Brooke Astor's Only Son Faces Criminal Charges

Anthony D. Marshall, Brooke Astor’s only son, has been indicted on criminal charges that relate to his handling of his late mother’s finances and will, which was curiously amended in 2002. One of the late Manhattan doyenne’s former lawyers, Francis X. Morrissey Jr., has also been fingered in the case. According to the Times, the exact details of the case are not yet fully known, but a Manhattan grand jury has been listening to witness testimonies for a little over two months.

But the Manhattan District Attorney’s office just sent out a press release (scroll down to read) with a few more details in it. Allegedly, Mr. Marshall "took advantage of Mrs. Astor’s diminished mental capacity in a scheme to defraud her out of millions of dollars." Additionally, the D.A.’s release argues that Ms. Astor’s only son convinced his mother to sell real estate by telling her that she was going broke.

Mr. Marshall reportedly left calls from reporters unanswered. Mr. Morrissey, on the other hand, "will plead not guilty at his arraignment" later this week, according to his lawyer.

As painstakingly detailed in a Vanity Fair article from last December, Mr. Marshall, 83, and his wife, Charlene, have been at fierce odds with several of his late mother’s closest friends—namely, Annette de la Renta and David Rockefeller, who spoke just before Mr. Marshall at Ms. Astor’s funeral in August. She was 105 when she died.

Ms. Astor’s estate, not surprisingly, amounts to no small potatoes. It’s valued at about $132 million, and that doesn’t even include an additional $60 million trust.

One of the central issues of the case brought against the two men reportedly involves the consummate socialite’s beloved painting, Flags, Fifth Avenue, by Childe Hassam, which was sold for $10 million, leaving part of Ms. Astor’s living room wall heartbreakingly bare. For his work on the sale, Mr. Marshall pocketed some $2 million.

Here’s the release from the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office:



NEWS RELEASE Contact: Barbara Thompson
November 27, 2007 212-335-9400

Manhattan District Attorney Robert M. Morgenthau announced today that Brooke Astor’s son ANTHONY MARSHALL and an attorney, FRANCIS MORRISSEY, have been indicted for swindling Mrs. Astor out of millions of dollars and valuable property, inducing her to sign a codicil to her 2002 will, and for having her execute a third codicil, which was later discovered to be a forgery so that they could enrich themselves at the expense of Mrs. Astor’s intended beneficiaries.

Specifically, the indictment charges that MARSHALL and MORRISSEY took advantage of Mrs. Astor’s diminished mental capacity in a scheme to defraud her and others out of millions of dollars. MARSHALL abused his power of attorney and convinced Mrs. Astor to sell property by falsely telling her that she was running out of money. He is charged with stealing money from her, as well as stealing valuable artwork from her Park Avenue apartment. He and MORRISSEY are both charged with taking advantage of Mrs. Astor’s diminished mental capacity by conspiring to induce her to execute a second and third codicil to her will. MORRISSEY is charged with forging or participating in the forging of Mrs. Astor’s signature on the third codicil to her will.

ANTHONY MARSHALL will be arraigned today; FRANCIS MORRISSEY will be arraigned later this week.

The investigation leading to today’s indictment began after one of MARSHALL’s sons moved for the appointment of a guardian for his grandmother. A court-appointed attorney for Mrs. Astor in that proceeding observed that Mrs. Astor’s purported signature on the third codicil appeared suspicious and, after conferring with a handwriting expert, referred the case to the District Attorney’s Office.

The investigation by the District Attorney’s office revealed that MARSHALL had been his mother’s salaried financial advisor for many years. As far back as 2001, Mrs. Astor’s physicians informed MARSHALL that his mother was suffering from Alzheimer’s disease and that her ability to understand complex issues was limited and made it clear that his mother’s mental condition would be degenerative. In early 2002, Mrs. Astor executed a new will and in December of 2003, a first codicil, both of which were prepared by her long-time attorney.

The investigation further revealed that in January 2004, the defendants conspired to fire Mrs. Astor’s long-time attorney and have her sign a second codicil to her 2002 will. This codicil left MARSHALL her residuary estate outright, thereby changing her long-standing estate plan that this money would ultimately go to charity. Shortly after the second codicil was executed, both defendants conspired to have Mrs. Astor sign a third codicil which directed that her real property be sold, resulting in higher executor fees for each defendant. These codicils were drafted by another attorney hired by MARSHALL and MORRISSEY, who has not been charged with a crime. MORRISSEY has been charged with participating in the forgery of Mrs. Astor’s signature to the third codicil.

