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Friday, August 21, 2009

Another Judge Steals From the Elderly

Former Town Justice Charged With Stealing $1M From Elderly Woman
By The Associated Press - August 21, 2009

RIVERHEAD, NY - Authorities say a former Long Island town justice and her husband took advantage of a woman's ailing memory to steal more than $1 million from her. Suffolk County District Attorney Thomas Spota says Katherine and Wayne Pope allegedly stole the money between 2005 and April 2009. Katherine Pope was the Shelter Island Town Justice from 1998 to 2002. The couple pleaded not guilty to grand larceny charges at their arraignment Thursday in Suffolk County Court. Their lawyers were out of the office Friday and not immediately available for comment. The DA says the couple purchased a house in Vermont after liquidating the victim's stocks. He says Wayne Pope occasionally worked for the victim as a handyman. The Watermill, N.Y., woman died in July. She was 89.

Larceny charges for ex-Shelter I. justice, husband

Newsday by MITCHELL FREEDMAN - August 20, 2009 -

A former Shelter Island town justice and her husband have been charged with stealing more than $1 million from an elderly Water Mill woman. Katherine Z. Pope, 56, and her husband, Wayne, 57, were arraigned yesterday morning on charges that they sold 12,000 shares of Exxon stock between February 2005 and April that belonged to Mary Abbott Estabrook. Katherine Pope was also charged with identity theft for allegedly pretending to be Estabrook and making the telephone calls that authorized the stock sales. Estabrook, 89, died in July after a lengthy illness. Wayne Pope had been working as a handyman and caretaker on her estate. Katherine Pope drove down for her arraignment yesterday from a home in Vermont she is alleged to have bought with the stolen funds, the district attorney's office said. She and her husband have separate attorneys. Suffolk County Court Justice Barbara Kahn set bail for her at $100,000 cash or $250,000 bond. Bail for Wayne Pope was $100,000 cash or $300,000 bond. Each faces 25 years in jail on the grand larceny charge, Assistant District Attorney Donna Planty said. Both entered not-guilty pleas and will return to court Sept. 1. After their arraignments, each was taken away in handcuffs. They later posted bail. Katherine Pope was elected town justice on Shelter Island in 1998 and served until 2002. "It's shocking. But we have to reserve judgment until we know all the facts," Shelter Island Town Supervisor James Dougherty said yesterday. Estabrook first met Wayne Pope when she hired him to be a handyman and caretaker for her estate on Cobb Road, the Suffolk district attorney's office said. Planty said $750,000 from the stock sale ended up in Katherine Pope's escrow account. She said Wayne Pope admitted to some charges in a taped conversation with police. The Popes used the money from the stock sales to buy a new car and the house in Tunbridge, Vt., and pay taxes on their Shelter Island home, the district attorney's office said. Defense attorneys Barry Feldman and James O'Rourke argued the case was a civil matter. They said Estabrook had asked Pope to sell the stock for her, and that they put her name on the deed to their own house to show their good faith. The house was valued at $1.5 million, although it has a mortgage. "If anything, this belongs in surrogate's court," O'Rourke said outside the courtroom. "Unfortunately, for whatever reason, the district attorney chose to deal with it as a criminal matter." Katherine Pope, an attorney who lists Tunbridge as her address, can practice in New York and Vermont. She has worked for the Vermont Legal Aid Society.


Anonymous said...

I would reserve judgment on that one because it is Suffolk DA Spota that had them arrested.

Tom Spota can indict a bolony sandwich.

Hair leg said...

On the Island these folks were never trusted. If you look you'll find more of this thing, there's a network.

Anonymous said...

The very fact that one of the defense attorneys said "...this belongs in surrogate's court." speaks volumes. These rats want to get this before the Surrogate since they know that it can't be criminal in that court. The Surrogate Court is a place to bury this situation and the attorneys can do big billing and charge it to the Estate of this poor woman.

Anonymous said...

Name Recognition
By Heidi Bruggink
Posted 01-30-08

Appellate court leader Gail Prudenti benefited early on from family political connections, but today her record speaks for itself.

For a public official whose surname is entwined with political brawling, Second Department Presiding Judge A. Gail Prudenti counts a surprising number of admirers — on both sides of the aisle.

