Wannabe Judge Attorney Writes About Ethical Dilemmas SHE Failed to Report

June 21, 2007

Wannabe Judge Attorney Writes About Ethical Dilemmas SHE Failed to Report

Wannabe Judge Attorney Writes About Ethical Dilemmas SHE Failed to Report

It was reported in The Westchester Guardian (“Carvel Niece Fights Westchester Judicial Machine”, May 17, 2007) that Manhattan attorney Eve Markewich had “itemized in a New York Law Journal article how many different violations of professional ethics and disciplinary rules the attorneys in the Westchester Carvel proceedings inflicted on Agnes Carvel.”

Many blog readers wrote to us saying they were confused, so we looked into the story.

We wondered whether Ms. Markewich did, in fact, author an article that explained how she saw violations of attorney disciplinary rules. “Impossible,” said one lawyer we asked. “She knows that she is obligated to report the improper acts of other attorneys to the disciplinary committee. She can’t use that knowledge as material for a story without reporting it.”

Well, we looked for, and found, that New York Law Journal article, dated Monday, February 14, 2005, “Getting Grounded On Ethical Dilemmas”. The article is a part of the Carvel estate file and available to the public. The New York Law Journal article provides the following credit: “Eve Rachel Markewich is a member of the Blank Rome litigation department. Barbara MacGrady, an associate with the firm, assisted in the preparation of this article.” (Note: Eve Rachel Markewich is no longer with Blank Rome)

We took further note that The Westchester Guardian reported that attorney Markewich had recently run for Manhattan Surrogate. Sure enough, we found attorney Eve Rachel Markewich’s name on the primary ballot for Manhattan Surrogate in 2006. (Note: Ms. Markewich lost the primary election to the current Surrogate, Kristen Booth Glen)

We then poised the following to 36 New York State licensed attorneys:

You become involved in an estate litigation and are astounded that: (1) the will was drafted by an attorney who never met the decedent, or even spoke to him on the telephone; (2) the wife was never advised to seek separate counsel, and never asked to consent to joint representation; (3) the attorney supervising the execution of the documents was not an estates practitioner but was charged with explaining the documents (which were not simple) to the wife; and (4) the wills named several executors, two of whom were corporate attorneys involved in the estate planning process, although they were not the ultimate drafters of the documents- and one of those lawyers also was named as a beneficiary.

We then asked the 36 lawyers: What would you do given the provided facts?

(a) Confront the lawyers about the astounding facts, and maybe advise the court attorney or judge, but surely report the revelations to the disciplinary committee?

(b) Say nothing about the astounding facts because those responsible for the improper acts must approve the $3 million in legal fees you seek. But write an article about the lacking ethics for The New York Law Journal, and then run for Manhattan Surrogate Court Judge in the next election; or

(c) Go to Disney World.

Our findings were inconclusive and our survey abandoned because not one of the queried attorneys would stop laughing.

Attorney Markewich’s conduct is reprehensible, and obviously not funny. And her failings are, unfortunately, not a joke. The Westchester Guardian may be right, “The Estates of Thomas and Agnes Carvel are a microcosm of the political corruption that festers in Westchester Surrogate’s Court.” The facts in the 17-year-old Carvel estate case, and the actions and inaction of Ms. Markewich, point to the critical condition of certain courts in New York.

It is a fact that on Monday, February 14, 2005, the New York Law Journal published an article written by New York attorney Eve Rachel Markewich, titled “Getting Grounded On Ethical Dilemmas.” In that article, Ms. Markewich had that temerity to write about events subsequently brought to her attention in an estate proceeding that resulted in her penning, “It was astounding to me that none of the following issues had been raised in the probate proceeding.” Ms. Markewich then went on to list the grossly improper happenings and failures, which included numbers 1-4 from the above poised facts. Incredibly, wannabe judge Markewich then cites numerous attorney disciplinary rules in her “review of basic ethical precepts.”