In addition to conspiracy and false filing charges related to a cross-petition filed by MARSHALL in the guardianship hearing as well as offering the second codicil to Mrs. Astor’s 2002 will into probate after her death, MARSHALL has been charged with grand larceny and falsifying business records. The indictment charges that MARSHALL falsely informed his mother that she was running out of money in order to induce her to sell one of her favorite paintings ("Up the Avenue from Thirty-Fourth Street, May 1917" by Childe Hassam). Rather than sell the painting at auction, in March 2002 the defendant sold it through a private gallery for $10 million and took a $2 million commission on the sale. The defendant is charged with Grand Larceny in the First Degree for stealing that $2 million commission.

MARSHALL is also charged with stealing in excess of $600,000 from his mother by using her money to pay expenses associated with Cove End, an estate originally owned by his mother in Mount Desert, Maine. The investigation revealed that although MARSHALL convinced his mother to give him Cove End in May 2003, within six months he quietly transferred the property to his wife, Charlene. After the property was transferred to Charlene Marshall in November 2003, and after it became clear that Mrs. Astor’s health prevented her from returning to the property, MARSHALL used his mother’s money, without her knowledge, to pay for expenses at the estate. From December 2003 to July 2006 MARSHALL stole $600,000 from his mother’s accounts to pay for the upkeep of the Maine estate.

In addition, MARSHALL, after consulting with MORRISSEY, used his mother’s money to pay himself an unauthorized retroactive salary increase in 2005 (from $450,000 to approximately $1.4 million); used his mother’s money to pay the salary of a social secretary who worked primarily for a theater production company, Delphi Productions, which was operated out of Mrs. Astor’s Park Avenue apartment without her knowledge; stole $52,000 from his mother to pay the wages for a captain for a yacht he purchased.
and sto
le two works of art (one by Giovanni Domenico Tiepolo and one by John Frederick Lewis) from his mother, each valued at approximately a half a million dollars.

Assistant District Attorneys Elizabeth Loewy, Attorney-in-Charge of the District Attorney’s Elder Abuse Program, and Peirce Moser of the Special Prosecutions Bureau presented the case to the grand jury under the supervision of Executive Assistant District Attorney Leroy Frazer. They were assisted by Detective Donald Kennedy of the District Attorney’s NYPD Office Squad, paralegals Andrea Leung and Michele Pace, and Frank Puma, Bureau Chief, Michael Vecchio, Deputy Bureau Chief, Peter Chicola, Senior Financial Investigator, Mikhail Muladzhanov, Special Assistant, and Irina Nayshlos, Senior Fiscal Clerk, of the Financial Crimes Bureau.

Mr. Morgenthau thanked New York State Attorney General Andrew Cuomo and Deputy Counselor and Special Assistant to the Attorney General Benjamin Lawsky, as well as Assistant Attorneys General Robert Pickett, Chief of the Attorney General’s Charity Frauds Bureau and Carl DiStefano who is assigned to that Bureau for their assistance in this case.

Grand Larceny in the First Degree is a class B felony which is punishable by up to 25 years in prison. Grand Larceny in the Second Degree and Criminal Possession of Stolen Property in the Second Degree are class C felonies which are punishable by up to 15 years in prison. Forgery in the Second Degree and Criminal Possession of a Forged Instrument in the Second Degree are class D felonies which are punishable by up to seven years in prison. Scheme to Defraud in the First Degree, Falsifying Business Records in the First Degree, Offering a False Instrument for Filing in the First Degree and Conspiracy in the Fourth Degree are class E felonies which are punishable by up to four years in prison. Conspiracy in the Fifth Degree is a class A misdemeanor which is punishable by up to one year in jail.

Defendant Information:

Anthony D Marshall, 5/30/1924
151 E. 79th Street, Apt 2A
New York, NY

Francis X. Morrissey Jr., 10/14/1942
425 E. 51st Street, Apt. 2B (home)
375 Park Avenue, Suite 2102 (business)
New York, NY


Brooke Astor's Only Son Faces Criminal Charges