Saturday, July 28, 2012

NYC Public Administrator Ethel Griffin Wants Heiress Huguette Clark's Estate

The Manhattan district attorney has launched a criminal investigation into the finances of Huguette Clark, the reclusive 104-year-old heiress with three empty mansions, who was profiled in a series of articles on
The inquiry is being conducted by the Elder Abuse Unit of the New York County District Attorney's Office, which investigated the finances of Brooke Astor, the society matron and heiress whose son and attorney were convicted in 2009 of siphoning $10 million from her. Astor died in 2007 at age 105, with an estate worth $131 million.
Huguette Clark's wealth is said to be roughly four times Astor's, or about half a billion dollars. Clark has no children. It's not known whether she has signed a will. She has lived in New York City hospitals for at least 22 years.
New York City detectives assigned to the office of DA Cyrus Vance Jr. are investigating the Clark case, including the actions of attorney Wallace "Wally" Bock and accountant Irving H. Kamsler, who control Huguette Clark's wealth and access to her hospital room.
A spokeswoman for Vance, Erin Duggan, said the office has a policy of not confirming whether an investigation is being conducted. confirmed independently that detectives are making inquiries. reported last week that Clark's attorney and accountant became the owners of the New York City apartment of another elderly client after his last will and testament was revised six times. The accountant, Kamsler, has a criminal conviction for sending pornography to underage girls in an AOL chat room, according to court records. The attorney, Bock, arranged to sell quietly Clark's Stradivarius violin for $6 million and a Renoir painting for $23.5 million.
Clark's assets include more than $200 million in three unoccupied luxury homes:
• A $100 million Pacific cliffside estate on 23 acres in Santa Barbara, Calif. She hasn't visited it in at least 50 years.
• A country house on 52 acres in New Canaan, Conn., on the market now for $24 million. She expanded the house in 1952 but never moved in.
• A massive apartment in New York City, 907 Fifth Ave. at 72nd Street, the largest apartment on that storied avenue overlooking Central Park. Her 42 rooms on two floors occupy 15,000 square feet. A real estate agent who has sold apartments in that building values Clark's at roughly $100 million. She hasn't been seen here in about 22 years. 
In a series of stories since February, has reported that Huguette Clark has lived alone, secluding herself in her home with her French dolls and dollhouses for the past half century, and has been in hospital rooms in New York City, though her health was said to be good.
The series of articles on also disclosed:
• Clark's attorney, 78-year-old Bock, arranged to sell the $6 million Stradivarius violin that her mother gave her for her 50th birthday, according to the dealer who handled the sale. The buyer signed a confidentiality agreement when Clark was 95 years old, agreeing not to disclose who sold the violin for at least 10 years.
• Her accountant, 63-year-old Kamsler, pleaded guilty in 2008 to sending pornography to underage girls in an AOL chat room, according to court records. He was using the AOL handle IRV1040 (as in his first name, Irving, and the IRS 1040 tax form). He also, like his client Huguette Clark, had a federal tax lien for unpaid taxes.
• The attorney and accountant became owners of property that was signed over to them by another elderly client in New York City, according to court records. The man, who was attorney Bock's law partner, suffered from dementia in his later years, according to his goddaughter and neighbors. Before he died, he signed over to Bock and Kamsler his New York apartment in the Dorchester, at 57th Street near Park Avenue, as well as his Mercedes and $200,000 — in addition to the $380,000 in fees they collected for managing his $4 million estate.
• Bock and Kamsler arranged to sell Clark's Renoir in 2003 for $23.5 million, and her country home in New Canaan, Conn., is on the market for $24 million.
• Access to her is tightly controlled. Relatives who tried to visit her New York hospital room have been turned away by the attorney, though one persistent half-great-niece got as far as the room where Clark was asleep. (We are not revealing the name of the hospital.)
• The accountant is said to visit regularly. The attorney told in January that he speaks with her frequently by phone and has met her only twice — the first of her seven attorneys to meet her face to face.
Bock and Kamsler have declined to answer questions about any of their actions.
A famous father
Huguette ("hue-GET") Marcelle Clark is the last surviving child of William Andrews Clark (1839-1925), a copper miner and United States senator who in his time was said to be neck and neck with John D. Rockefeller for the title, richest American.
Clark made a fortune in Montana copper, banks and railroads, collected a museum full of art from Europe, and owned the land that would become Las Vegas, where Clark County is named for him.William Andrews Clark was caught in a bribery scandal during a campaign for the U.S. Senate — he was said to describe the Montana legislators this way: "I never bought a man who wasn't for sale."
Though the Senate refused to seat him, he was re-elected and served one term, from 1901 to 1907, as a Democrat from Montana. During that term the widower Clark announced that he had secretly been married in Paris and had a child with his former ward, Anna, 39 years his junior. ("THEY'RE MARRIED AND HAVE A BABY," thundered one headline.) A second daughter, Huguette, was born in 1906. Her sister died at age 16, leaving her the only surviving child of this second marriage.
When Sen. Clark died in 1925, he left a gaudy 121-room house then at Fifth Avenue and 77th Street, and a fortune divided among Anna, Huguette and four adult children from his first marriage. Anna died in 1963, leaving her share to Huguette.
