family members is that while they couldn't get their money, lawyers, accountants and the brokerage that managed the investments could. Topping the insiders list was Michael Lippman, counsel to public administrator Raniolo, who has collected $1.9 million in fees from the 37 estates. He still considers the investments legal. Questions have arisen about Lippman's fees. Though he's required to submit written explanations before receiving fees, Lippman admits he often submitted required affidavits long after he'd collected the money. The judge never required Lippman to submit written explanations about why the cases were repeatedly delayed. After auditors warned the public administrator to stop this practice in 2006, Lippman began submitting timely explanations.

In at least one recent case, Attorney General Andrew Cuomo objected to Lippman's fees as "excessive and unreasonable." Lippman insists he has done nothing wrong, blaming delays on problems locating heirs, difficulties proving kinship and accounting issues. Raniolo's office also has requested tens of thousands of dollars in fees from some estates, records show. A percentage of that money is returned to the city; the rest pays for administrative costs in his office. Raniolo said auditors twice went over his books and "no one indicated to me at any time the investments were improper." The court's disciplinary committee is investigating Raniolo's role in the bad investments. Raniolo plans to resign this week for another job in the courts. He says it's unrelated to the auction-rate investments. Late Friday Raniolo said his office expects this week to be able to redeem a fraction of the $20 million in frozen funds (about $800,000). Judge Holzman is ultimately responsible for the actions of Lippman, Rodriguez and Raniolo. He appointed them and signed off on fees. Lippman helped challenge petitions of Holzman's political rivals in 1987, and aided Holzman's campaign again in 2002. His wife also donated $1,000 to the judge's campaign.

"Did I help the judge [get elected]? Sure I did. Does that mean I got rewarded for it? No," he said. "I worked for everything I had." Holzman insisted he "had no knowledge [about the auction-rate investments] until there was a problem." "No matter what the motive is, if someone doesn't get what they had every right to expect when they expect it, of course it's upsetting," he said. Other entities with ties to the judge have benefitted. Besides Lippman, seven other lawyers demanded $286,050 in fees from the estates, including Harry Amer, who also aided Holzman's 1987 election bid, and the son of disgraced ex-Bronx Democratic boss Stanley Friedman. Accounting firm Hoberman and Miller, which once gave Holzman's lawyer daughter free office space, collected at least $131,227 in fees, records show. The judge said his predecessor brought in Hoberman and that he "knew nothing about it when they made the arrangement [with his daughter] and in no way talked to anyone about it." A brokerage, J.B. Hanauer & Co., collected a modest fee on the investments - about $30,000 a year, said Eric Siber, head of marketing for the firm. "It's an accommodation to a client looking for a greater yield," he said. "No broker made any money on these auction rates." nkatz@nydailynews.com

New York is Run By a Bunch of Bullies

SUNSHINE FOR SHELLY
New York Post EDITORIAL - July 21, 2008

Cavalier. Outrageous. Disgraceful.

Those are the exact words that pit- bull Supreme Court Justice Emily Jane Goodman used last week to describe the conduct of Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver in handling multiple sexual-assault allegations against his former chief counsel, Michael Boxley. Back in 2003, Boxley plea-bargained his way out of a rape charge leveled by a 22-year-old legislative intern, admitting to a misdemeanor charge for which he got a mere six years' probation. That was two years after another legislative staffer charged that Boxley had assaulted her sexually. Silver's response: He conducted what the initial victim called a sham investigation - after publicly expressing his "utmost personal confidence" in Boxley and praising his "integrity" and "character."

After Boxley's conviction, the second woman filed a civil suit against both Silver and Boxley - which then-Attorney General Eliot Spitzer generously settled on their behalf with a $507,500 payment to the victim. Plus legal fees. Problem is, $480,000 of that money was billed to New York's beleaguered taxpayers - and Silver himself got off scot-free, without having to pay a red cent. That led a retired lawyer, Joseph Santora, to file his own lawsuit, demanding that Silver and Boxley be required to pick up the entire tab. Last week, Judge Goodman dismissed the case - ruling that Spitzer was legally obligated to defend the two men at public expense. But she still took a clear and unmistakable shot at Speaker Silver - denouncing his "cavalier conduct" as "outrageous and disgraceful."

It's about time someone in a position of authority said so. Because apart from state Sen. Sen. Tom Duane (D-Man.) - who accused Silver of "dropping the ball" on sex crimes by ignoring "a big warning" in the first case involving Boxley - there was barely a peep to be heard from the folks up in Albany. But there's a larger issue here than a judge's finally calling out Shelly Silver - and just in time for his first serious primary challenge in decades, to boot. Now, a convincing case can be made for taxpayers having to foot the bill when public officials are sued over their actions in the line of duty, so to speak, as office-holders. Last time we checked, though, rape was not one of the required functions of a chief counsel to the speaker of the state Assembly. Neither is covering up said crime and other similar assaults. Which is why we hope Joe Santora appeals the judge's decision. Which he promises to do - saying, "The sun not coming up tomorrow is less likely." So just wait 'til the sun shines, Shelly.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Judge's son, a fake attorney, held in fraud

WILL IMPOSTER ATTORNEY DEFEND HIMSELF?
Judge's son held in fraud; cops say he sold restaurateur's home, then kept the money
The Staten Island Advance by PHIL HELSEL - July 18, 2008

STATEN ISLAND, N.Y. -- The son of a retired judge is accused of pretending to be an attorney in order to sell a woman's home, then keeping the money for himself. Police say Renauld Gregg, 29, the son of retired administrative law judge Ronald Gregg, played the role of an attorney well enough to close the sale of an acquaintance's Stapleton home -- then kept the $156,877 and left his victim in foreclosure.

