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Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Westchester Surrogate’s Court’s Dastardly Deeds

by Frank Brady © 2007

When 88-year-old Berta M. Murray died on August 12, 1997, she probably had not previously considered that the Scarsdale home built by her father, and that had been in her family for decades, would soon be occupied by a Westchester County Surrogate’s Court attorney-referee who worked in the very same court’s law department charged with the duty to oversee the affairs of the deceased-- A fact that has been secreted from her surviving relatives, until recently.

But Westchester Surrogate’s Court employee, attorney-referee Jody B. Keltz and her attorney-husband, Carl T. Peluso of Peluso & Touger in Manhattan, really liked that house at 168 Gaylor Road in Scarsdale, so in they moved in the Spring of 1998. And the two attorneys still call it home, even now as questions swirl as to just how they came to own the dead lady’s house.

By all accounts, the Keltz-Peluso attorneys never knew Berta, and they had most likely never invited the elderly widow to their prior home located at 75 Third Place in Brooklyn, New York.

“It’s outrageous that a Surrogate’s Court lawyer bought Berta’s house,” said an 80-plus-year-old cousin of Berta, and who only recently learned that Ms. Keltz was a lawyer in the Westchester Surrogate’s Court. “This stinks to high heaven, and I’m mad. It’s just not right, I don’t like this at all!” she added.

The real estate deal by the Keltz-Peluso team is reminiscent of a Brooklyn Surrogate Court “arrangement” in 2002 where, as the Village Voice described it, Judge Scholnick’s clerk “…snatched up the 11-room brownstone…of 85-year-old Elsie Perry…in a move that would make Donald Trump proud…” Honorably, Brooklyn Chief Court Clerk, George Crowley, refused to keep quite, saying publicly that, “If I did this, I would expect to be fired. The whole thing was unethical…the judge shouldn’t have allowed it…”

Brooklyn senior court official Crowley was so outraged by the cozy inside real estate deal that he took the highly unusual step of placing a note about it in the decedent’s Brooklyn Surrogate’s Court case file. But in the Westchester Murray-Keltz-Peluso transfer, no such concern has ever been voiced or documented by Surrogate’s Court Chief Clerk John Kelly or Surrogates Emanuelli or Scarpino. “Isn’t a Surrogate Court supposed to make sure everything is on the up-and-up, and handled properly?” asked Berta’s cousin, adding, “I knew Berta over seventy years, and everyone knew she wanted that house to stay in the family.”

Berta’s Dead: Enter The Vultures

A cursory review of Berta Murray’s estate file appears that it is largely normal, according to legal experts engaged to analyze the Murray estate transactions, and who are familiar with New York estate law, ethical obligations and the specific practices of the Westchester County Surrogate’s Court. However, they noted, the complete absence of any estate file “accounting” is quite unusual. And though not required, the name of Surrogate’s Court attorney-referee Jody B. Keltz, is nowhere to be found in the estate file. However, a review of the property Deed on file in the Westchester County Clerk’s office memorializes the transfer of ownership of 168 Gaylor Road in Scarsdale from the “Estate of Berta M. Murray…by The Bank of New York…to Carl T. Peluso and Jody B. Keltz, his wife.”

In a recent telephone conversation, a court employee confirmed that Ms. Keltz was still employed as an attorney-referee in the Surrogate’s Court’s law department. When asked to comment about the Keltz property transfer, she advised that, “If you want to keep your job around here, you keep your mouth shut.” When asked her name, the telephone connection ended.

A quick review of Berta’s estate file also shows a relatively standard probate proceeding, and it is quickly observed that The Bank of New York is the fiduciary and that the house was valued at $350,000.00--approximately one half of the total estate value of $742,968.00.

But an in-depth analysis reveals some eyebrow-raising facts, including that Berta’s last will was substantially different than her stated wishes as expressed to friends and relatives since her husband Elmer died in December of 1982. “In Westchester, everyone gets a crumb,” one estate lawyer noted. But those associated with the “new” wishes of Berta Murray EACH received “crumbs” worth tens of thousands of dollars: (1) attorney W. Rowland Miller of the Judy, Miller & O’Connor law firm in Scarsdale, and who drafted the Will for Berta (and in which The Bank of New York is named as the new fiduciary), and who was then retained as the attorney for the fiduciary, The Bank of New York; (2) attorney Samuel S. Yasgur, then of the Hall Dickler law firm, and who was appointed by former Hall Dicker lawyer and then-Judge Emanuelli to represent “unknown heirs”; and (3) real estate agent Camille Paradise of Claire D. Leone Real Estate, who lived in Berta’s neighborhood and who was the realtor that handled the sale of the house to court employee Keltz and her husband.

“Judges and attorneys have an obligation to avoid even the appearance of impropriety,” observed one White Plains estate attorney who asked that his name be withheld, adding, “But that ethical requirement doesn’t apply here-- every player gets their piece of the pie-- that’s how court business is done in Westchester County.” He conceded that, “On its face, this doesn’t look good-- a state-employed attorney-referee working in the Surrogate’s Court shouldn’t be purchasing a house from any estate her court is overseeing.”

Under Westchester County Surrogate Anthony A. Scarpino, court attorney-referee Jody B. Keltz continues her work insuring a high level of integrity in the administration of estate proceedings, also while holding professional fiduciaries, such as banks, to a high set of ethical and performance standards.

