Manhasset attorneys accused by state A.G. of misappropriating funds from trust, foundation

Manhasset attorneys accused by state A.G. of misappropriating funds from trust, foundation
Attorney General Letitia James filed a civil complaint against a pair of Manhasset attorneys for allegedly misappropriating funds from a trust and foundation. (Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons)

A pair of Manhasset attorneys misappropriated more than $1.3 million from a charitable trust they administered on behalf of a deceased client, according to a complaint filed by the office of state Attorney General Letitia James on Tuesday.

The civil complaint alleges that attorneys Paul Marchese and Robin Maynard, of Marchese & Maynard LLP, represented Helen Gottlieb during the final years of her life before her death in 2008.

Prior to her death, Marchese aided Gottlieb in establishing The Harold and Helen Gottlieb Foundation, along with the charitable trust worth around $2 million, according to the complaint.

Following her death, Marchese, according to the complaint, became the successor of Gottleib’s trust and had access to all of her assets.

Marchese allegedly directed the trust to pay the law firm nearly $600,000 before he and Maynard, acting as sole directors of the foundation, paid themselves salaries of more than $750,000, according to the complaint.

James said Marchese was able to conceal the transfers from the trust to the firm because he allegedly did not register the trust with the Attorney General’s Charities Bureau, as is required by law.

The suit, according to James, seeks a court order to force Marchese and Maynard to repay the funds they allegedly transferred from the trust and foundation, along with other penalties and interests.

“Acting in their own interests, these lawyers allegedly failed to grant their client’s dying wish and hurt a charitable cause in the process,” James said in a release. “New Yorkers must have trust in the individuals tasked with overseeing their affairs when they are no longer able to do so themselves. My office will continue to uphold the laws designed to protect the interests of our charitable organizations and hold accountable those who attempt to shirk their duties in order to line their pockets.”

Timothy Gilles, a spokesperson for the firm, said in a statement to Blank Slate Media that the salaries and legal fees “have been entirely typical and appropriate for the extensive work and broad range of services provided by the firm and its partners” 

“Marchese and Maynard and its predecessor firm have been the exclusive attorneys for Helen Gottlieb, for her living trust, for her estate, for the trust after her death, and for her Foundation for 24 years,” Gilles continued.

Gilles also said the missing documentations were the result of a 2020 fire at the law firm’s office along with “the loss of documents due to incomplete records transfer during multiple transitions—from handwritten paper time sheets to a primitive floppy-disk computer system, and ultimately to a more sophisticated law office technology package.”

“As the Attorney General’s office is aware, most of these issues are already before the Surrogate’s Court in Nassau County in an action we filed last year,” Gilles continued. “We are happy to resume discussions that stalled nearly a year ago with the Attorney General’s office to resolve this matter.”

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