Huguette Clark is said by relatives to be quite alert, or was the last time anyone besides her attorney and accountant was able to speak with her by phone, some years back.
The district attorney's office has put greater emphasis on investigating and preventing crimes against the elderly since Vance, son of the former U.S. secretary of state, took office in January. The Elder Abuse Unit has been expanded under the direction of experienced prosecutor Elizabeth Loewy, who headed the Astor case.
Separate civil actionAside from a criminal investigation, which could take months, an attorney who worked on the Brooke Astor case said anyone could go to court to file a guardianship petition, asking a court to appoint someone to handle her affairs. It would normally be a relative or friend or financial institution, but anyone could go to court.
"Actually, anyone has standing," said the attorney, Susan Robbins, meaning anyone can go before the court, without needing to have a personal stake in the matter. Robbins was the court-appointed attorney for Astor.
 In addition, anyone who is concerned about the financial or physical well-being of an elderly person, even if that person doesn't have direct evidence of wrongdoing, can contact Adult Protective Services in New York City. More than a dozen readers told that they made referrals to Adult Protective Services after reading last week's articles.
A previous client
Clark's attorney, Bock, drew up the wills for one of his law partners, Donald Wallace, who died in 2002 at age 76. Wallace's will — the sixth one drawn up by Bock — left his apartment to Bock and Kamsler, gave each man $100,000 and left Kamsler his Mercedes sedan. Though the co-op board refused to hand over the apartment to the two men, a change to Wallace's will left it to the attorney and accountant. In his final days, when according to his goddaughter and a neighbor he had severe dementia, Wallace was subletting his own apartment from his attorney and accountant, according to probate records in the Surrogate's Court in New York City. (You can read the documents in this PDF file.)
Bock wrote in court documents, "At no time did I ever request or suggest, directly or by implication, to DLW that he provide for me in his will," referring to Donald L. Wallace. "On the contrary, I said to him that he was being overly generous, that he had done enough for me with various gifts given over the years. He insisted however, stating that the people he named as beneficiaries in his Will were 'his family' and that is what he wanted to do."
The arrestHer accountant, Kamsler, was arrested on Sept. 6, 2007, in Nassau County on Long Island, in an Internet sex sting. The indictment alleged that in 2005 and 2007 he had tried to entice 13- and 15-year-old girls in an AOL chatroom to meet with him, sending them pornography and describing touching their private areas. These girls turned out to be police officers. Police said Kamsler was using the AOL handle IRV1040 (as in his first name, Irving, and the IRS 1040 tax return).
Kamsler told police that he thought he was in an adult chatroom and was just "pretending" with women that they were girls. He pleaded guilty in October 2008 to all the charges: six counts of attempting to disseminate indecent material to minors in the first degree and nine counts of attempting to endanger the welfare of a child. He got no jail time, just five years of probation, a $5,000 fine, 100 hours of community service and sex-offender restrictions.
IRS difficulties
Property records in New York show Kamsler also had trouble with the IRS, with a tax lien in 2003 for $18,853, paid off three months later. Huguette Clark has had her own tax liens — four times the IRS has filed to collect taxes from her.
The StradivariusIn 2001, Clark's Stradivarius violin was sold. It is one of the most famous, known as La Pucelle, or The Virgin, because its works were unopened for more than a century after it was made by Antonio Stradivari in 1709. Huguette Clark's mother, Anna Eugenia La Chappelle Clark, gave it to her for a 50th birthday present in 1956.
 The premier violin dealer Charles Beare described it as "almost certainly the finest Stradivari that's not in a museum and certainly the best-preserved."
The first draft of the confidentiality agreement proposed by Bock was so onerous, Beare said, that it would forbid the purchaser from revealing that he owned the violin, much less who he bought it from, or even the seller's gender. He could not play it in the presence of anyone, ever.
Beare said the buyer who paid $6 million, retired software developer David Fulton, balked at those terms but agreed to a 10-year-ban on revealing the previous owner. Fulton would not comment to, citing the confidentiality agreement, which runs until early 2011.
 The RenoirIn 2003, the year she turned 97, one of Huguette Clark's paintings was sold by Sotheby's for $23.5 million. Report at the time said the painting came from "the estate of Huguette Clark," though she was alive.
No comment
Neither Bock nor Kamsler would respond to questions about these incidents.
 Wallace Bock, in an interview early this year at the Lexington Avenue office of the law firm of Collier, Halpern, Newberg, Nolletti & Bock, would say only that Huguette was quite a beauty in her day, that he talks to her regularly on the phone and that her mind is clear though her eyesight and hearing have dimmed with age. He also said he would not pass on to her a request for an interview and that she doesn't care about publicity or reputation. He threatened to get a judge to stop from printing a word about his client.
Additional reading
More links for "The Clarks: An American story of wealth, scandal and mystery":
All of's reports on Huguette Clark are gathered here.
Part one of the investigative report, At 104, mysterious heiress is alone now