The secret, according to the recipient of these platitudes, is simple: “I try to treat everyone as I’d like to be treated.”

Prudenti served as the first person simultaneously to hold the positions of Surrogate Judge and Administrative Judge in Suffolk County. That was in the late 1990’s before her ascent to the Appellate Division, a post she has found “a very humbling experience.”

But striving to be known for her accomplishments alone was an issue for Prudenti in her early career. The judge has been dubbed part of a political aristocracy,” according to a 1991 Newsday article. Her husband, Robert Cimino, served as Suffolk County Attorney for many years, and her father, Anthony Prudenti, was a Suffolk Republican leader during the late 1970s.

Prudenti’s landslide election to the Supreme Court in 1992 was backed by Suffolk GOP leaders, including party chief John Powell, who told Newsday that the then-probate attorney was “very qualified and well respected in legal circles . . . and she is my son's godmother."

Anonymous said...


In a January interview in her chambers reflecting back on that watershed, Prudenti conceded that her family connections gave her a leg up — but only that.

“Do I think that my father and friends and my husband have helped open doors for me?” she asked rhetorically. “Yes. But I think at this point it’s been a long time now, and I’m judged by my record and how I conduct myself.”

The thought is echoed by none other than Rich Schaffer, Chairman of the Suffolk County Democratic Committee. “She has the name ‘Prudenti,’ which helped,” he said. “But once she got in, a lot of it had to do with how she handled herself.”

Prudenti recalls her father warning against a premature campaign for Supreme Court because he thought she needed more experience. A year after his 1990 death, however, she finally ran for the post and won in a landslide election in Suffolk — despite initially having had doubts about the race.

“In1991, I didn’t want to be a Supreme Court Judge,” she said. “All I wanted was to be a Surrogate, but people said if you really want [that position] you have to run for elected office.”

However, political consultant Jerry Skurnik offered a larger context for that analysis.

“In most cases people think Surrogate is a more prestigious position,” he said. “The Surrogate is his or her own boss. They hire their own staff and are in charge of a court, as opposed to a Supreme Court Justice.”

But, he added, “In Suffolk they actually have contested elections for Supreme Court, unlike in New York, so one theory is you run for Supreme Court, get your name out there, show you can raise money and run a decent campaign, then run for Surrogate.”

Anonymous said...


Prudenti’s two years on the Supreme Court were generally unremarkable; her most newsworthy case involved denying a motion to shut down a “family farm stand” operating across the street from a vacation home in East Hampton.

Elected Surrogate Judge in 1994, Prudenti initially managed to avoid the scandals plaguing many other Suffolk Republicans. Newsday wrote at the time that she “is popular among leaders, lawyers, and party rank and file. She's considered a high-powered campaigner.”

But the judge’s fundraising soon came under fire, when Democratic attorney Jack Braslow assailed a letter she sent “for identifying people on her campaign committee as lawyers, contrary to bar association rules . . . and [for] including among her list of backers a member of the Suffolk County Bar Association's screening committee, which rates candidates as qualified or not.”

John Gross, then-bar association president, also told Newsday that the listing of people on Prudenti's committee "as attorneys . . . is inappropriate."

At the time, Prudenti's campaign coordinator, Vincent Berger, told the paper that though the name of a bar association screening committee member did appear on the letter, the person in question “was not a member of the campaign committee.”

In that race, Prudenti’s campaign also took Surrogate Judge opponent James F. X. Doyle, now an Acting Supreme Court Justice in Suffolk, to court to remove his name from the Right to Life Party ballot, raising objections to a duplicate signature on his petitions. But she withdrew the action, after it was discovered that the repeat signature stemmed from “a legally blind nun who asked someone to sign for her because she didn't have her magnifying glass handy — then later signed herself.”

Yet Doyle downplayed the run-in, and he is another Prudenti booster.

“Part of the sequence of primaries, at least in Suffolk, involves litigation over whether the technicalities were met,” said Doyle. “That’s not unusual at all, that’s par for the course. It really was no big deal.”

And Prudenti herself? “I think Gail is terrific,” he added. “I like her, I liked her then, I like her now. She manages to have an equanimity of temperament and treats people well, I give her an ‘A.’ ”

This from a candidate against whom Prudenti took 64 percent of the vote.

Anonymous said...