The biggest “crumb” from the Estate of Berta M. Murray went to Westchester County Surrogate’s Court attorney-referee Jody B. Keltz and her attorney-husband Carl T. Peluzo. That “crumb” -- the house and property located at 168 Gaylor Road in Scarsdale is, according to the village of Scarsdale tax office, now conservatively valued at $950,000.00.

(Note: The New York State Inspector General’s Office is currently reviewing the matter.)

www.ExposeCorruptCourts.blogspot.com © 2007

29 comments:

Anonymous said...

Great Blog, will spread the word. I know people that work in the county that get sick over what they see. Some of them will talk.

Very good story. When someone is in a postion of trust they should not take advantage of it as Jody Keltz clearly did. No one is above the law including lawyers and Judges. Of course you know the reason they steal from the dead is obvious, they can not complain. I can imagine what other corruption is going on in the Surrogate's Court.

This story should be on TV and in the papers. I wonder why it isn't?

Anonymous said...

As a neighbor of Jody and her family we didn't know all of this and if this is all true it is definitely wrong. We were friends of Berta Murray she was a good woman. Where is the supervision in the Courts? We know that Jody and Carl have a place up in Dutchess County, how did they get that? Disgusted

Anonymous said...

This is simple! THIS WAS A PAYOFF FROM THE BANK OF NEW YORK. The bank deals with the Surrogate's Court all the time and they don't want any trouble. This means nothing to the bank. Why should they care? Who will expose them?

Anonymous said...

I dealt with Jody Keltz invoving a family member's estate and did not have a good feeling if you know what I mean. Good blog, we need more stories like this. The is the only voice we have.

Anonymous said...

Emanuelli had a friend Nicky Cockeyes Rattenni (Genovese Capo)
Jody/Carl have a friend
Scarpino a former FBI Special Agent has a friend
Everyone needs a friend

Anonymous said...

Someone better put a lien on her house so she doesn't sell it and leave the county with the money!!!

Anonymous said...

These pilagers are not out to help the folks that pay them---they're out to help themselves at everyone's expense. The grave robbing gonifs are runing the store. For another chapter look at Phil Reisman in today's paper.

Anonymous said...

More stolen with a pen then ever with a gun

Anonymous said...

IT'S A STEAL - "KULTZ STEALS" HOME AND IS SAFE!
The House that "Kultz Built" with a lot of help from her friends in the Westchester Surrogate's Court. The fox is in charge of the Surrogate Court picking the bones of the dead and the live flesh of the heirs. What else has Kultz and her friends stolen? She should be in JAIL for a long time.

Anonymous said...

Does anyone know that the Bank of New York entered into a "Non-Prosecution Agreement" with the US Attorney's. This involved criminal acts. Google this for the press release dated 11/8/05. I missed this fact in their promotional materials. So what's a house to them, if someone has to be greased?

Anonymous said...

So where is the pistol packing Surrogate Judge Tony Scarpino in this?

Anonymous said...

Disbar her and all her friends!

Anonymous said...

Carl & Jody are not friendly in the neighborhood, they don't want to talk, they seem nervous and the kids are inside more. Maybe it's all true?

Anonymous said...

Enough already, why don't they just sell the house, get the money along with whatever else is under the mattress that they stole and move to Florida. Let them do another swindle down there. What do you expect, that's what lawyers do!

Anonymous said...

Is she still working there?

Anonymous said...

What's the deal with the Bank of New York? They engaged in felonious acts and should not be in the Surrogate's Court. Where is Judge Anthony J. Scarpino on this?
/s/an appalled attorney

Anonymous said...

This is material for a Federal Grand Jury along with the other stories on this blog.

Anonymous said...

In "IT'S A STEAL" think someone meant "KLUTZ" not KULTZ.

Anonymous said...

Tried to call Jody Keltz at the Surrogate's Court, was told she was not there?

Anonymous said...

do the right thing Jody

Anonymous said...

can you still make a deal? time maybe running out babe?

Anonymous said...

As a former court officer I have seen things happen that you would never believe. People get screwed all the time by the lawyers and Judges, they don't care its all about money.

Anonymous said...

Have read the prior stories and left comments. I want to know where the accountability is? Someone has to know what is going on. Or is everyone getting paid off!

Anonymous said...

Again, Keltz is a skel and belongs in jail.

Anonymous said...

Yasgur - Amilicke? of Hall Dickler now out of business were Al Emanulli's favorites along with his former partner D. Geiss. A lot of people suing Hall Dickler including an attorney who worked for them. Yasgur has retreated to his roots in Sullivan Co.

Anonymous said...

What is the Court's Inspector General doing about this!?!?!?!?

Member of Real World said...

The I.G. is doing nothing, and will never do anything. Cheryl Spudtz is prevented from doing his job by the powers that be. But one thing's for sure, I.G. Spudtz will keep collecting a paycheck.
Hey, where do I get a job for getting paid for doing nothing?

Anonymous said...

Anonymous Said, huh? someone want to step up and assign a name to ridiculous accusations like the one's i see here? I get it, you've been screwed by the United States Judicial system, get a life.

Anonymous said...

I love the pelusos!

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