"Unfortunately for this victim, Mr. Gregg was not an attorney and never handed over the proceeds of the sale," District Attorney Daniel Donovan said. Renauld Gregg allegedly slammed the door in the face of detectives who came to arrest him yesterday morning at the house on Wygant Place in West Brighton he shares with roommates, but by last night he was being held in lieu of $252,500 bail. The suspect's father told the Advance yesterday that he was surprised by the criminal charges, although he was aware of prosecutors' interest. "Nothing other than bits and pieces, speaking with people in the district attorney's office, who wanted to speak with him regarding a transaction," Ronald Gregg said. "But the allegation that he was representing himself as a lawyer, I had not heard that." Renauld Gregg also was a staffer in Al Curtis' 2004 campaign for the state Senate seat currently occupied by Diane Savino. Police say the younger Gregg befriended Robina White in 2006, when he was a regular at her Caribbean restaurant, the Coral Cafe in Stapleton. He allegedly convinced Ms. White that he was a lawyer -- he even produced business cards at one point -- and offered to help her sell her Hillside Avenue home in 2007.

He was successful with the sale, police say, but didn't use the $156,877 in proceeds to pay off Ms. White's mortgage, instead keeping the cash for himself. Ms. White discovered her home had been sold when she received a notice of foreclosure, said Donovan's spokesman, William Smith. The lender stopped foreclosure proceedings after learning Ms. White was the victim of a crime. Gregg was arraigned yesterday on charges of second-degree grand larceny, unauthorized practice of a profession and resisting arrest. The most serious charge carries up to 15 years in prison for a conviction at trial. He has a criminal record that includes out-of-state theft and larceny convictions, and was convicted here in 2004 for what prosecutors described as a "financial-related" felony; he received probation. No one answered the door yesterday at Ms. White's two-story home, which is surrounded by a white picket fence. The Coral Cafe, meanwhile, appears to have been closed for some time. Ronald Gregg was out of town and hadn't heard all the details of the charges against his son last night, but said he believes it stems from a misunderstanding. "Hopefully, when the full story comes out, you'll find out it was a mistake, and can be resolved amicably," the retired judge said. Phil Helsel is a news reporter for the Advance. He may be reached at helsel@siadvance.com.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

NYC Lawyer-Pimp thought he was above the law, wrongly

Cops say lawyers ran midtown brothel

The New York Daily News by BARBARA ROSS, KRISTEN V. BROWN AND ALISON GENDAR - July 19, 2008

Teams of vice cops swooped down and busted a posh midtown strip club that catered to stockbrokers and bankers - and featured porn stars who charged $5,000 for private trysts. Prominent tax lawyer Louis Posner; his wife, Betty; and 19 others were arrested on a variety of prostitution and money-laundering charges at The Hot Lap Dance Club, which the couple ran out of a velvet-heavy loft, police said. Cops said Posner raked in $1 million over the last 10 months from the operation, which billed itself as "the Number 1 Gentlemen's Club in the World." Four of the club's dancers including busty, streaked-blond porn star Alexia Moore - were busted for prostitution. Another 15 strip club employees - including a rejected NYPD applicant and a private security officer - were arrested in Thursday's raid, sources said. No customers were cuffed. The fifth-floor fantasy lounge on W. 38th St. offered its well-heeled members topless and all-nude lap dances from a bevy of beauties. To get in, patrons had to be recommended by another member, or pass muster with the club's Internet screeners, cops said. There was a $50 cover charge plus a $20 membership fee.

Patrons then had to get past club security, "two monsters at the door downstairs," said a source familiar with the sizzling jiggle joint. Besides half a dozen private bedrooms, the plush 7,000-foot loft had small cubicles patrons could rent for $300 for 15 minutes of fun - up from just $160 when the prostitution probe began a year ago, cops said. For $500 to $5,000 more, the high-rollers could retire to private bedrooms for more personalized attention, or arrange for sex "off-premises." Patrons who ran low on cash could hit the loft's ATM for up to $900 per visit. A 13-page criminal complaint said undercover cops posing as men interested in throwing a bachelor party were told they could have a private room - with a bed - for $250 an hour, plus whatever they spent on the women. "The house dealer of cocaine" came by the club every night and one manager boasted to undercover cops, "Lou has a source in the NYPD payroll so he can know who's a cop," the complaint said.

