FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Wednesday, May 25, 2016
Attorney Indicted 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
Brooklyn District Attorney Ken Thompson today announced an indictment charging a Howard Beach attorney with siphoning off approximately $600,000 from an estate that he was hired to represent and using the funds for his personal expenses.
District Attorney Thompson said, “This defendant had a duty to his client but instead allegedly stole nearly $600,000 of the proceeds from the sale of two properties belonging to the estate of Judge Phillips, including the historic Slave Theater. He’s charged with writing himself hundreds of checks until all the money was gone. We will now hold him accountable for these shameful criminal acts.”
The District Attorney said that the defendant, Frank Racano, 54, of Howard Beach, Queens, was arraigned today before Brooklyn Supreme Court Justice Danny Chun on an indictment in which he is charged with one count second-degree grand larceny. He was held on $250,000 bail and ordered to return to court on August 10, 2016.
The District Attorney said that, according to the indictment, 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 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, allegedly stealing a total of $587,160.56.
The case was investigated by Supervising Financial Investigator Rosa Velasquez, under the supervision of Chief Financial Investigator Michael Campi, of the District Attorney’s newly- formed Financial Investigators Bureau.
The case is being prosecuted by Senior Assistant District Attorney Frank Dudis, of the District Attorney’s Real Estate Fraud Unit, under the supervision of Assistant District Attorney Richard Farrell, Unit Chief, and Assistant District Attorney Felice Sontupe, Chief of the District Attorney’s Fraud Bureau, and the overall supervision of Executive Assistant District Attorney William E. Schaeffer, Chief of the District Attorney’s Investigations Division and Assistant District Attorney Patricia McNeill, Deputy Chief.
An indictment is an accusatory instrument and not proof of a defendant’s guilt.