Carvel’s Plea To Spitzer Sparks 2nd Request for Special I.G.

Carvel’s Plea to Spitzer Sparks 2nd Request for Special I.G.

Carvel’s Plea to Gov. Spitzer Sparks 2nd Request for Special Inspector General in Westchester

Someone else has joined the Ice Cream party. The meltdown of Westchester’s Surrogate’s Court began with a letter delivered on April 27, 2007 to New York Governor Spitzer in Albany. Tom Carvel’s niece had asked Governor Eliot Spitzer to immediately appoint a Special Inspector General to oversee and investigate estate related activity at the Westchester County Surrogate’s Court. And now she has company.

Second Scoop for Carvel

Kelvin McKeown, whose mother died in August of 2003, has also asked the Governor to exercise his power to appoint a person to lead an investigation into what he describes as widespread and troubling happenings in and about the Surrogate’s Court.

Attorney Secretly Files Papers Against His Own Client !

Within days after his mother’s death, McKeown and his sister Mary Virga, who were both named co-fiduciaries in their mother’s will, jointly retained New York attorney Joseph McQuade of McQuade & McQuade. The September 2, 2003 dated retainer agreement was signed by McKeown, Virga and attorney McQuade.

Then sibling cross-allegations began to fly between the two. Though voluminous and disputed by each, what is known is that Virga filed a police report on September 18, 2003, alleging that her brother had assaulted her at a local post office. (See page on right marked MCQUADE COMPLAINT)

The family fighting continued up to the first scheduled court case status hearing on October 8, 2003 when, McKeown says, it was first revealed to him that his own retained attorney, Joe McQuade, had assisted his co-fiduciary sister in the preparation and execution of an Ex Parte Order to Show Cause to stay his (McKeown’s) authority as a co-fiduciary of his mother’s estate. “I turned to McQuade and said, ‘what are you doing? You’re MY lawyer.”

But after attorney McQuade signed the attorney retainer agreement with him and Virga, McKeown says, “McQuade sneaked around behind my back-behind his own client’s back- to have my authority as co-executor stayed by the court.” Though McQuade apparently attempted to simultaneously terminate his representation of McKeown the same day the Ex Parte court order was presented to and signed by the Surrogate Judge Anthony A. Scarpino on October 8, 2003, attorney McQuade overlooked one important detail, accordingly to McKeown.

“Besides the obvious ethical deficiencies of McQuade,” he says, “McQuade had foolishly notarized the supporting affidavit of a
co-client against another co-client in the same matter– my sister against me—on September 24, 2003– 14 days BEFORE his failed attempt to make it appear that he was terminating his representation of me on the same day the papers were to be presented to the judge. McQuade had trouble explaining that one. He also had difficulty explaining his acceptance and cashing of the $18,370.92 check made out to his firm that I co-signed on September 26, 2003.”

“Beyond the fact that my own retained attorney was secretly preparing papers against me at the same time that he was representing me, it’s quite unsettling that the Surrogate’s Court did nothing about it,” says McKeown. Though the allegations in the filed police report against McKeown were later found to be false after an investigation, the false police report information had been successfully used by McQuade and Virga in their papers.

And McKeown is equally unhappy about the fact that his attorney disciplinary complaint against McQuade has been pending for over a year. (See page on right marked COMPLAINT STATUS)

“I was told early on by the Surrogate’s Court attorney assigned to my mother’s estate, Mr. Joseph M. Accetta, that they were a ‘nice court’ and that I should look beyond what attorney Joseph McQuade had done to me, his client,” McKeown says. “Joe Accetta knew that Mr. McQuade had previously filed papers on behalf of Virga and myself, and Accetta let this happen.”

The Next Problem….

The Red Cross 9/11 Fraud, the False Assignment and a Connected Lawyer

McKeown also apparently refused to keep quiet about what happened next. A few months after his mother died, his brother Ronald committed suicide at Ronald’s home in East Lyme, Connecticut. Ronald had been out on bail facing charges that he stole over $130,000.00 in Red Cross 9/11 donations while he was employed at a local chapter of the Red Cross in Connecticut.

But a few days after Ronald’s death, McKeown received in the mail a copy of an Assignment of Ronald’s share in their mother’s New York estate. It had been purportedly executed by Ronald just days before his death. “It was obvious that certain people wanted to prevent my mother’s New York legacy from making its way to Ronald’s Connecticut estate where the stolen 9/11 Red Cross monies could be repaid.”

“All hell broke loose when I questioned that assignment, ” McKeown says. “One attorney told me to just forget about the assignment, and if I didn’t I’d “be Fu#$ing destroyed.” You don’t know what you’re up against,” he said. McKeown would soon find out that the undisputed drafter and filer of that assignment was attorney Frank W. Streng of McCarthy Fingar in White Plains. McKeown also learned that Streng had been on Westchester Surrogate Judge Scarpino’s election transition
committee. (See page on right marked STRENG FILING)

“I was a bit concerned when I realized that Frank Streng was advertising on the internet and his law firm website the fact that he was on the Surrogate’s election transition team. I became VERY concerned when the Surrogate twice awarded Mr. Streng financial sanctions against me at the same time their close ties were being advertised on the internet.” (See page on right marked STRENG FILING)

And it would get worse, he says. “When I asked Surrogate Scarpino to disqualify Mr. Streng, the Judge denied my request without prejudice to renew, but in that very same decision, went on to Sua Sponte prevent the filing of any more motions.” (See page on right marked JUNE ORDERS)

“Actually, when Surrogate Scarpino was approached with the fact that Mr. Streng was advertising his close association with the Court on the internet and his law firm website which implies an improper posture of favoritism, it was the judge who should have taken action, by way of remittal, disqualification or recusal,” says a prominent attorney who asked that his named be withheld. “Lawyers and, most importantly, judges are required to avoid even the appearance of impropriety.”