The apparent and brazen disregard of Ms. Markewich’s own attorney ethical obligations to report the improper actions of other attorneys is only outdone by her nerve in then writing about it. And both of those acts are eclipsed by her gall in attempting to be elected Manhattan Surrogate Judge.

We are informed that Ms. Markewich is currently seeking legal fees in excess of $3 million dollars in the pending Westchester County Surrogate Court Carvel estate. (Meanwhile, Pamela Carvel, as executrix of Agnes Carvel’s estate, is still seeking reimbursement of $6,000.00 for Agnes’ 1998 funeral expenses.)

Carvel Story in The Westchester Guardian

June 21, 2007

Carvel story in The Westchester Guardian

Consistent with its Mission Statement, The Westchester Guardian is again upholding the public’s right to know the truth, most recently in the May 17, 2007 publication concerning events in the Westchester County Surrogate’s Court involving the Carvel Estate. This weekly paper is an important source of information for citizens of Westchester and, indeed, beyond. Important, indepth and timely reporting by The Westchester Guardian covers issues from Manhattan to Albany, and from village to statewide and federal concerns. Click on the photo to the right “The Westchester Guardian May 17th 2007” It is an honor to post a publication dedicated to the public’s right to know…..

New York Daily News Speaks Out Against Corruption

June 21, 2007

NY Daily News Speaks Out Against Court Corruption

Once again, The New York Daily News takes the lead in exposing the rampant corruption in our New York courts. We cheer the NY Daily News for their Saturday, May 12, 2007 editorial:

Gone but not forgotten

Editorial

Those rare instances when a hack loses a judgeship that was procured only by virtue of party loyalty are cause for celebration. Today we cheer the departure from the bench of one such slug, Frank Seddio, who stepped down yesterday just a year and 131 days into what he hoped would be a 14-year term.

Seddio packed it in rather than risk formal removal by the state Commission on Judicial Conduct, which is in the thick of probing his affairs. The agency took an interest in Seddio after this page accused him of violating the canons of ethics regarding the use and misuse of campaign funds.

Based on what we discovered in filings of this former Brooklyn Democratic assemblyman, we predicted that “Seddio could go down as having had one of the shortest judgeships in New York history.” How true, how true. Pardon our gloating.
Now that he’s gone, it’s worth retelling the story of Seddio’s rise and fall because it is so revealing of the disgraceful way judges are made in New York. From time immemorial, Brooklyn has been served by one surrogate judge, who handles wills and estates and is a patronage font for the party machine. And, in fact, Brooklyn needs only one such judge.

But, from out of nowhere in the final moments of the 2005 legislative session, then-Gov. George Pataki, Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver and Senate Majority Leader Joe Bruno rushed through a big judge-making deal giving posts to the Brooklyn, Queens and Bronx Democrats, as well as to GOP leaders upstate.

The Brooklyn machine – and not the voters – was given the power to select the new surrogate. Assemblyman Joe Lentol was their pick, but he had the good sense in the end to decline. Next up was Seddio, a longtime party man whose Assembly bio depicted him as “best known for his elaborate Christmas display that surrounds his home each year, which is visited by thousands.”

Seddio’s only judicial experience had been as a judge of the Queen of Coney Island beauty pageant, but he was a lawyer – and he had $50,000 in campaign funds to spread around. Which he did. Which was against the rules. As we pointed out.
Incorrigible to the end, Seddio wrote in his resignation letter: “It is my hope that during my tenure I have been able to improve the image of the court.” Good grief.

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

June 21, 2007

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)

Digging Up More Than Tom Carvel’s Body

June 21, 2007

Tom Carvel’s Kin Urgent Plea to Governor Spitzer

DEVELOPING…….FOLLOW UP SOON……In a letter delivered to New York Governor Eliot Spitzer in Albany on Friday, April 27th, the niece of ice cream magnate Tom Carvel has made an urgent plea for the immediate appointment of a Special Inspector General to oversee, investigate and prosecute, if necessary, the alleged wide spread corruption in the Surrogate’s Court of Westchester County.

