FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Thursday, April 20, 2017
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
Acting Brooklyn District Attorney Eric Gonzalez today 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.
The case was 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 Frauds Bureau, and the overall supervision of Assistant District Attorney Patricia McNeill, Deputy Chief of the District Attorney’s Investigations Division.