The New York Daily News by WILLIAM SHERMAN - July 30, 2008
A lawyer close to the Brooklyn Democratic machine is suspected of stealing $218,000 from an East Flatbush church in a mortgage foreclosure deal, the Daily News has learned. The Brooklyn district attorney's office is probing allegations that Alan Rocoff, the court-appointed referee for the foreclosure, refused to turn over the money to the Faithway Deliverance Center. "My father founded the church with his own money and couldn't make the mortgage payments. When the property was foreclosed and sold, we were supposed to get what was left over," said Robert Booker Jr., son of the founding pastor of the Pentecostal church at 2525 Snyder Ave. Pastor Robert Booker Sr., who founded the church in 1978, died in May after struggling in the courts for more than five years to collect the debt.
Five different judges have heard the case and ordered Rocoff to pay up, but he hasn't; nor has he been charged. Foreclosure referees, often appointed through connections with judges, are typically paid $1,000 for what amounts to two hours' work. It involves collecting and then depositing the cash proceeds of a sale with a court clerk for eventual disbursement. Rocoff was appointed referee by his friend Brooklyn Civil Court Judge Michael Garson, who later admitted stealing $163,000 from an aunt's bank account. Garson was tossed off the bench. He quit the bar, reimbursed his aunt's estate and pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor to avoid jail.
The church property was sold on Nov.26, 2002, in foreclosure for $301,000. There was $218,556 left after the mortgage and other debts were paid. "A check in that amount was deposited in Greenpoint Savings Bank account in Cherry Hill, N.J., but Rocoff said he didn't know where the money was, and told other stories about what happened to to it," said Rubin Ferziger, who replaced Rocoff as referee on the case. At one point, Rocoff claimed the Mafia stole his bank accounts and files. Two years ago, he voluntarily suspended himself from the bar, saying he is medically unable to practice law. Neither Rocoff, his lawyer, nor a spokesman for the Brooklyn district attorney's office would comment. Described by a former associate as a "shadowy figure out of the Truman Democratic Club," Rocoff was a confidant of jailed former Brooklyn Democratic Party boss Clarence Norman. firstname.lastname@example.org (With Scott Shifrel)