Huguette Clark's beneficiaries may have to give back gifts
Saturday, June 16, 2012

Heiress Huguette Clark

Reclusive Manhattan heiress Huguette Clark lavished her caretakers with million-dollar mansions, rare violins and coveted works of art.
But if the court-appointed official overseeing Clark’s estate gets her way, her newly rich former nurses and doctors will have to return the gifts.
Public administrator Ethel Griffin has asked a court to force Clark’s ex-staffers to give up the goods, saying they manipulated the copper heiress into leaving them the stunning largess.
The effort is part of Griffin’s bid to reclaim $37 million for the $400 million estate, The Associated Press reported.
“It does not appear that anyone in a position of power or authority ever intervened to ensure that Mrs. Clark possessed the requisite capacity to make gifts and was acting of her own free ill,” Deputy Public Administrator Joy Thompson wrote in last month’s filing.
Clark died last year at age 104. The heir to a copper fortune, Clark had no kids and left nothing in her will to family members.
Among those targeted by Griffin is Clark’s private nurse, Hadassah Peri.
She was showered with almost $28 million, including three Manhattan apartments, two homes elsewhere and a $1.2 million Stradivarius violin.
Peri’s family received an additional $3 million.
Peri’s lawyer disputed the claim that she took advantage of Clark.
“(Clark) was a very generous woman” who made gifts to people she rarely or never saw, said the lawyer, Harvey Corn.
“It’s absurd to think that she would not give gifts to the individuals who worked with her.”
A handful of other nurses and doctors were gifted more than $4 million.
Members of Clark’s medical staff weren’t the only ones to make out like bandits.
Accountant Irving Kamsler got $435,000 in gifts, while lawyer Wallace Bock was given $60,000.
In an especially bizarre bounty, Bock was also rewarded with a $1.8 million contribution from Clark for a security system for the Israeli settlement where his daughter lives.
“The record will show that Wally Bock acted in Huguette Clark’s interest at all times,” said his lawyer John Dadakis.
With News Wire Services

Investigative reporter Bill Dedman of
By Bill Dedman Investigative reporter
NBC News
updated 9/1/2010 7:02:47 AM ET