And, of course, McKeown would later find out that the court attorney assigned to his mother’s estate, Joseph Accetta, was also quite friendly with attorney Streng. “It didn’t come as a complete surprise when a Surrogate’s Court employee told me that court attorney Joseph Accetta’s wife Susan Hegquist Accetta, of the law firm Stern Keiser Panken & Wohl, was ‘working for one of the law firms involved in my mother’s estate,” he says.

Problem #3:

Recusal, Case Transferred Out the Front Door, But Back in Through Side Door

“After the Surrogate denied my motion to disqualify Mr. Streng, I was forced to file a order to show cause seeking his own disqualification or recusal,” McKeown says. “That, as you can imagine, was a big hit with everyone.”

Another attorney says, “The big question is why Surrogate Scarpino could not bring himself to remove attorney Streng from involvement in the McKeown estate, but for the very same reasons—and not on his own initiative— the judge removed himself.

But while all this was going on, McKeown had succeeded in removing his sister as a fiduciary, and so the court appointed the Public Administrator as the temporary executor. (And after two attempts by McKeown, the court finally disqualified the
File-Papers-Against-Your-Own-Client McQuade.)

But McKeown would also have problems with the Public Administrator, George Lambert and his attorney Robert A. Korren. “Hey, I’m not making this stuff up,” McKeown says. “In a letter to the court, the Public Administrator himself admits that they let a prospective buyer of my mother’s home start gutting the house interior before closing and before the buyer had even obtained a mortgage commitment! And before I could get in the house for a long-sought-after court-ordered appraisal!” (See page on right marked NICOLAI COMPLAINT)

So Judge Scarpino recuses himself, and the estate will be transferred, and McKeown will be happy. Well, not exactly. “I wrote a letter to the Ninth Judicial District Administrative Judge Nicolai and described all the troubling issues about the estate: the fraudulent assignment and Mr. Streng, claims against the Westchester Public Administrator, and the urgent need for the estate to be transferred OUTSIDE of Westchester County,” says McKeown. “But Judge Nicolai had his own plans for my mother’s estate.” (See page on right marked NICOLAI COMPLAINT)

He says, “The estate was transferred out the front door of the Westchester Surrogate Court and then back in through a side door-staying in the same county. So the estate, and my trial, brought on by the papers submitted by my own attorney, would be handled by County Judge/Acting-Surrogate-for-the-McKeown-Trial-only, Judge Gerald E. Loehr.”

The Fix Was In

McKeown says everything proceeded exactly how he thought it would. “Judge Loehr refused to sign my trial subpoenas, ordered that no motions could be filed, and said that I shouldn’t bother presenting any order to show cause applications because he wouldn’t sign any.” McKeown was not surprised when the trial ended against him. Yes, the papers filed against McKeown by his own attorney resulted in his removal as the executor of his mother’s estate.

But why didn’t he appeal, or go to the Appellate Division, Second Department in Brooklyn. He has a good answer. “I went to the Appellate Division dozens of times. And I ultimately found out that a judge at the Appellate Division who had ruled against me concerning the McCarthy Fingar “assignment” had recently retired. And, of course, that same justice, former-Associate Appellate Division Judge Sondra M. Miller, “was then hired by McCarthy Fingar (the drafters of the assignment).
I thought it best to look beyond Brooklyn for any justice.”

Issuing Judicial Decisions Without Authority

After receiving County Judge Loehr’s assignment designations from New York State Court Senior Administrative Assistant William D. Dahl, McKeown says, it was determined that Judge Loehr had not only been improperly assigned to 2 separate proceedings in his mother’s estate in which decisions were issued but, in fact, Judge Loehr issued 2 decisions while he lacked the authority to so act as an acting-surrogate judge. (At the time, County Judge Loehr was prevented from so acting because he had been a judge for less than two years and was restricted by law from acting beyond a certain time period.) (See page on right marked LOEHR SPATZ DAHL)

Though the decedent’s Last Will was never contested, it took over two years for the Westchester County Surrogate’s Court to finally admit the will for probate. And though Virga was ordered to file a judicial accounting nearly two years ago, and which includes other large amounts of monies paid to McQuade, she has failed to file those papers. Meanwhile, McKeown is prevented from filing any papers to compel Virga’s compliance with the June 2005 court order.

“I am hopeful that Governor Spitzer, Attorney General Cuomo and a Special Inspector General can bring some correction to the actions of some who improperly corrupt our system of law,” says McKeown.

(Editor’s Note: the allegations contained in this story are so outrageous that the reader is requested to read the provided, and referenced, court filings. There’s more. Look for McKeown- Part II)


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