Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Attorney Gets 1 To 3 Years In State Prison For Siphoning Off Nearly $600K In Real Property Sale Proceeds From Estate Of Deceased Brooklyn Judge

From the Office of the Kings County, New York District Attorney:
  • Acting Brooklyn District Attorney Eric Gonzalez today [April 20] announced that a Howard Beach attorney was sentenced to one to three years in state prison following his guilty plea earlier this year to second-degree grand larceny for siphoning off approximately $600,000 from an estate that he was hired to represent and using the funds for his personal expenses.

    Acting District Attorney Gonzalez said, “This defendant disregarded his duty to his client, stealing nearly all of the proceeds due to the estate of the beloved Hon. Judge Phillips, including from the sale of the historic Slave Theater. He’s now been held accountable for his brazen theft and shameful conduct.”

    The Acting District Attorney said that the defendant, Frank Racano, 54, of Howard Beach, Queens, was sentenced today by Brooklyn Supreme Court Justice Danny Chun to one to three years in prison and required to sign a judgment order or restitution for $587,160.56 payable to the estate of John Phillips, at the request of the District Attorney’s Office. Racano pleaded guilty to second-degree grand larceny in January.

    The Acting District Attorney said that between February 2013 and May 2015, the defendant stole approximately $587,160.56 from the estate of New York City Civil Court Judge John L. Phillips, Jr., who died unmarried, childless and without a will on February 16, 2008.

    The Acting District Attorney said that, according to the investigation, on January 16, 2009, Samuel Boykin, a nephew by marriage, successfully petitioned the Kings County Surrogate to be appointed administrator of the estate.

    In early 2010, Boykin hired Racano, a licensed attorney, to assist in the sale of the estate’s real estate holdings, which included the Slave Theater, located at 1215-1217 Fulton Street in Bedford-Stuyvesant and 10 Halsey Street, a vacant lot behind the theater. In 2012, the properties went into contract for a total of $2.2 million and the buyer paid the estate a down payment of $220,000. That check, payable to “Frank Racano, as attorney,” was deposited into the defendant’s attorney trust checking account.

    Kings County Surrogate Diana Johnson approved the sale of the properties on December 19, 2012. On February 25, 2013, at the closing for the properties, the buyer’s attorney paid closing expenses and taxes that were owed on the property. The net proceeds of the sale, $517,339.65, were paid to the estate in two checks payable to “Frank Racano, as attorney.”

    Racano deposited those two checks into his trust account, thus the total proceeds from the sale of the properties credited to the estate should have been $737,339.65. Between February 2013 and May 2015, Racano paid estate expenditures for tax assistance and other services totaling $150,179.09. During this same period, he wrote and cashed over 300 checks to himself in amounts ranging from $45 to $7,500, without authorization from the estate or the Court and completely depleted the account, stealing a total of $587,160.56.(1)
Source: Attorney Sentenced to State Prison for Stealing Almost $600,000 From the Estate of Deceased New York City Civil Court Judge (Stolen Funds Include Proceeds from Sale of Historic Slave Theater in Bedford-Stuyvesant).
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(1) In New York, the Lawyers' Fund for Client Protection was created to provide a source of, at least partial, reimbursement to clients who have suffered monetary losses at the hands of dishonest lawyers licensed and practicing in the state.

According to their website, typical losses reimbursed by the Lawyers' Fund include the theft of estate and trust assets, escrow deposits in real property transactions, settlements in personal injury litigation, debt collection receipts, money embezzled in investment transactions with law clients, and unearned fees paid in advance to lawyers who falsely promise their legal services.

Perhaps the best of all the attorney ripoff reimbursement funds in the U.S. in terms of its payout limits, the Fund places a $400,000 maximum limit, per law client loss, on awards from the Fund, fixed by regulation of the Fund's Trustees. There is no aggregate maximum on awards involving one lawyer.

For similar "attorney ripoff reimbursement funds" that sometimes help cover the financial mess created by the dishonest conduct of lawyers licensed in other states and Canada, see:
Maps available courtesy of The National Client Protection Organization, Inc.

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