Probe Judge Family Plot
By Nancie L. Katz
Daily News Friday, July 11th, 2003
The state's judicial watchdog agency is aggressively probing a Brooklyn judge accused of looting his elderly aunt's fortune, the Daily News has learned.
The Commission on Judicial Conduct could recommend the removal of Judge Michael Garson if it concludes he abused his power of attorney over the assets of Sarah Gershenoff, 91.
For more than 50 years, Gershenoff, a former law secretary, carefully built a nearly $1 million fortune for her retirement. She handed control of her assets to nephews Michael and Gerald Garson in 1997. By by the end of last year, barely $10,000 was left, and Michael Garson has yet to explain where the money went.
Now, Gershenoff's court-appointed guardian, Robert Kruger, is begging both judges for help to pay her bills, sources close to the case said.
Brooklyn District Attorney Charles Hynes, who indicted Gerald Garson for allegedly taking favors to fix divorce cases, is probing criminal allegations that Michael Garson looted his aunt's fortune to cover major stock market losses. He subpoenaed Michael Garson's income tax returns dating to 1997, a source said.
The commission is going after Michael Garson for possible ethical violations and abuse of his fiduciary obligations, according to a witness who has appeared before the commission. "They want him gone," said the witness, who requested anonymity.
Kruger declined to discuss the case but acknowledged that commission investigators interviewed him for more than two hours this week. Kruger has been trying to get Michael Garson to account for more than $600,000 he withdrew between 1997 and 2000.
Gerald Garson, and his wife, Judge Robin Garson - who is Gershenoff's personal guardian - also could face commission charges for allegedly failing to report Michael Garson's activities, a source familiar with the case said.
Another judge probed
Also under scrutiny is Manhattan Justice Judith Gische. She is being investigated for possible ethical violations for failing to report allegations of criminal conduct against Michael and Gerald Garson, who were being sued by another family faction. Relatives accused them of illegally pocketing funds belonging to Gershenoff.
Commission administrator Robert Tembeckjian declined comment. Michael Garson and his attorney did not return calls yesterday. Gerald Garson was unaware of any probe into his conduct, his lawyer said. Robin Garson also "has no knowledge," court spokesman David Bookstaver said.