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Friday, June 20, 2008

The Heads Start to Role; Public Administrator and Deputy Resign

NY Court Administrator, Deputy Resign
The New York Law Journal by Daniel Wise - June 20, 2008

Both the Brooklyn Public Administrator and his deputy have resigned within the past week. In his letter of resignation, dated June 13, the outgoing administrator, Gerard A. Cabrera, said he was resigning because he had given "a two year commitment to the position" and had fulfilled "the goals I set out to accomplish." Mr. Cabrera was appointed jointly in May 2006 by Brooklyn Surrogate Margarita López Torres and former Brooklyn Surrogate Frank A. Seddio. The surrogates also appoint the counsel to the administrator. Natasha L. Godby, Mr. Cabrera's deputy, submitted a letter of resignation as deputy public administrator on Tuesday without stating a reason. The resignations preceded the Wednesday arrest of an accountant with the Public Administrator's Office on charges of stealing $3,300 from an estate the office was handling. The public administrator's office handles the estates of persons who die without wills.

But neither Mr. Cabrera nor Ms. Godby were implicated in any criminal activity related to the alleged theft, said a law enforcement source. In addition, Mr. Cabrera reported the theft to the city Department of Investigation, which conducted a six-week probe, a spokesman for the department said. Several sources said that the Office of Court Administration had conducted an examination of the office over several months, which is now concluded. The investigation of accountant, Arthur Orikher began on April 30, after the office discovered that $3,300 was missing from a safe deposit box that employees of the office had collected for safekeeping that day, according to a statement issued by the Department of Investigation.

Neither Mr. Cabrera nor Ms. Godby could be located for comment. Prior to his appointment as public administrator, Mr. Cabrera had been assistant director of legal services for the Gay Men's Health Crisis. Ms. Godby had been a lawyer with the Corporation Counsel's tort division from 2003 until the end of 2006. David Bookstaver, a spokesman for the court system, said that Surrogate López Torres and Surrogate Diana A. Johnson, who was elected in November 2007 to the seat that Surrogate Seddio had held, are "seeking replacements" for the two officials who resigned. Mr. Bookstaver declined to comment further with respect to the resignations. Surrogate López Torres had made reform of the public administrator's office and the way its counsel are selected a centerpiece of her campaign for office in 2005. Surrogate López Torres' predecessor, Surrogate Michael H. Feinberg, was removed from the bench for having approved excessive compensation for the lawyer he had appointed as counsel to the public administrator, Louis H. Rosenthal, who was his political and personal friend (NYLJ, June 30, 2005). Both Surrogate López Torres and Surrogate Johnson referred all inquiries to Mr. Bookstaver.

Mr. Seddio, who resigned as surrogate in May 2007, said in an interview yesterday that he and Surrogate López Torres selected Mr. Cabrera based upon the recommendations of a non-partisan screening panel they had established. Mr. Seddio is now a vice president of Power Express, a mortgage bank. The process was designed, Mr. Seddio said, to be "free of any political influence" and to create "a greater level of respect for the [public administrator's] office given the problems of the prior administration." Mr. Seddio added that he "always felt that [Mr. Cabrera] was dedicated to the position, worked long hours and paid serious attention to addressing the issues in the office." Mr. Orikher, the accountant charged with stealing, was released on his own recognizance after being arraigned yesterday.

According to a statement issued by the Department of Investigations, on April 30, 2008, an employee of the public administrator's office handed Mr. Orikher a sealed envelop containing $3,300 that had been collected earlier that day from the safe deposit box of a person who had died. Mr. Orikher, according to the statement, was supposed to secure the money in a safe until it could be deposited into a bank account maintained by the public administrator's office. He was accused in a criminal complaint of depositing $2,100 into his personal account at the Bank of America and used the remaining $1,200 for personal purposes. Separately, Mr. Orikher is accused of depositing two counterfeit checks, totaling nearly $10,000 into his own bank account, according to the statement. Those two counterfeit checks were unrelated to the operation of the public administrator's office. If convicted. Mr. Orikher faces a maximum prison term of 2 1/2-to-7 years in prison.


Anonymous said...

What about the office of the Manhattan Public Administrator? That hell hole needs to be checked out by federal agents. Big IRS tax fraud going on by lawyers, and the inside court people, of course. I know. I saw it.

Anonymous said...

The Office of Court Administration cannot possibly investigate anything criminal..they themselves are guilty of several criminal actions and whitewashings, so they need to be stopped from participating in all these types of accusations and actions, before they themselves begin to cover up and destroy evidence! Who would allow them near anything illegal? Hopefully the heads are rolling right into federal prison!

Anonymous said...

All public administrators are pawns for surrogates to milk dead people. They all should leave.

Anonymous said...

they are a den of thieves - they rob graves

Anonymous said...

The Bronx PA and his office is a total basket case - Just visit: STOPRANIOLO.COM

Anonymous said...

Read the major investigative article on the Bronx Surrogate in the Daily News - Lee Holzman. $20M of estate money was mishandled. (But the crooks over there managed to get a few million for themselves off of the estates before they laid waste to the money). Wow! Unreal!

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