Huguette Clark, the reclusive 104-year-old heiress, is known as generous toward those who care for her, including her social secretary, who received a $10 million gift. It's now clear that her longtime nurse has also been a recipient: To her, Clark has given the money to buy four homes for her family.
Clark also has made gifts benefiting her attorney's family, including a dollhouse worth more than $10,000 and a $1.5 million security system for the settlement where the attorney's daughters and grandchildren live in Israel.
Cynthia Garcia, a paralegal who worked for two years for Clark's attorney, Wallace "Wally" Bock, described those gifts in an interview with Garcia also said that Bock and Clark's accountant drafted a will that would have left money to Bock, trying repeatedly to persuade her to sign it — then joked about their client and cursed her behind her back when she would not sign the will.
The paralegal also said that attorney Bock called her last week after investigators started looking into Clark's affairs, encouraged her to leave town, and offered to pay for an attorney to represent her, who then told her not to talk to investigators or the press.
A spokesman for Bock acknowledged the gifts, but said that he acted "appropriately, professionally and consistent with her wishes." reported last week that the Manhattan district attorney is investigating the finances of the 104-year-old Clark, daughter of a Montana copper miner and heiress to one of America's great fortunes. The DA's Elder Abuse Unit has detectives looking at transactions in her bank accounts, as well as the sale of her Stradivarius violin for $6 million and a Renoir painting for $23.5 million.
Her wealth, estimated at half a billion dollars, is managed by her attorney, Bock, 78, of Queens, N.Y., and her certified public accountant, a convicted felon named Irving H. Kamsler, 63, of the Bronx, N.Y. The men have not been accused of a crime.
Full coverage: 'The Clarks, an American story of wealth, mystery and scandal' also reported that the attorney and accountant became the owners of the New York City apartment of another elderly client after his last will and testament was revised six times.
Private nurse on call Clark is said to be alert and in good health for her age, but she left her Fifth Avenue apartment for hospital rooms some 22 years ago. A few years later, she hired a nurse through an agency, and that nurse has been with her ever since.
Huguette Clark in 1930
Associated Press
This is the last known photo of Huguette Clark, taken Aug. 11, 1930, the day of her divorce, in Reno, Nev.
Hadassah Peri, 60, is an immigrant from the Philippines and a registered nurse. She has spent long hours at the hospital as Clark's private nurse and is on call 24 hours a day, according to her attorney, John P. Reiner. Property records show that Peri owns at least six properties in the New York area, including four that Peri's attorney confirmed were gifts from her employer.
Clark gave Peri the cash in 2000 and 2001 to buy two apartments in Manhattan, on E. 96th Street near Park Avenue, for Peri's children to use as dorms while they were in college, the attorney said. They're valued between $200,000 and $350,000 each, according to property records.
There also is a two-unit house near Sheepshead Bay, Brooklyn, near the Peri family home. Clark offered to buy this house so there would be room for Peri's visiting family to stay. It's valued at about $700,000.
Finally, there's a vacation house next to a golf course on the Jersey Shore near Long Branch, N.J., valued at about $500,000.
Peri referred all questions to her attorney, Reiner, who said Clark bought the four homes for Peri and her family as gifts to thank her for nearly 20 years of attentive service.
The paralegal Cynthia Garcia, the former paralegal for Clark's attorney who has been interviewed by the DA, described expensive gifts that benefitted the family of attorney Bock — including the dollhouse and the security system. She first described these gifts in Saturday's New York Post.
Bock's spokesman, Michael McKeon, confirmed that those two gifts were made, but he said the paralegal has many of the details wrong and is just seeking "her 15 minutes of fame."
Image: Cynthia Garcia, former paralegal for Wallace "Wally" Bock, the attorney for heiress Huguette Clark
Courtesy of Cynthia Garcia
Cynthia Garcia, former paralegal for Wallace "Wally" Bock, attorney for heiress Huguette Clark.
Cynthia Garcia, 42, worked for Bock from 2000 to 2002, and now lives in Florida.
She told that Clark gave Bock's granddaughter an antique Barbie dollhouse worth more than $1 million. Bock's spokesman, McKeon, said the dollhouse was neither an antique, nor a Barbie dollhouse, and was worth somewhere in the five figures, between $10,000 and $100,000.
Garcia also said Bock solicited from Clark a check for $1.5 million after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, to build the security system, which Garcia called a "bomb shelter," for the community in Israel where his daughters and their families live.
McKeon, Bock's spokesman, said Clark did make a donation of about $1.5 million to the community in Israel, but it was not to Bock's family. He said it was for a sophisticated security system for the community — not a bomb shelter — and that the money was handled scrupulously through an attorney inIsrael, with money placed in an escrow account and paid out as needed for the installation. If Bock's family were to leave the community, McKeon said, the security system would stay.
New York state ethics rules prohibit lawyers from soliciting gifts from clients "for the benefit of the lawyer or a person related to the lawyer," but allow some gifts that are volunteered.
'Consistent with her wishes' Huguette ("hue-GET") Marcelle Clark is the last surviving child of William Andrews Clark (1839-1925), a copper miner and U.S. senator who in his time was described by The New York Times as neck and neck with John D. Rockefeller for the title of richest American. Huguette, born in Paris and married only briefly, had no children. She has lived as a recluse for several decades, leaving unoccupied her three empty homes in California, Connecticut and New York City. Her attorney, Bock, has said he is the first of her seven attorneys to meet her, and that even he has met her only twice.
Image: Huguette Clark
Copper King Mansion Bed And Breakfast, Butte, Mont.
Huguette Clark, heiress to a copper fortune, has been secluded for decades. In June she turned 104 in a New York hospital.
In an interview with, the former paralegal Garcia made several other claims about the conduct of Clark's lawyer and accountant.
Kamsler and Bock have not responded to repeated requests for explanation, but McKeon offered point-by-point rebuttals to some of Garcia's claims, and also issued a blanket statement on Bock's behalf:

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