Since the plea to Governor Spitzer was made public on Saturday, the ECC (ExposeCorruptCourts) Blog has been inundated with emails and court-filed evidence which, according to the providers, support the Carvel kin’s request. Many, and who call themselves “victims” of Westchester and other Surrogate’s Courts in New York, promise to send letters to Governor Spitzer in support of his immediate intervention. “This is long overdue,” says one trust and estate attorney who asked not to be named and who refuses to appear in contested estates in Westchester or Manhattan. “Only with a [Governor] Sptizer and [Attorney General] Cuomo combination is there hope that the corruption will be stopped.”

“Tom Carvel was a beautiful man, and who intended to provide for his widow Agnes upon his death,” says Pamela Carvel. Instead, she says, Agnes Carvel never received a dime during the eight years she survived her famous ice cream magnate husband.

See the April 26, 2007 dated letter from Pamela Carvel to Governor Spitzer (Click on page to the right)
To see Tom Carvel’s Last Will (Click on page to the right)

Judicial Destruction of Court Records

June 21, 2007

Judicial Destruction of Court Records

Most court employees adhere to directives from New York State’s Deputy Chief Administrative Judge, Jan H. Plumadore. There are only a few people more powerful in this state than Judge Plumadore, and as a state court employee, when the Deputy Chief Administrative Judge says to do something, you make sure you do it.

Unless, according to the latest allegations, you are operating from state and county courts in Westchester County.

In March of 2006, Duputy Chief Administrative Judge Plumadore advised all state District Administrative judges that, “Members of the media have complained that they are being denied access to records in some courts where the practice is for the parties to submit court papers directly to the judge rather than file them first with clerk’s office.”

By all accounts, most of the state’s 12 judicial district administrative judges complied with the further directive from Judge Plumadore, “Please advise your judges that…the Rules for the Supreme and County Courts…each require that papers submitted to a judge must be filed with the clerk of the court “at the first available opportunity” so as to become part of the record accessible by the public.”

But according to the latest allegations, not only was Judge Plumadore’s directive ignored in Westchester County, certain deliberate actions were taken to systematically destroy court documents that were placed in many case files.

“Judge Plumadore’s directives may have force in other judicial districts around the state,” says one insider, “But what [Judge] Plumadore thinks doesn’t matter in the 9th Judicial District, [9th Judicial District Administrative Judge Francis A.] Nicolai listens to no one, and [Judge] Nicolai does what he wants,” the source says.

(The state’s 9th Judicial District encompasses Westchester, Rockland, Orange, Putnam and Dutchess counties.)

One judge, and who will not be identified for this article, says that Judge Nicolai gathered all Westchester county and supreme court judges shortly after Judge Plumadore’s March 2006 directive. Notably, it is alleged, the “Plumadore March 2006 Memo” had not been copied, or referenced in any subsequent memo, to any of the justices.

The meeting was short and, according to one judge in attendance, consisted of Judge Nicolai screaming, “I never fixed any case. I NEVER told you what to do in a case.” The allegation suggests that all the judges “got the message.” Another judge, and who also attended the meeting, viewed Judge Nicolai’s advisement as a “threat.”

It would later be revealed that around the time period involved, that not only had he received the Plumadore March 2006 Memo, Judge Nicolai had also been advised that nearly a half dozen official complaints had been filed against him, including charges of judicial steering and improperly attempting to influence the outcome in specific cases.

Three individuals familiar with the allegations confirm that there had been a brewing concern around the Westchester courts concerning Judge Nicolai’s improper interjection of himself, and his desires, in certain court cases. They also confirmed that many Westchester judges had themselves placed “cover your ass” memos in the court case files.

“The judges assigned to a particular case would put a memo in the file to protect themselves,” they say. “The memos said “Admin. Judge [Nicolai] says to take case and send it back to Judge so-and-so” or “Admin. Judge says to have Judge so-and-so decide contempt motion”.”