Dancers called Posner "Daddy" and one employee told an undercover cop the women had to have sex with Posner if they wanted a job, court records said. Cops said Posner laundered the sex profits through Voter March, a nonprofit voter registration organization he founded. "He's a lawyer who specializes in tax matters so he knew how to go below the radar," said Sgt. Christopher Koch of the NYPD's VICE club unit. Investigators seized $570,000 from the Posners' 13 bank accounts and two safe deposit boxes. A law enforcement source said all the money can be traced back to the club and is subject to forfeiture. Tenants who shared digs in the building said they dimed out the sex club to cops two years ago. "Everybody knew it was a sex club," said Bruce Gilarei, 45. "One of the tenants here went to check it out with his girlfriend." Posner, once known as the king of nuisance lawsuits, brought a landmark $16 million suit against his then-4-year-old son's nursery school in 1992 for letting the child run out of his classroom. That son, Daniel, now nearly 20, told reporters he didn't know anything about the strip club.

A neighbor in the Posners' posh E. 48th St. apartment building, where monthly rents run $6,000 to $10,000, called the couple quiet - but odd. "They are just the most low-key people," said a next-door neighbor who didn't want to give his name. "A little strange, but very low-key. They keep to themselves." A lawyer who shared an office suit with Posner was dumbfounded. "It's the last thing I would think anyone who works so hard to be a lawyer would do." But a stunning stripper in her mid-20s who wasn't among those arrested Friday described Posner as "a sleazy, disgusting and disloyal boss" who often hit on the girls. She said two weeks ago Posner announced that customer complaints were prompting him to weed out bad dancers with "auditions" for managers he said would be used to critique the women on "the art of lap dancing." Moore, whose real name is Cassandra Malandri, was released on her own recognizance after her arraignment in Manhattan Criminal Cout Friday night. The Posners were expected to be arraigned Saturday. The club last made news in March when it was sued by a securities trader who claimed he was seriously injured when a lap-dancing stripper swiveled and slammed him in the face with her shoe. agendar@nydailynews.com With Kamelia Angelova and Kristen Brown

Friday, July 18, 2008

Judge Accused of Indecent Exposure Wants Special Prosecutor Removed

Judge Accused of Indecent Exposure Wants Special Prosecutor Removed
The Associated Press and New York Lawyer - July 18, 2008

A state appellate court has been asked to remove a special prosecutor in the case of a Tulsa County district judge accused of indecent exposure. Lawyers for Judge Jesse Harris asked the Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals Thursday to order Osage County District Judge M. John Kane IV to disqualify Washington County District Attorney Rick Esser and his staff. Court papers filed by Harris' attorneys say the appeals court should allow oral arguments addressing issues of misconduct that affect not only Harris' rights but also the appearance of fairness in the state's criminal processes. Kane denied the disqualification request last month, saying the facts show credible responses from the prosecution to the issues presented by Harris. Defense attorneys Joel Wohlgemuth and Allen Smallwood claim Esser's office engaged in an abuse of power in an attempt to force Harris from the bench.

Harris has not been arraigned on a two-count indecent exposure charge, and no preliminary hearing is scheduled. Those matters are likely to be delayed until the appeals court resolves the disqualification request. In March, the state Office of the Attorney General appointed Esser to evaluate the accusations that resulted in the felony counts being filed in April. The Tulsa County District Attorney's Office was excused from the matter. Harris is accused of exposing himself to two women in March in the parking lot of a Tulsa motel. He denies the allegations. One of the women is identified as his ex-girlfriend; the other, her friend, is in the Tulsa Jail with two unresolved felony DUI charges. Harris filed a civil lawsuit against the two women last month, alleging that they slandered and libeled him. Tulsa County Presiding District Judge Michael Gassett has asked state Supreme Court Chief Justice James Winchester to appoint an out-of-county judge to handle that civil case.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Portfolio Magazine - Why was Tom Carvel's Death Certificate Forged?

Cold Case
PORTFOLIO MAGAZINE by Joel Siegel (August 2008 Issue)

Tom Carvel's ice cream empire churned up a substantial estate and a bitter, Dickensian fight over his money. Now a lawsuit asks, was he murdered?

On what would be the final weekend of his life, Tom Carvel drove to his country home in upstate New York, deeply depressed. He’d built a namesake national chain of 850 ice cream shops, developing some of the fast-food and franchising concepts that changed how America eats. His sandpaper-voiced pitches in commercials—“Thinny-Thin for your fatty-fat friends,” he said in one spot—had made Carvel a household name. He golfed with Bob Hope and did a guest turn on Late Night With David Letterman. He had recently sold his chain for $80 million, but he held on to a 100-room motel, 40 properties leased to Carvel franchisees, and a golf course in Dutchess County, New York. At 84, Carvel still was going to work every day.

