Saturday, October 18, 2014

Philly DA Pinches Lawyer, Two Funeral Directors, Three Others In Alleged Scheme To Hijack Title To Dead Widow's Home, Car; Estate Fleeced While Victim Lays Buried In Pauper's Grave

In Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, The Philadelphia Inquirer reports:
  • The anonymous caller who dialed the Philadelphia District Attorney's Office last year had a disturbing tale to tell: A woman was dead, and someone was trying to steal her home and Buick LeSabre.

    That tip led to a yearlong grand jury investigation that culminated Thursday with charges against six men - including a lawyer, a real estate agent, and two funeral directors - who prosecutors say schemed to steal the dead South Philadelphia woman's rowhouse and car.

    "The facts in this case are disturbing and extremely sad," District Attorney Seth Williams said. "It's hard to believe that people would steal a dead woman's house and personal property."

    The six men - Andrew Kaufman, Romanoff Quarles, Vincent Marciano, Marvin Kimble, Antoine Turay, and Damion Rivers - were charged with conspiracy, theft, receiving stolen property, forgery, and perjury. All were either arrested Thursday or expected to surrender, Williams said.

    He credited the caller, whose tip about the thefts sparked an investigation by the Public Corruption Task Force of the District Attorney's Office. "I would like to thank the concerned resident who contacted my office to report their suspicions," Williams said. "Too often, we don't listen to gut instincts, and in this case, not only was it right, it helped uncover an elaborate criminal conspiracy."

    As authorities outlined it:

    Dorothy Kennedy lived with her husband, Frank, in their Marshall Street rowhouse for almost 40 years before he died in 2008.

    In 2010, Dorothy Kennedy died at age 79, leaving no heirs or will, but a well-kept home with a concrete front yard and shade tree out front.

    The 2005 LeSabre, still in the name of her husband, was parked out back.

    With no heirs to claim the property, it would, by law, go to the state.

    But, according to the grand jury report, Quarles, 43, who lived around the corner on Johnson Street, decided he wanted the house instead.

    According to the report, his lawyer, Kaufman, 56, of Cherry Hill, then devised "a scheme that would allow Quarles to unlawfully exploit the system."

    Kaufman told Quarles to apply to become administrator of the estate. To do so, the lawyer said, Quarles would need to represent - falsely - that he had supported Kennedy before her death.

    So Quarles obtained old calendars and marked them to make it seem that he had been regularly running errands for Kennedy. Kaufman said it would help if Quarles collected Kennedy's body from the morgue and buried her, the report said.

    Enter Kimble and Turay.

    Kimble, 57, who had once owned a funeral home at 53d and Vine Streets, directed Quarles to Turay, who owns the Turay Memorial Chapel in North Philadelphia.

    Turay buried Kennedy for $1,400, but gave Quarles a bill saying the burial cost $7,000. Quarles used the bill in a court petition to become administrator of Kennedy's estate.

    Kennedy was buried in a pauper's grave.

    The group then enlisted the help of Marciano, 63, a South Philadelphia real estate broker, who organized a sham sale of the home.

    Quarles, records show, took ownership of the home in 2012.

    And finally, there was Rivers, who used his family's West Philadelphia auto business to help transfer the car title to Quarles.

    To complete the transaction for the car, Quarles forged Frank Kennedy's signature five years after he had died.

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