Exactly what happened next is unclear, according to the allegations, however it is known that many dozens, and possibly hundreds of Westchester court files then found their way to a shredder.

According to informed sources, at least two Westchester judges, three law clerks and numerous other court employees have come forward to confirm the troubling series of events and have provided additional evidence. “This is very upsetting,” says one employee. “Things have just gotten totally out of control in the courts here [Westchester]. What happened is illegal, and it’s just wrong.”

FBI Swamped with Bank of New York Violations

June 21, 2007

FBI Swamped with Bank of New York Violations

FBI Swamped with Bank of New York Violations of Non-Prosecution Agreement

by Frank Brady © 2007
Friday, April 6, 2007

In November of 2005, the Bank of New York in a Non-Prosecution agreement with federal prosecutors was required to pay $38 million to settle various criminal charges. Those crimes involved fraud, money laundering, reporting failures and cover-ups over a ten-year period. And as admitted to by the bank, those criminal acts were committed by Bank of New York executives, officers and employees. During its investigation, federal agents found evidence of $7 billion in underground Russian monies, phony import/export businesses, fraudulent medical equipment leases, elaborate cover-ups, wire fraud and tax evasion. One Long Island Bank of New York branch manager admitted that she improperly executed escrow agreements to assist highly valued customers.

The current allegations include the continuation of the illegal activity by the Bank of New York to improperly assist its highly valued customers, according to informed sources. Those “highly valued customers” include numerous law firms that are on the bank’s approved preferred list who, it is alleged, have been illegally favored by certain courts and specified judges in at least four different counties.

“Most of the malfeasance stems from the Surrogate’s Courts, though various New York State Supreme Courts are also named,” according to one source familiar with the filings and who asked not to be identified. If the allegations are true, those acts would appear to be in violation of the 2005 Non-Prosecution agreement.

When the Bank of New York admitted its criminal conduct and forfeited $26 million to the Federal Government, it also agreed to pay another $12 million in restitution to its victims and to refrain from unlawful activity for three years. The federal government’s press release in November of 2005 noted that, “Should the Bank of New York violate the terms of the agreement, or commit any other crimes, it shall be subject to prosecution, including prosecution for the criminal conduct described in the agreement.”

“I can tell you that top executives at the Bank of New York are frantic over the current allegations that they have violated the Non-Prosecution agreement,” said a New York attorney who requested that he not be identified. “The current inquiries could lead to dozens of indictments, and would surely involve court employees and a few judges. You don’t have to be James Bond to find out what judges are allowing lawyers for the Bank of New York to get away with everything- the question is WHY. Oddly, the Non-Prosecution agreement was meant to bring closure and so they could get back to business as usual. Instead, the agreement brought other long-time and on-going illegalities to light.”

One employee, who asked not to be identified in this article, says that he has provided information showing how “illegal activity by law firms are overlooked by judges who have close ties to those lawyers.” “It’s frightening. I know lawyers in estate cases involving this bank who admit they’ve handed over envelopes full of cash.”

One Manhattan trust and estate attorney says that he has learned to live with “bank-controlled biased courts.” “I flatly refuse to take any contested estate case outside of Manhattan,” he says. “I don’t waste my time going to courts in counties where the Bank of New York owns the court.” He declined to specify about which counties he was referring.

In 2005, United States Attorney Rosylynn R. Mauskopf called the Non-Prosecution agreement with the Bank of New York one of this nation’s largest settlements with a financial institution. “When that trust is knowingly violated at the highest levels of a financial institution, as happened here, fraud and other criminal activities continue unabated, victims suffer staggering losses, and the integrity of our financial systems is seriously undermined. This agreement fixes responsibility for the illegal conduct by bank executives, officers, and employees, secures immediate compensation for victims, and ensures accountability going forward in the exercise of an essential public trust.”