But there were deepening problems inside his empire. Carvel confided to an associate that he no longer trusted Mildred Arcadipane, his corporate secretary of 38 years, or Robert Davis, his longtime lawyer and close financial adviser. Carvel had come to believe that they were scheming behind his back, maybe stealing from him. After agonizing for months, he arrived at his country home on Saturday determined to march into his office on Monday and fire his lawyer and relieve his secretary—a mercurial woman, according to many who knew her—of her considerable power.

But Carvel never got the chance. He was found dead in his bed that Sunday morning in 1990, the victim, it appeared, of a heart attack. Instead of being dismissed and demoted, Davis and Arcadipane returned to work and began to take command of Carvel’s business and personal finances. The Carvel estate, officially valued at $67 million, spurred what one lawyer calls a “feeding frenzy”; nearly 18 years later, a bitter fight rages on. In most estate battles, family members square off against one another. But the principal fault lines in this case have put Davis, Arcadipane, and the multimillion-dollar charity that Carvel left behind on one side, and Carvel’s widow, Agnes, and his niece Pamela Carvel on the other. The Carvels had no children, and Agnes “was frozen out of everything,” Pamela contends. “She was denied millions that Tom wanted her to receive.”

In 2007, after years of digging by private investigators in Pamela’s employ, the case took a bizarre turn. Pamela filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, alleging that Carvel’s death resulted in “fraudsters…controlling all Carvel funds to the exclusion of the Carvels.” She asked that her uncle’s body be exhumed for an autopsy to determine if he was murdered as part of the alleged scheme. The petition concludes with a question: “Will the truth finally be known?” And with that, one of the most contested estate fights in New York history also became a murder mystery.

Pamela says she has circumstantial evidence against several former Carvel employees, but a great deal of her ire over the years has been aimed at Davis and Arcadipane, who not only continued to work for the company but also battled Agnes for years over the Carvel fortune from their seats on the Thomas and Agnes Carvel Foundation board—seats they gained through a document whose validity has been called into question. Both eventually were forced to resign from the board for misappropriating foundation money. Their families and lawyers scoff at any notion that they would ever have harmed Tom Carvel, but even if they had, neither will face justice. They are dead.
By any measure, the Carvel case is a legal colossus. More than 40 lawyers have had a hand in it. Legal fees and commissions have already drained more than $28 million from the Carvel fortune, according to Leonard Ross, one of Agnes’ former lawyers. Save for Carvel’s widow, it is hard to find a guileless participant. Pamela casts herself as the selfless protector of her uncle’s millions and her aunt’s interests. To her opponents, she’s just a desperate relative out for a big financial score. In one of the many lawsuits involving estate funds, a state judge in Florida ruled that there was “strong evidence of fraud” in the way she once tried to collect more than $10 million from the estate. Still, Fred Welsh, a former New Jersey police detective hired by Pamela, tells me that he has uncovered enough circumstantial evidence—including the possibility that Carvel’s death certificate was forged—to warrant a homicide investigation.

The battle has played out in three U.S. district courts; state courts in New York, Delaware, and Florida; and in London. It enjoys a certain notoriety in the suburbs north of New York City, where Tom and Agnes Carvel lived in the gentle hills of Ardsley. Four trials have been held in Westchester County, New York; a fifth is ongoing. Four of Carvel’s executors have died. When I phoned the Westchester County Courthouse to ask about examining case files, a clerk told me, “I am making the sign of the cross now. ” I spent most of a day plowing through five large boxes bursting with pleadings and rulings before a court official said apologetically, “We’ve found more.”

Pamela claims that her uncle once told her that he was worth $250 million, which would mean that tens of millions of dollars in assets have vanished. One thing is certain: Events have not turned out as Carvel wished. His plan to provide for his widow and funnel millions to small charities in the towns that supported Carvel stores backfired, in part because of the unwieldy, complex nature of the estate that he himself approved after consultation with Davis, his lawyer. “He was always fearful that somebody was after his money,” says Ginny King, a longtime friend.

And in the end, he was right.

Born in Greece in 1906, Tom Carvel immigrated to New York with his parents and six siblings in 1910. As a young man, he test-drove Studebakers, played drums in the Borscht Belt, and fixed cars. After being diagnosed incorrectly with tuberculosis, he set out for the fresh air of Westchester, and with $15 borrowed from his future wife, he began selling ice cream from a beat-up vending truck. One hot weekend in 1934, he suffered a flat in the village of Hartsdale. Flagging down motorists to buy his melting ice cream, Carvel re­alized he could do more business from a fixed location. So he remained for the summer, eventually saving enough to make a down payment on a nearby building. It became the first Carvel shop.


With some tinkering, Carvel discovered how to instantly freeze ingredients to produce a creamy ribbon of ice cream at the flick of a switch. It was the first soft-ice-cream machine of its kind. One store grew to many, and by 1950, 21 stores were operating under the Carvel name. With that, Carvel joined a group of franchising pioneers, including A&W, White Castle, and Howard Johnson’s, that were creating roadside chains that served up what would become known as fast food. Still, the ice cream business was a warm-weather enterprise, and Carvel needed to generate store traffic throughout the year. Again, the ice cream gods intervened. Pieces of crumbled cookies accidentally fell into a vat of soft ice cream placed in a freezer, and when the hardened batch was discovered, it led to another innovation: the Carvel ice cream cake.