Only two months after taking the position, however, Prudenti had to recuse herself from the multi-million dollar estate probate of deceased real estate investor Aaron Rimland — because Powell had signed a lease for one of his properties For Prudenti’s campaign headquarters. The case expanded that summer when Rimland’s sister, Marilyn Waxman, filed a RICO lawsuit alleging that Rimland had given Prudenti and Powell free or reduced rent to buy influence.

Asked about the Rimland case, Prudenti looked blank.

“I don’t remember dealing with those people!” the judge said. “As with all campaigns, you protect yourself — I personally had no knowledge of anything.”

According to the state’s ethical guidelines, Prudenti’s lack of knowledge is actually required: “Judges are not supposed to know who’s financing their campaign,” said Skurnik, the consultant. “They appoint a treasurer, who keeps track of campaign finance rules.”

“There is a theory that if someone in her camp did something wrong, she’s ultimately responsible, but not necessarily,” he added.

Prudenti immediately recused herself from the case, which was transferred to Magistrate Arlene Lindsay before being moved to the Bronx.

Prudenti came under fire later that year for hiring Suffolk County Executive Robert Gaffney's wife as her law secretary to replace Teresa Powell, the mother of the Suffolk GOP leader. She had previously held the position and was moving to a more lucrative job as principal court analyst.

"If it were a television show it would be 'All in the Family' meets 'Let's Make a Deal,' " East Hampton Supervisor Tony Bullock told Newsday. The issue splayed over the papers the following year, when Prudenti promoted Powell’s mother to deputy public administrator, and county officials filed objected, citing nepotism laws.

The judge told The New York Times, "I chose Teresa because I truly believe she is the best person for the job," and the appointment was ultimately approved by the County Legislature.

Anonymous said...

THE POOR KID - all she ever wanted to be was a surrogate judge. Maybe her dad gave her a gavel instead of a rattle when she was a baby.

Wow, what an interesting job trying to decide who gets what of other people's money.

It sounds as exciting as watching the grass grow.

I am sure her dreams have been realized - almost. She needs to stop off at the Court of Appeals before retiring.

Anonymous said...


Prudenti made headlines for something other than her connections in November 1995, when she ruled that “some civil laws override doctor-patient confidentiality,” according to Newsday. At issue was her order for a doctor to testify in a lawsuit brought by a deceased patient’s sons; Prudenti wrote that the new laws were “based upon the notion that the decedent would expect the seal of confidentiality to be lifted in the interests of resolving disputes over his will.”

Subsequently, Chief Administrative Judge Jonathan Lippman appointed Prudenti the county’s Administrative Judge in 1999, making her the first woman to hold the post, as well as the first Surrogate in county history to fill the dual role.

Prudenti confirmed her initial hesitation at accepting the administrative post. “I’d always wanted to be Surrogate,” she said. “Then I realized that my talent lies in administration.”

Newsday reported that many lawyers praised Prudenti for having “the personality to cajole often intractable judges.”

Which means what? Lippman, now an appellate judge, recalled that Prudenti, after creating a matrimonial division in Islip, “got senior judges, new judges, to be assigned there, and to Matrimonial – which is not the most popular assignment. They went, liked it, and felt they were doing something important. . . . They ended up thinking it was a prime assignment.”

That praise is a common accolade echoed by many who have worked with the judge. Supreme Court Justice Gary Weber, who served as Acting Surrogate with Prudenti, taking some of her caseload to allow her to fill both roles, said, “She’s got a way with people that I’ve never seen. She can defuse the worst situation and get people going to put forth their best efforts.”

“She’s truly terrific – the best I’ve ever seen,” he added. “Her big thing was continual communication with judges, geared toward finding the best way to resolve things in best way and keep cases moving.”

Of her time as Administrative Judge, Prudenti said she was most proud of eliminating the court’s backlog, her comprehensive civil case program, expanding the county’s dedicated matrimonial parts and guardianships, preparing for a dedicated commercial part, and implementing mental health, domestic violence, and drug treatment courts. She won praise for “making the courts more accessible to the public,” according to Newsday, and she cited that as one of her priorities in all her judicial posts.

Lippman confirmed Prudenti’s accomplishments, saying, “There was a huge backlog when she came in, and — by getting people to sit in conference parts, getting law clerks involved with motions, getting judges based in Riverhead to tackle it — she ended up getting rid of it so fast that by the end people were complaining because you walked in the door and you got a trial.”