“When the Bank of New York admitted to its criminal activity, I’m sure the U.S. Attorney’s office thought the matter was largely resolved,” says the estate attorney. “But with the onslaught of new complaints against the bank, federal investigators are only now seeing just how deep these frauds go. It’s as simple as the lawyers getting a judge to approve the Bank of New York as a fiduciary, executor, guardian, etc., and then the bank hires that lawyer as its legal counsel in that matter. Lawyers tell everyone that this is the custom to get around any conflicts that are raised.”

“After all that’s happened, the Bank of New York has to be characterized as factually dishonest,” says the veteran estate attorney. And he asks an intriguing question, “How does any Court of Law approve a position of trust- as fiduciary, executor, guardian- to a petitioner like the Bank of New York who has admitted to criminal acts involving fraud, money laundering and cover-ups, and who has paid $38 million to avoid criminal prosecution?”

Good question.

Laughing, the estate attorney asks one last question. “Enough said?”

Hardly.

The FBI will not comment on the current investigation, but has acknowledged that a special unit was created to monitor the Bank of New York and investigate the allegations pertaining to violations of the Non-Prosecution agreement.

Frank Brady © 2007

http://www.ExposeCorruptCourts.blogspot.com © 2007

Part II – Westchester Surrogate’s Courts Dastardly Deeds

June 21, 2007

Part II- Westchester Surrogate’s Court’s Dastardly Deeds

Westchester Surrogate’s Court’s Dastardly Deeds – Part II

by Frank Brady © 2007
Friday, April 6, 2007

After the death of Scarsdale resident Berta Murray, the next owner of
the 88-year-old widow’s home turned out to be Westchester Surrogate’s
Court employee, court attorney/referee Jody Keltz and her
attorney-husband, Carl Peluso. And as earlier reported, that
Westchester County Surrogate’s Court court attorney/referee worked in
the very same court’s law department charged with the duty to uphold
the integrity of Berta’s affairs.

“It’s outrageous that a Surrogate’s Court lawyer bought Berta’s
house,” said an 80-plus-year-old cousin of Berta, and who first
learned in February of this year that Ms. Keltz was a lawyer in the
Westchester Surrogate’s Court. “This stinks to high heaven, and I’m
mad. It’s just not right, I don’t like this at all!” she added.

As a named beneficiary, the cousin was to receive a third of the
house, and she did receive a check and release in the mail but never
an accounting of the financial transactions. “They never gave me
papers with all the figures,” and she now asks, “Where did the rest of
the money go?”

In March of 2007, the Inspector General of the New York State Office
of Court Administration began an investigation into the circumstances
as to how the Surrogate court attorney/referee and her
attorney-husband came to own the widow’s home in 1988.

In a related inquiry, the 1988 sale of Berta’s home at 168 Gaylor
Road, has now become part of an investigation into the executor of
Berta’s estate, The Bank of New York.

None of Berta’s relatives can figure out how or why the Bank of New
York became the executor of Berta’s estate. And they believe the fact
that a Surrogate’s Court court attorney/referee employee’s purchase
of that home is highly improper.

“The lawyers pulled as fast one,” Berta’s cousin says. “This is awful.”

The FBI has been investigating allegations against the Bank of New
York that they violated terms of a 2005 non-prosecution agreement
where the bank admitted to criminal conduct involving fraud, cover-ups
and money laundering, and paid $38 million to the federal government
in settlement. In March of this year, the dealings surrounding the
ownership of the deceased widow’s home was added to the inquiries by
the FBI into the activity of the Bank of New York.

See Related Story dated Wednesday, March 21, 2007:
“Westchester Surrogate’s Court’s Dastardly Deeds” (Part I)

http://www.ExposeCorruptCourts.blogspot.com © 2007

Westchester Surrogate’s Court’s Dastardly Deeds

June 21, 2007

Westchester Surrogate’s Court’s Dastardly Deeds

by Frank Brady © 2007

When 88-year-old Berta M. Murray died on August 12, 1997, she probably had not previously considered that the Scarsdale home built by her father, and that had been in her family for decades, would soon be occupied by a Westchester County Surrogate’s Court attorney-referee who worked in the very same court’s law department charged with the duty to oversee the affairs of the deceased– A fact that has been secreted from her surviving relatives, until recently.