Carvel’s climb might have been even more astounding had he not rejected an invitation from a milkshake-machine salesman named Ray Kroc to join him in a fledgling California hamburger business named McDonald’s. “Tom claimed it was his biggest error,” says Thomas Kornacki, a Carvel vice president in the 1990s who worked for the company for 23 years.

Tom Carvel had a special knack for promotion—and self-promotion. He sponsored Little Miss Half-Pint contests for young girls and made franchisees attend an 18-day course he called the Carvel College of Ice Cream Knowledge. His raspy, ad-libbed appearances in the company’s commercials were ridiculed, but they were memorable and sales soared. The idea of the C.E.O. as pitchman would catch on and influence other company heads, like Frank Perdue and Lee Iacocca. In his ads, Carvel seemed benign, but in real life, he was no Mister Softee. He battled franchisees all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court, winning the groundbreaking right to require them to buy all ingredients and supplies from him, even the napkins.

Despite his wealth, Carvel lived simply. He wore polyester suits and hectored subordinates who didn’t drive modest American cars like he did. Visitors to the Carvels’ Ardsley home were amazed to find couches protected by plastic slipcovers. His office was an oversize motel room with furnishings that would have gone begging at a lawn sale. Yet T.C., as friends called him, could be generous; each Christmas, he gave gifts of $10,000 (tax free) to dozens of nieces and nephews.

By the late 1980s, however, Carvel’s fortune had become a burden. By then, he was in his eighties. Without children, he wondered what would happen to all he had accumulated. After wavering for months, he reluctantly sold his ice cream operations in 1989 to Investcorp, a Bahrain-based company that owned Tiffany & Co. and Gucci. “He didn’t trust anybody in his family or in his executive group to grow the brand,” Kornacki says. “The company was his legacy, and he didn’t want it to die.”

Carvel put his personal affairs in order too. One cold Saturday night in February 1988, Tom and Agnes excused themselves from a dinner party to sign identical wills naming the Thomas and Agnes Carvel Foundation as the beneficiary of their fortune after their deaths. Carvel was quite clear about how he intended to bestow his estate. If he died first, Agnes was to receive all the income his estate generated, plus quarterly payouts from a trust fund. The Thomas and Agnes Carvel Foundation was to receive all that was left—once Agnes died.

Overseeing this estate would be seven executors, Arcadipane and Davis among them. That number is unusual, but Carvel was convinced that the seven would serve to check and balance one another, safeguarding his money. One of the people who helped fashion the plan was Davis, his lawyer. Whether Carvel was steered into this plan by unscrupulous advisers or driven to it by his own fears about the fate of his fortune is an open question. But he had not been dead for more than a few months before one thing became clear: The elaborate plan, rather than creating checks and balances, set up factions that came to feud over and feast on Carvel’s fortune. It was turning into an estate disaster of monumental proportions.

The wild card in Tom Carvel’s life seems to have been Mildred Arcadipane. A slight woman, she began working for Carvel in the early 1950s, fresh out of secretarial school. Her job was her life; in the 38 years that she was employed by the Carvel corporation, co-workers recall her taking off just two days—to attend her father’s funeral. She never married, choosing instead to care for her elderly mother at home. By the 1980s, evidence in the many court cases shows, she had become a force inside the company. The accounting and payroll departments had begun to report to her. She “knew the nuts and bolts of the company,” and with her “hot temper” and “iron fist,” she knew how to get things done, Kornacki recalls. She could also be despotic. Some employees complained that underlings who crossed Arcadipane might find themselves without a job or that their health insurance had lapsed.

She had her way with Tom Carvel too. Arcadipane often cursed and shouted at the boss and locked him out of his own office dozens of times, a longtime driver for Carvel testified. On three occasions, Carvel sent him to New York City to buy jewelry as a peace offering. “When she lost her temper,” the driver said in the deposition, “it would require almost a straitjacket.” Asked why he kept Arcadipane on, Carvel once said cryptically that she had him “over a barrel,” according to another affidavit. Employees whispered that Carvel and Arcadipane, far from being just close business associates, might once have had an affair.
Pamela Carvel was close to Tom too. She grew up in Queens, New York, the eldest daughter of Tom’s brother Bruce. Tom and Agnes treated her like the child they never had. As a teenager, she spent her summers living with them and serving ice cream at their Hartsdale shop. Tom took care of her college tuition bills and hired her to make inspections of Carvel stores. When her uncle died, Pamela, who was working and studying abroad, “got a call to come home,” she says. “My aunt told me she needed help.”

Tom had made Pamela one of the seven executors of his estate. She returned to New York in December 1990, she says, to find an avalanche of suspicious transactions involving the Carvels’ finances. Bank accounts were being closed and opened, apparently without Agnes’ knowledge, and large sums of money were being transferred between Carvel accounts, her lawyers told me. In the middle of these matters, Pamela says, were Davis and Arcadipane. Davis wasn’t a Carvel lifer, but he had a long history with Tom Carvel. While working for a Manhattan law firm, Davis had taken Carvel on as a client in 1969 to advise him on how to take his company public that year. Davis later helped negotiate the 1989 sale to Investcorp.

