Sunday, November 1, 2015

So Where's The Rest Of The Money? -- I

My wife and I were watching one of our favorite genres last night, yet another true crime show. In it, a James Bond wannabe defrauded various clients out of millions by convincing them he was a freelance spy and international fixer. When it was all over, he got a slap on the wrist penalty, and one observer said, "You can only eat so many gourmet dinners and drink so many cognacs. Where's the rest of the money?" Good question.

The parish squatters had an income stream of nearly $22,000 a month from rental alone. I'm going to toss any estimate of plate and pledge -- the dissidents were tightwads, and the parish was closed entirely for many months. But I'm going to say the dissident group got 40 monthly payments, totaling nearly $880,000, during the period Citibank was paying rent.

The parish was in the black for the year prior to the seizure, according to its accountant. However, it had many budget items that ceased as soon as the seizure took place. The total monthly payroll just prior to the seizure would have been $14,110, which included salaries for rector and curate, cleaning and groundskeepers, music director, choir, and expenses for the deacon. All these people had been terminated by June, and the parish was closed for months afterward.

At some point, the squatters disposed of the parish van, which eliminated monthly lease and insurance payments totaling $850. Notwithstanding the parish was closed entirely for months, the level of activity afterward was lower, meaning lower utility costs. A series of short-term priests then said mass for about two years -- the squatters being tightwads, I doubt if they got much more than a weekly honorarium. I don't know what they were paying Owen Williams or Frederick Rivers -- we'll find out soon -- but they're tightwads.

So as far as I can see, there's as much as half a million that came in over 40 months that the parish wasn't spending, at least not for churchy stuff.

But when Citibank said they'd terminate the lease, it appears from published accounts that Mrs Bush was very anxious to keep the income stream coming: some prospective tenants were interested, but wanted several months free rent to modify the space for their use. Mrs Bush wouldn't go along; she wanted no interruption in the money and wound up getting the neighbors ticked off by renting to a liquor store, which backed out of the deal when it discovered the property was in litigation. (I suspect some neighbors made strategic phone calls to nudge things along.)

Next: as of today, the web site for Lancaster & Anastasia, LLP continues to be MIA. There could be various reasons for this, but one reason could be that Lancaster & Anastasia decided to cut the unnecessary expense. That could be consistent with Citibank moving out of the parish property and no longer paying rent. That raises for me the question of whether Lancaster & Anastasia, LLP had any clients other than Mrs Bush and the ACA, and with the disappearance of the St Mary of the Angels income stream, whether the firm will continue at all. At least, this is one way to look at it.

My current inference is that something close to half a million bucks went, first, to Lancaster & Anastasia, LLP; second, to some combination of the ACA, Brian Marsh, Stephen Strawn, Anthony Morello, Frederick Rivers, and Owen Rhys Williams; and third, to parties unknown. No squatter who signed any checks to any of these individuals was authorized to do so.

My wife the retired attorney thinks the banks involved have a potential problem. Normally if the authority to open or use an account is in question -- as it certainly has been with St Mary of the Angels, given the years of litigation -- a bank files an interpleader action:

Interpleader is employed when two or more parties seek ownership of money or property that is held by a third party. The property in question is called the stake, and the third party who has custody of it is called the stakeholder. The stakeholder is faced with a legal dilemma: giving the property to either one of the parties will likely lead to a lawsuit by the other party against the stakeholder and the new property owner.

Interpleader enables the stakeholder to turn the controversy over to a court and to be dismissed from the legal action.

My wife feels that Citibank, or any other bank involved, should either have refused to open a new account or filed an interpleader action. She is not aware of evidence that any bank ever did this. As she puts it, "If you pay the wrong person, you have to pay again to the right person and try to get the money back from the wrong person you paid it to."

Mrs Bush's family needs to hire an attorney to represent Mrs Bush. Brian Marsh needs to hire his own attorney. These people have shown imprudence beyond ordinary pigheadednes and have been poorly advised, Marsh in particular by his own chancellors.