But Westchester Surrogate’s Court employee, attorney-referee Jody B. Keltz and her attorney-husband, Carl T. Peluso of Peluso & Touger in Manhattan, really liked that house at 168 Gaylor Road in Scarsdale, so in they moved in the Spring of 1998. And the two attorneys still call it home, even now as questions swirl as to just how they came to own the dead lady’s house.

By all accounts, the Keltz-Peluso attorneys never knew Berta, and they had most likely never invited the elderly widow to their prior home located at 75 Third Place in Brooklyn, New York.

“It’s outrageous that a Surrogate’s Court lawyer bought Berta’s house,” said an 80-plus-year-old cousin of Berta, and who only recently learned that Ms. Keltz was a lawyer in the Westchester Surrogate’s Court. “This stinks to high heaven, and I’m mad. It’s just not right, I don’t like this at all!” she added.

The real estate deal by the Keltz-Peluso team is reminiscent of a Brooklyn Surrogate Court “arrangement” in 2002 where, as the Village Voice described it, Judge Scholnick’s clerk “…snatched up the 11-room brownstone…of 85-year-old Elsie Perry…in a move that would make Donald Trump proud…” Honorably, Brooklyn Chief Court Clerk, George Crowley, refused to keep quite, saying publicly that, “If I did this, I would expect to be fired. The whole thing was unethical…the judge shouldn’t have allowed it…”

Brooklyn senior court official Crowley was so outraged by the cozy inside real estate deal that he took the highly unusual step of placing a note about it in the decedent’s Brooklyn Surrogate’s Court case file. But in the Westchester Murray-Keltz-Peluso transfer, no such concern has ever been voiced or documented by Surrogate’s Court Chief Clerk John Kelly or Surrogates Emanuelli or Scarpino. “Isn’t a Surrogate Court supposed to make sure everything is on the up-and-up, and handled properly?” asked Berta’s cousin, adding, “I knew Berta over seventy years, and everyone knew she wanted that house to stay in the family.”

Berta’s Dead: Enter The Vultures

A cursory review of Berta Murray’s estate file appears that it is largely normal, according to legal experts engaged to analyze the Murray estate transactions, and who are familiar with New York estate law, ethical obligations and the specific practices of the Westchester County Surrogate’s Court. However, they noted, the complete absence of any estate file “accounting” is quite unusual. And though not required, the name of Surrogate’s Court attorney-referee Jody B. Keltz, is nowhere to be found in the estate file. However, a review of the property Deed on file in the Westchester County Clerk’s office memorializes the transfer of ownership of 168 Gaylor Road in Scarsdale from the “Estate of Berta M. Murray…by The Bank of New York…to Carl T. Peluso and Jody B. Keltz, his wife.”

In a recent telephone conversation, a court employee confirmed that Ms. Keltz was still employed as an attorney-referee in the Surrogate’s Court’s law department. When asked to comment about the Keltz property transfer, she advised that, “If you want to keep your job around here, you keep your mouth shut.” When asked her name, the telephone connection ended.

A quick review of Berta’s estate file also shows a relatively standard probate proceeding, and it is quickly observed that The Bank of New York is the fiduciary and that the house was valued at $350,000.00–approximately one half of the total estate value of $742,968.00.

But an in-depth analysis reveals some eyebrow-raising facts, including that Berta’s last will was substantially different than her stated wishes as expressed to friends and relatives since her husband Elmer died in December of 1982. “In Westchester, everyone gets a crumb,” one estate lawyer noted. But those associated with the “new” wishes of Berta Murray EACH received “crumbs” worth tens of thousands of dollars: (1) attorney W. Rowland Miller of the Judy, Miller & O’Connor law firm in Scarsdale, and who drafted the Will for Berta (and in which The Bank of New York is named as the new fiduciary), and who was then retained as the attorney for the fiduciary, The Bank of New York; (2) attorney Samuel S. Yasgur, then of the Hall Dickler law firm, and who was appointed by former Hall Dicker lawyer and then-Judge Emanuelli to represent “unknown heirs”; and (3) real estate agent Camille Paradise of Claire D. Leone Real Estate, who lived in Berta’s neighborhood and who was the realtor that handled the sale of the house to court employee Keltz and her husband.

