A lawyer from Howard Beach found himself in handcuffs this week after being indicted for allegedly stealing nearly $600,000 from the estate of a late civil court judge, prosecutors announced on Wednesday.
Frank Racano, 54, is accused of stealing approximately $587,160.46 left behind by Civil Court Judge John L. Phillips Jr., a Brooklyn resident who died on Feb. 16, 2008, without any heirs for his estate.
According to Kings County District Attorney Ken Thompson, a court-appointed administrator, hired Racano in 2010 to sell Phillips’ real estate holdings, including the historic Slave Theater and an adjacent lot in Bedford-Stuyvesant. Two years later, the property went into contract for $2.2 million, and the prospective buyer issued a check for a 10 percent down payment ($220,000) made payable to “Frank Racano, as attorney.” The check was subsequently deposited into Racano’s attorney trust checking account.
The sale closed in February 2013, and the net proceeds of the sale, $517,339,65, were deposited into Racano’s trust account, bringing the total amount to $737,339,65.
Prosecutors said that Racano allegedly wrote and cashed more than 300 checks to himself from that trust account between February 2013 and May 2015 without proper authorization. The checks ranged in amounts from as little as $45 to as much as $7,500.
Along with legal, authorized payments for tax assistance and other services totaling more than $150,000, Thompson said, Racano’s alleged theft completely depleted the trust account.
“We will now hold him accountable for these shameful criminal acts,” Thompson said in a statement.
Racano was indicted on one count of second-degree grand larceny. At arraignment, he was ordered held on $250,000 bail and to return to court on August 10.