Sunday, July 20, 2008

Judge helped buddies rake in the dough

A top Bronx judge let political cronies reap lucrative fees from dozens of improperly invested inheritances - leaving taxpayers on the hook for $20 million.

The mishandling of the money - overseen by Surrogate Judge Lee Holzman and managed by two aides - let politically wired lawyers and accountants rake in $2.1 million in fees, while heirs of the 37 victimized estates couldn't get their money.

Bronx judge oversaw city's bad investments of inheritance cash

Public administrators manage the assets of residents who die without wills until the court approves a settlement. They are supposed to invest estate money in conservative financial instruments such as treasury bills.

Judge Holzman appointed Rodriguez and Raniolo to the job and was responsible for monitoring all of the estates. He signed off on all fees and was supposed to make sure the cases moved swiftly through the courts.

The problem surfaced in April, when city Controller William Thompson discovered the Bronx public administrator had put millions into auction-rate securities, risky investments that were no longer selling.

Thompson determined the city would have to pay the heirs and wait until it could the sell the now-worthless securities. So far the city has had to pay out $900,000 and hopes to be paid back for everything when the securities become liquid again.

More infuriating for family members is that while they couldn't get their money, lawyers, accountants and the brokerage that managed the investments could.

Topping the insiders list was Michael Lippman, counsel to public administrator Raniolo, who has collected $1.9 million in fees from the 37 estates.


Anonymous said...

This has always been a source of Honest Graft.

A machine appointed judge (oh yes, techincally they ARE elected) appoints a machine hack lawyer to administer an estate, either for someone who is deceased or an incompetant.

They actually do very little real work, but, by law, are entitled to very handsome fees.

Anonymous said...

A big source of income for Vallone and Vallone.

Should be called Surprise and Surprise.

Anonymous said...

I'm sure the Bronx isn't the only borough that has this going on. I bet Queens suffers from the same thing. There are so many old people in Queens. It's about time the judicial system is investigated as well as all these dishonest lawyers. It's just criminal that this behavior takes place.

Anonymous said...

I bet Queens suffers from the same thing.

you'd win a fortune. the level of graft in queens dwarfs the other 4 boroughs, they are just better at keeping it quiet. believe me we are getting screwed under the table huge in queens

Anonymous said...

the moral of the story is to protect yourselves now and write a will and put an executor in charge of your estate so no judge will appoint a hack to do it later

Anonymous said...

Check out how much bolts and sweney of the queens organizaion get from the Queens Surrogate.

And other queens pols and there friends get a piece

Anonymous said...

This is very good to be informed of what is going on. Thank you very much for posting this. Good job!

Anonymous said...

Isn't Sweeny and Bolz the law firm that Joe Crowley was affiliated with? Just asking.