“Judges and attorneys have an obligation to avoid even the appearance of impropriety,” observed one White Plains estate attorney who asked that his name be withheld, adding, “But that ethical requirement doesn’t apply here– every player gets their piece of the pie– that’s how court business is done in Westchester County.” He conceded that, “On its face, this doesn’t look good– a state-employed attorney-referee working in the Surrogate’s Court shouldn’t be purchasing a house from any estate her court is overseeing.”

Under Westchester County Surrogate Anthony A. Scarpino, court attorney-referee Jody B. Keltz continues her work insuring a high level of integrity in the administration of estate proceedings, also while holding professional fiduciaries, such as banks, to a high set of ethical and performance standards.

The biggest “crumb” from the Estate of Berta M. Murray went to Westchester County Surrogate’s Court attorney-referee Jody B. Keltz and her attorney-husband Carl T. Peluzo. That “crumb” — the house and property located at 168 Gaylor Road in Scarsdale is, according to the village of Scarsdale tax office, now conservatively valued at $950,000.00.

(Note: The New York State Inspector General’s Office is currently reviewing the matter.)

http://www.ExposeCorruptCourts.blogspot.com © 2007

New Federal Pirro Probe: Jeanine Cost Westchester County Millions

June 21, 2007

New Federal Pirro Probe -Jeanine Cost Westchester County Millions

Exclusive

JUDGE: “UNEXCUSED FAILURE”

by Frank Brady © 2007

Another serious criminal allegation against Jeanine Pirro has been added to the growing list of federal questions into her actions while Westchester County’s District Attorney, say sources familiar with the latest inquiry. During her 12 years in office, according to the allegations, then-District Attorney Pirro knowingly failed to recover millions of dollars in forfeited bail– monies that, according to state law, should have gone into Westchester County government bank accounts.

Bail is usually forfeited if a criminal defendant fails to appear for a scheduled court appearance. In courts everyday, though, many judges extend great latitude to defendants who have failed to appear, often negating “bench warrants” and “bail forfeiture” when certain facts are revealed to the court. “Failure to appear” determinations are excused when the judge is moved to accept the absence as unintentional, usually a result of a personal emergency or a simple mix-up of the scheduled date by the defendants, their attorney, court personnel or a computer. As one Manhattan criminal defense attorney explains, “If you have a good and honest reason for not showing up in court, judges are usually understanding,” adding, “but there are only two perfect excuses for not being in court–you’re dead, or in jail somewhere.” In short, if bail is forfeited, it is lost—gone. And the money goes to the county—except, as the newest allegations claim, in Jeanine Pirro’s Westchester County.

WHY?

Numerous seasoned criminal defense lawyers interviewed for this article, and who demanded that their names not be used, were emphatic about their belief that except for only very rare exceptions, forfeited bail money is gone—and it gets deposited into the county coffers.

But the latest issue to haunt the former county judge, Ms. Pirro, alleges a different bail process in the criminal courts of Westchester County–that for a ten-year-plus period of time, and while she was the Westchester County District Attorney, Jeanine Pirro systematically prevented millions of dollars in forfeited bail monies from being delivered to the citizens of Westchester County.

DOZENS OF CASES

According to criminal court documents obtained in one case, The People of the State of New York vs. Edickson Herrera, Ms. Pirro’s office failed to file the necessary paperwork to insure that the Westchester County government would receive $250,000.00 in forfeited bail money. The defendant had failed to appear in court on October 5, 1995, and though the court issued a bench warrant that day, the bail forfeiture became effective 5 days later on October 10, 1995. To make sure Westchester County received the $250,000.00, the District Attorney was simply required to file a copy of the forfeiture order within 60 days.

