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Post date: December 13 2001

Settlement Reached In Hudson "wills" Case

Attorney General Spitzer today announced a settlement with a Columbia County legal secretary accused of taking advantage of her employers' clients.

Sandra J. Florio, 47, used her position as legal secretary to a prominent Hudson attorney to ingratiate herself with wealthy clients and received substantial financial benefits in several wills.

"This case demonstrates the need for close scrutiny of all decisions regarding wills and charitable trusts," Spitzer said.

For six years, Mrs. Florio served as secretary to Robert Meyers, a prominent attorney in Hudson. She obtained a power of attorney from some of Meyers' clients, and assisted and advised clients in the preparation of their wills, charitable trusts and other legal documents. Florio also was named in a number of documents as executrix, beneficiary and trustee.

Among the legal documents she helped to prepare was the will of Arthur Hegarty which created the Hegarty Charitable Trust, a philanthropic fund valued in excess of $850,000.

A review of Hegarty's estate by the Attorney General's Charities Bureau uncovered a series of inappropriate relationships and benefits involving Mrs. Florio. It was revealed that Mrs. Florio and her husband, Carl Florio, had been named co-trustees of the Hegarty Trust. Although Mr. Florio is not accused of wrongdoing, the actions of his wife in naming him and herself as compensated trustees was a conflict of interest because of her role in preparing Hegarty's will which created the charitable trust.

It was also discovered that an automobile, which was intended to be sold to benefit the trust, was instead transferred to Mrs. Florio's sister.

Upon further investigation, the Attorney General's office found that Mrs. Florio improperly received a $5,000 bequest from another estate in which she was named a beneficiary.

As part of the settlement with the Attorney General's office, the Florios have waived their collective estate commissions totaling $74,084, and have agreed to terminate their control of the Hegarty Trust.

Mrs. Florio also has returned the car to the estate and, has agreed to return the $5,000 bequest from the second estate.

It was also agreed that Mrs. Florio will decline any future appointments to serve as a trustee, guardian, executrix, or any other fiduciary role for non-family members.

The case was handled by Assistant Attorney General Timothy B. Lennon of the Attorney General Charities Bureau.