Family of copper heiress asks court to protect her

Posted by MSNBC on 2010-09-03 20:07:00 | Views: 140 |

Family of copper heiress asks court to protect her

NEW YORK — Three relatives of reclusive heiress Huguette Clark went to court Friday, asking that a guardian be appointed to protect her from potential financial abuse by her attorney and accountant. The family also asks the court to bar the two men from visiting their 104-year-old client.

Msnbc.com reported last week that the Manhattan district attorney is investigating the finances of Clark, the only surviving daughter of a copper miner and U.S. senator. The DA's Elder Abuse Unit has detectives looking at transactions in her bank accounts, as well as the sale of her Stradivarius violin for $6 million and a Renoir painting for $23.5 million.

"Our wish is to protect our aunt against exploitation and we are cooperating with authorities to do all that we can to ensure her health, safety and well-being," said a statement from the three half-nieces and half-nephews. "We respect her desire for privacy and request that others do the same for her and our entire family."

You can read the court petition here.

Huguette ("hue-GET") Marcelle Clark is the last surviving child of Sen. William Andrews Clark of Montana (1839-1925), who in his time was described by The New York Times as either the first or second richest American. A stop on his railroad in Nevada became Las Vegas, where Clark County is named for him. Huguette has lived as a recluse for several decades, and has been in New York hospitals for about 22 years, leaving unoccupied her three homes in California, Connecticut and New York City.

Her wealth, estimated at half a billion dollars, is managed by her attorney, Wallace "Wally" Bock, 78, of Queens, N.Y., and her certified public accountant, a convicted felon named Irving H. Kamsler, 63, of the Bronx, N.Y. Kamsler pleaded guilty in 2008 to attempting to distribute indecent material to 13- and 15-year-old girls online, and remains a registered sex offender in New York. The men have not been accused of a crime in the handling of the Clark finances.

Full coverage: 'The Clarks, an American story of wealth, mystery and scandal'

The petition was filed by three half-nieces and nephews, descendants of Huguette's father from his first marriage. The three are Ian C. Devine and Carla Hall Friedman, both of New York City,  and Karine Albert McCall, of Washington, D.C. They say they represent three branches of Clark descendants.

"They bring this petition in order to protect Ms. Clark's person and property, and to prevent the risk of further improper influence by Ms. Clark's advisors," says the petition, filed Friday in the Supreme Court of New York County, the trial-level court in Manhattan.

Msnbc.com reported on Aug. 20 that Clark's attorney and accountant became the owners of the New York City apartment of another elderly client, a lawyer at Bock's firm, after the man's last will and testament was revised six times. They also received $100,000 each from the estate of the elderly man, Bock's former associate, Donald Wallace, and the accountant received Wallace's Mercedes sedan.

Statement by the family
The three relatives issued this statement through their attorneys, Thomas D. Goldberg and Amy K. Wilfert:

"The Clark family is extremely concerned by recent reports that raise troubling questions about Huguette Clark's advisors. The advisors in question are neither members of the Clark family nor were they retained at the behest of the family.

"Based on the press reports and other information available to the family, it appears that the advisors are improperly controlling Ms. Clark's affairs and limiting access to Ms. Clark. The allegations raised in the press include payments to benefit one of the advisors, Wallace Bock, mismanagement of Ms. Clark's financial affairs resulting in imposition of liens against her property, and improper efforts to pressure Ms. Clark to sign legal documents. The family is further concerned that Irving Kamsler, with the blessing of Bock, has continued as a fiduciary to Ms. Clark notwithstanding his felony conviction on a charge of attempting to disseminate indecent materials to a minor, and purported to obtain Ms. Clark's consent to the continued representation based on false and incomplete disclosure.

"Therefore, this morning, three cousins, each representing a different branch of the descendants of William Andrews Clark, filed a petition for the appointment of an independent guardian to manage Ms. Clark's affairs. The petitioners asked that, if the Court finds that relief is appropriate, it appoint as guardian a well-regarded and independent institution that has significant experience managing complex financial matters for wealthy individuals.

"Ian Devine, 57, of New York City, is a consultant to financial services firms and board president of an organization that provides supportive housing to homeless families and veterans in New York City.

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