By Charisma L. Miller, Esq.
Brooklyn Daily Eagle
The New York City Department of Investigation recently announced the conviction of two employees of the Kings County Public Administrator’s (KCPA) office for embezzling $2.6 million from Brooklyn estates. Between 2008 and 2011, Richard Paul and Taryn Miller engaged in a forged check scheme whereby they stole $2,617,000 from seven decedents’ estates in Brooklyn.
Given the majority of its powers through Article 11 of the New York State Surrogate’s Court Procedures Act, the KCPA is responsible for administering the estates of individuals in Brooklyn who die intestate, or without a will. The KCPA also handles estates when there is no individual qualified or willing to administer the estate.
As administrator of an estate, the KCPA is generally responsible for locating the deceased’s assets and distributing them to the appropriate heirs and distributees, as well as liquidating any remaining assets to pay the deceased’s outstanding debts and taxes. In sum, the KCPA’s goal is to protect the deceased’s property from waste and to ensure that inheritances and debts and satisfied.
The KCPA’s Bruce Stein reported to DOI when he found one forged check from the funds of a decedent’s estate that the KCPA’s office was managing. The check was paid to an individual who was not entitled to the monies.
The DOI along with the Comptroller’s Office initiated an investigation to determine the extent of the scheme. It was soon discovered that Paul, 36, a KCPA bookkeeper, and his associate Miller, 35 — both of Brooklyn — diverted funds to be submitted to the Department of Finance to be held for decedents’ unidentified heirs by substituting phony checks payable to individuals who were not entitled to the funds.
“DOI uncovered a cold and calculated plot to steal millions from the dead,” DOI Commissioner Rose Gill Hearn said in a released statement. “The corrupt bookkeeper and his accomplice at the center of it now face their day of reckoning.”
In June, New York City Comptroller John Liu issued a report citing the KCPA’s failed job performance, finding that the KCPA mishandled many of the estates under its supervision and pointing specifically to the $2.6 million in stolen funds. The comptroller’s audit further noted that the KCPA “did not properly document expenses paid from decedents’ estates … approved excessive [legal] counsel fees,” and did not maintain “reliable and efficient” systems for estate tracking and accounting.
Stein refused to comment on the indictment of Paul and Miller except to say that the discovery of the theft was due to his discovery of a suspicious check and that it was his office that reported the issue to DOI.
Manhattan Supreme Court Justice Cassandra M. Mullen presided over Paul and Miller’s trial. Sentencing is scheduled for Dec. 5, 2013.