Hints of trouble surfaced before Carvel was even buried. As Agnes attended her husband’s wake, Davis entered the Carvel home without her permission to search for Tom’s will, bringing a locksmith to crack open the couple’s safe, court documents show. Shortly thereafter, Arcadipane began shredding records at the office, defying orders from other Carvel executors that she stop. The shredder was silenced only after Pamela burst in and cut the electric cord herself. Through it all, Carvel’s will could not be found. It had been given to Arcadipane for safekeeping, but she claimed it was lost. Its disappearance delayed Carvel’s executors from officially assuming control of his estate, leaving Davis and Arcadipane in command for months.

Agnes, during this period, seemed overwhelmed. Davis was pressuring her to loan the business $500,000, saying there were cash-flow problems. Agnes demurred, on the advice of Pamela, who considered the request improper. But Davis persisted. He sent another of Tom’s employees to Florida to talk to Agnes while Pamela was in New York, and this envoy convinced the widow to supply the funds. Meanwhile, Thomas Reddy, a lawyer and a family friend, got Agnes to sign papers creating a trust account for her money. Three trustees would manage the funds and have the authority to make distributions to her. Known as the Florida trust, it was touted as a safeguard for Agnes’ assets—but for the widow, it would become a nightmare.

Unusual things were also happening at the Thomas and Agnes Carvel Foundation. Davis emerged as the foundation’s first paid president, at a salary of more than $100,000 a year, and board members—including Arcadipane—began drawing stipends, records show. The payments were troubling to Agnes because she and Tom believed that any work for the charity should be done for free. Agnes also became bewildered by the foundation’s abrupt shift in direction. Although it bore their names, it was focused more on making six- and seven-figure grants to big, established institutions than on making small grants to the grassroots groups Tom and Agnes favored.

Worse for Agnes, a serious flaw emerged in the estate plan. With the Thomas and Agnes Carvel Foundation now under the sway of Davis and Arcadipane, it took an aggressively adversarial position, questioning Agnes’ spending and even challenging her right to continue Tom’s practice of giving gifts of $10,000 at Christmas, according to Agnes’ lawyers. (The foundation denies this allegation.) The charity had a reason to be aggressive: Every dollar that Agnes spent or gave away of her husband’s fortune would mean less money to the foundation when she died. Agnes and Pamela were rapidly coming to the conclusion that the two people Tom suspected of cheating him before his death had become their enemies too.

As Pamela and Agnes plotted to regain control of the foundation, they got some help. The New York State attorney general’s office opened an investigation in 1991. Its findings were shocking: The inquiry discovered that the charity paid $55,000 in tuition for Arcadipane’s nephew and two others and tried to camouflage the spending as grants. The attorney general also questioned Davis’ and Arcadipane’s roles in the foundation’s sale of Carvel stock, which reaped a quick $5 million profit for some company employees, including $300,000 for Arcadipane.

In August 1993, the attorney general filed a civil lawsuit seeking the ouster of Davis and Arcadipane from the foundation and the repayment of nearly $1 million, plus money paid to cover their legal fees. Far from being chastened, Davis helped prepare a memo to foundation members warning that his and Arcadipane’s removal would provide the family “with an opportunity to assume control of the foundation.” The memo found its way to the Carvels. To Pamela and Agnes, it was a smoking gun. “The foundation took an attitude that the Carvel family should not have any say in the operation of the Carvel Foundation,” Agnes’ former lawyer Ross says. “Davis was behind that.”

Agnes fired off a letter to the foundation. “I am appalled that Mr. Davis views this foundation as his own private charity, where the Carvel family is to be treated as the enemy,” she wrote. Pamela sent a scalding note to Arcadipane: “Obviously, you feel no responsibility nor the slightest twinge of gratitude” to the man and the company that had “made a secretary into a millionaire!”

The battle was on. Agnes and Pamela went to court to oust Davis and Arcadipane as foundation directors and executors of Tom’s estate. The foundation countersued, accusing Agnes and Pamela of meddling in its affairs.

The fighting turned so nasty that Davis and Arcadipane asked Judge Albert Emanuelli of the Westchester County Surrogate’s Court, in White Plains, New York, to investigate Agnes’ mental competency. To Agnes’ lawyers, it was an effort to silence the widow for good. Davis and Arcadipane said they just wanted to make sure that Pamela was not controlling Agnes. In an affidavit, Arcadipane said she looked on Tom and Agnes “in many ways as parents” and believed that “they reciprocated the depth of feeling.” She continued, “Sadly, since Mr. Carvel’s death, his niece Pamela has sought to alter Mrs. Carvel’s feelings toward me and view of me and to rewrite history.... She has undertaken to level accusations at me...that are scandalous and shameful.”