“Prudenti was one of the most outstanding jurists and humanitarians who’s ever been on the bench,” said Lynne Adair Kramer, Supervisor of the Court Observation Program at Touro Law School. “I don’t think you’ll find anyone here in this county who doesn’t like Gail Prudenti. I can’t say a bad word about her, and I don’t know anyone who will.”

Schaffer, the Democratic chair, gives the judge credit for “reaching out to the minority parties,” adding, “she’s very good at herding cats, being the administrative judge, keeping everybody happy, and she seems to do a pretty good job at that due, I think, to her personality.”

Anonymous said...


Only midway through her term as Surrogate Judge, Prudenti mounted a 2000 run for the State Supreme Court to devote herself solely to the administrative position.

As a full-time Supreme Court Justice, as Newsday noted, “she could also be in contention for a gubernatorial appointment to the Appellate Division” following the much-anticipated retirement of two Brooklyn judges.

When she received a call from the governor’s office regarding the Appellate Division appointment, Prudenti said, “Did I think I’d get it? Probably not. Did I want to be considered? Absolutely.”

Prudenti did, in fact, receive the appointment, and only months after ascending to the appellate bench, the Governor named her the first female Presiding Judge of the Appellate Division's Second Department.

As Presiding Judge, Prudenti formed an advisory panel to examine a proposed departmental ban on allowing 18-b attorneys representing the indigent from representing their assigned clients for a fee. She also held hearings on Staten Island for the first time ever, citing the court's "continuing outreach efforts in bringing the court to the people whenever we can."

“I’m a firm believer that the courts need to be restructured,” she said, stressing the need for a fifth appellate division — a change she stressed “is going to take legislation — we have to give everyone on both sides a comfort level.”

“It would have to be part of an entire restructuring package to do with selection of judges. . . .and the discussion of appointed versus elected judges,” she said. “But right now [the Second Division] is almost like running on a treadmill just to keep cases moving in a timely fashion.”

Prudenti was nominated by the Commission on Judicial Nomination for the State Court of Appeals in 2006 but failed to receive the post. The justice – who called herself the ‘poster child’ for judicial selection, having been through a variety of processes — feels strongly that the commission system is a model for judicial selection.

“The Commission system is so varied,” she said. “It takes away some of the appearance, as in the appointed system, that the system is not impartial.”

Prudenti expressed happiness in her current position, but said, “I have seven years left on my term. At that point I’ll be 62 — and looking for new challenges.”

Anonymous said...

Suffolk Dem Leader dick shaeffer said Prudenti is top notch.

That endorsement is almost as good as one from John Gotti, Al Capone, or Vito Genovese.

This is a joke. I wonder how much the DEMS got in return for that one.

Greenporter said...

Always wondered about Gail Prudenti when she was the Surrogate. There had been some stories and some people told us she was a back stabber. I know money was a big thing in her life. What I read here makes you think where there's smoke there is fire.

Snowbird 1 said...

Spend my summers on SI and winters in FL. There are about 2,000 elderly people here on SI. When I read this it really bothered me. Stealing from the old folks. Time to ge t a shotgun certainly don't want some old man, maybe a young guy would be ok - still need a shotgun.

Anonymous said...

On the subject of stealing from the elderly, does anyone have any idea how Scarpino got elected when he never had a registered campaign in the state for Surrogate Judge?

Ck the NYS BOE website, there is nothing for Surrogate, only supreme.

James said...

You may be able to stay clean and sober for periods of time, but without a medical detox program and drug addiction treatment, you cannot hope to stay away from drugs and alcohol forever.

Anonymous said...

I know for a fact that this judge and her husband would NEVER steal from anyone. This is a disgrace!!
These poor people are being made an example of but they are innocent. They were very close to the elderly woman and she regarded them as family. So far what we have seen is that you are in fact not innocent until proven guilty. I pray for them and their family. They will get through this. Dont believe everything you see on tv or read in the paper for that matter as there were several mistakes printed in newsday that were direct lies coming from the D.A. Some people are just on a power trip and have their facts wrong. Anyone who has actually met and known this family being wrongfully accused would know that they would literally never hurt a fly.

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