In a decision and order issued almost two years later, and dated September 5, 1997, the Honorable Mary H. Smith ruled, “While it may be lamentable that the People’s unexcused failure to follow the mandate of CPL 540.10(2) will result in a windfall to the petitioner and a $250,000.00 loss to the People of the State of New York, this Court is powerless…”

As a result of District Attorney Pirro’s failure to simply file a copy of the forfeiture order within the then-required 60 days, the Judge was forced to return the $250,000.00 to the petitioner, the Frontier Insurance Company.

JUDGE: PIRRO FAILED TO FOLLOW THE LAW

In another 1997 case, The People of the State of New York vs. Melvin Gonzalez, Supreme Court Justice James R. Cowhey was similarly required to order the return of forfeited bail money, which in this case totaled $100,000.00. In his April 16, 1997 dated decision and order, Judge Cowhey ruled that “The People (D.A. Pirro) concede that they failed to have a judgment entered within sixty days of the bail forfeiture.” The Court also wrote, “Clearly, under the facts of this case the People have not complied with the statutory obligations of the statute. Subdivision 2 specifically imposes on the People the unconditional obligation to proceed against the surety within sixty days of the date the Court orders forfeiture of the bail.”

There are two common elements to the Gonzalez and Herrara bail forfeiture cases, and which were among papers submitted to prosecutors—the district attorney involved in both cases was Jeanine Pirro, and the surety that financially gained in both cases was the Frontier Insurance Company. In these two cases alone the failure of Ms. Pirro to follow a basic state law of procedure resulted in a $350,000.00 loss to Westchester County, and a $350,000.00 windfall to the Frontier Insurance Company. (Note: On October 20, 1998, an amendment to New York State law 540.10(2) doubled the filing time from 60 to 120 days in which a district attorney must file a copy of the forfeiture order.)

A former federal prosecutor who reviewed the documents and allegations against Ms. Pirro was quick to point out that, “Although there may be issues with the statute of limitations on the older bail forfeiture cases, the current focus may be on the pattern of criminal behavior by a group of individuals, and who for personal gain over many years, systematically acted to defraud the citizens of Westchester County out of millions of dollars.” He added, hesitantly, “It is equally unsettling that though they were required to follow the law concerning the D.A.’s failure and return the money, the judges involved were duty-bound to report Pirro’s failures to a half-dozen or so state and federal governmental entities.”

THE BAIL STOPS HERE

A White Plains-based New York State employee familiar with the allegations, and who requested that his name not be used in this article, supplied information which has been confirmed by documents submitted to federal prosecutors. He says, “It was common knowledge that Jeanine was up to something with the bail bond people…certain clerks were told NOT to file certain papers…this went on for years, and it was business as usual–right up until the time she left the D.A.’s office in January of ’06.” He added that, “The investigators have their work cut out for them…court documents and entire files have a way of disappearing in Westchester County.”

“This Bail Scam appears to be a well-hatched combination of a multi-million dollar white-collar crime and the corruption of one or more public officials who were in a position to exploit the lack of accountability,” noted a CPA and Certified Fraud Examiner (CFE) who reviewed court documents, and who asked not to be identified by name. “The fact is two separate courts determined that cash bail totaling $350,000.00 was forfeited and, accordingly, the money should have made its way to the county,” adding, “But if the county finance department doesn’t know it should be getting the money, that deficiency would never be revealed in any financial review or audit. If true, it is quite a clever scam. The New York State legislature needs to tighten the law by formulating a procedure so that there is accountability from the time bail money is forfeited until such time as the county financial officer takes possession or control of those funds.”

The former federal prosecutor advises that, “It will take some time to review all the material cases during the ten-year period, but the prosecutors will determine who was involved, and who ultimately profited in the scheme to prevent those monies from going to the county.” With a laugh he adds, “Follow the money.”

http://www.ExposeCorruptCourts.blogspot.com © 2007