Pamela Carvel is 59 and single. She cuts a bohemian figure, tying her bottle-blond hair into a braid that falls to her waist. The estate fight is a full-time occupation for her. By her own accounting, she has plowed through millions of dollars and fallen into debt to help her Aunt Agnes and stop what she calls the plundering of Tom’s estate. Pamela can be strident and difficult; she has had at least four law firms represent her. She now accuses some of those lawyers of betrayal. Still, a few of them speak of her with a weary admiration. “Pamela Carvel is a very tough lady who was fiercely dedicated to her aunt and to the memory of her uncle,” says John Lang, one of Agnes’ former lawyers. “My sense is that she was completely sincere in what she was doing.”

Pamela’s critics ardently disagree. Betty Godley, Agnes’ niece, filed an affidavit in Surrogate’s Court accusing Pamela of manipulating Agnes for “her own insatiable greed.” Godley tells me, “I think there were great expectations on Pamela’s part of money coming her way.” Never close, Pamela and Godley have not talked in more than 10 years. Their split demarcates a family fracture in the Carvel case. “From day one, there was a paranoia to Pamela that was incredible,” Godley says. “Everybody and anybody was an enemy.”

Since 1991, Godley has received more than $400,000 in commissions as an executor of Tom’s estate and one of the three people overseeing Agnes’ Florida trust. Still, she talks of her participation as a burden that she wishes would end. “I have five kids, a family, everything she doesn’t have,” Godley says of Pamela. “This has been Pamela’s life for 17 years.”

The seeds of Pamela and Godley’s split were planted six months after Tom’s death, with the creation of the Florida trust that was supposed to be a vehicle to safeguard Agnes’ money. Godley was the only family member among the trustees. Pamela has always seen Godley’s appointment as a ruse. “That was the only way to make it look legitimate, by having a family member on it,” she says. But after the trust was created, Agnes “no longer had any money in her own name,” she adds.

Indeed, in the spring of 1994, things turned bleak for Agnes when, at roughly the same time, the two trusts that doled out her funds—the Florida trust and the trust set up by Tom, which contained $26 million and was overseen by Davis, Arcadipane, and two other trustees—both stopped making payments to her, according to a lawyer for Agnes. Both trusts used the same rationale—that others were manipulating Agnes, who therefore couldn’t be trusted with her own money. Ross, her former lawyer, saw a more sinister motive: “Mrs. Carvel was being squeezed, I think, to stop all the litigation.”

Agnes and Pamela were furious at Godley for withholding the money. The breach became permanent in 1995, when Pamela arranged to have $2 million moved from a Carvel corporation account whose ownership was in dispute into a Swiss bank account registered in Agnes’ name. Pamela said the money had been owed to Agnes and that she had dutifully notified the required parties. But Godley went to court to challenge the transfer, and Judge Emanuelli of the Surrogate’s Court ordered that the money be placed in escrow. Godley and her aunt would never talk again.

By the middle of 1995, the Carvel widow, now 86, was in turmoil, bewildered by the endless swirl of litigation. She was upset at her financial predicament and fearful that Judge Emanuelli, whom she had come to view as hostile, would declare her incompetent, stripping her of whatever control she still had over her life. So she sought refuge in London, moving there with Pamela to live out her days, she hoped, in peace.

Sally Boynton, a Westchester County lawyer appointed by the court to be Agnes’ legal guardian, took Agnes and Pamela’s side after flying to London to judge Agnes’ competency for herself. The widow, Boynton would later tell the court, had become the victim of the “unscrupulous dealings of untrustworthy people” and had moved to London “to gain control over her assets to prevent ‘the thieves from stealing from her.’ ” Boynton also wrote that Agnes expressed “unequivocally” her trust in Pamela to handle her affairs.

Godley saw it quite differently. She charged that Pamela had become a Svengali, “hiding” Agnes in London in an attempt to thwart an inquiry into Agnes’ competency. “I feel a heinous crime has been done to my aunt,” Godley wrote in an affidavit filed in the Surrogate’s Court. Judge Emanuelli forced Boynton to resign her guardianship, and he replaced her with Marc Oxman, a lawyer who at that time was the executive director of the Westchester County Democratic Party.

Oxman was far more skeptical of Agnes’ competency and Pamela’s motives. In his report, Oxman wrote that Agnes had been “manipulated and controlled by those individuals who did not have her best interests at heart.” As the battle raged, Agnes died in London in August 1998, at the age of 89. Yet even in death, she could find no peace. Her body remained in cold storage for about a month while both sides fought over whether to allow an autopsy to determine if she had suffered from dementia. Pamela, who opposed the examination, prevailed and quickly cremated her aunt’s remains.

Rather than hasten a resolution of the case, Agnes’ death complicated matters, for now there were two estates to fight over: Tom’s and Agnes’.

Arcadipane and Davis had resigned from the Carvel Foundation in 1996, in a deal with the New York attorney general’s office to settle allegations of wrongdoing. Arcadipane died in 2002, at age 74, of a heart ailment. Davis died sometime later. But that didn’t end the foundation’s fight with Agnes’ representatives. Indeed, the charity has continued to be a fierce and formidable opponent of Agnes’ attorneys and Pamela in their fight over Tom Carvel’s millions.

The foundation has approximately $36 million in assets, according to its most recent published tax records, from 2005.But today, the charity is connected to the Carvel family in name only. No family member sits on its board. Its directors have paid themselves more than $1.3 million in salaries since Tom Carvel’s death, including about $43,000 annually to the foundation’s president, William Griffin, the multimillionaire chairman of the Hudson Valley Bank, based in Yonkers, New York. Moreover, the charity has spent many millions battling for the Carvel fortune. In 1998, it was instrumental in torpedoing a proposed settlement that would have ended all litigation and given Agnes $8 million—a fraction of her husband’s estate.

The foundation didn’t respond to a request for comment on this; indeed, officials declined to be interviewed. The charity issued a statement that said, in part, that “Thomas and Agnes Carvel established the foundation and left the bulk of their estates to it to provide charitable grants to needy children, and the foundation is focusing its energies on fulfilling that mission...rather than responding yet again to Ms. Carvel’s baseless allegations.”

And still the litigation continues. The latest chapter, playing itself out in the Surrogate’s Court stems from a rare, albeit posthumous, victory for Agnes Carvel. In June 2003, five years after she died, a Surrogate’s Court judge ruled that she had been denied $7 million in income generated by Tom’s estate during her lifetime. The current trial is about what to do with this money and $3 million in other assets. The foundation is claiming all of it as the final beneficiary named in Tom’s and Agnes’ 1988 wills. [Tom’s will surfaced several months after his death.] Agnes’ lawyers argue that because she was wrongly denied the funds while she lived, her new London executor should decide how the money should be spent.

Pamela also made a play for the funds. After obtaining a $15 million judgment in a London court against her aunt’s estate for money Pamela says she spent in caring for Agnes and providing for her legal representation, she then tried in three separate American courts to collect the money from Agnes’ U.S. assets. But she did so without informing the Carvel Foundation—conduct that caused a Florida judge to suggest that Pamela may have committed fraud. In June 2007, a judge in London removed Pamela as the executor of Agnes’ British estate and concluded, “Her every act has been calculated to promote her own personal interests and prejudice those of the foundation.”

Meanwhile, the case, which is expected to drag on at least through the end of this year, continues to devour the Carvel fortune.

And what of Pamela’s most provocative theory, that the ice cream king, rather than succumbing to heart disease, was murdered?

Arcadipane’s brother, Charles, now 78, says suggestions that his sister might have killed Carvel are ridiculous: “My sister could not hurt a fly.” Davis’ last lawyer, Katharine Conroy, says the murder allegations “should be taken in the context they are made and weighed against the person who is making them.” Boynton, Agnes’ former guardian, says “nothing would surprise me in this case” given “the sense of entitlement and greed some of these people had toward the Carvel money.”

Indeed, questions persist. Welsh, the former New Jersey detective Pamela hired to investigate the case, says he uncovered circumstantial evidence that suggests someone might have fatally tampered with Carvel’s heart medicine. Old friends of the Carvels who were staying at the Carvel home the weekend Tom Carvel died told Welsh of an odd development: They got a call from a Carvel employee within hours of Tom’s death telling them to remove all prescription drugs from his medicine cabinet. The request befuddled them, but they complied. Welsh also says he was suspicious of how quickly Carvel’s body was whisked away to a New York City funeral home.

In the Carvel case’s vast paper trail, one item stands out. Pamela’s investigators say they tape-recorded Tom’s longtime physician, Robert Athans, saying that he does not remember signing Tom’s death certificate even though it bears his signature. The doctor declined to comment for this story. If the death certificate was forged, who did it, and why? Was it to prevent an autopsy?

A federal judge in Fort Lauderdale ruled in May 2007 that Tom’s exhumation is a matter for New York courts to decide. Pamela says she hopes to file an exhumation request in New York soon.

And if the request is denied, or if an autopsy proves nothing, will that be the end of it?

In one of my last conversations with Pamela, she talked of the exhumation request as if it were her final card to play, but later she recanted. “In Florida and in Delaware...I am still going to go after the bastards,” she says, cataloging a list of possible lawsuits and legal actions. “I have nothing left now. So what do I have to lose?”


ICE CREAM IMPRESARIO Tom Carvel (pix); a pioneering Pennsylvania store, in 1941.
Photoillustration by: Reena De La Rosa

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Expose Corrupt Notes: 

The current Westchester County, New York Surrogate Judge is Anthony A. Scarpino., Jr.

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See Video of Senator John L. Sampson's 1st Hearing on Court 'Ethics' Corruption

The first hearing, held in Albany on June 8, 2009 hearing is on two videos:


               Video of 1st Hearing on Court 'Ethics' Corruption
               The June 8, 2009 hearing is on two videos:
         
               CLICK HERE TO SEE Part 1
               CLICK HERE TO SEE Part 2