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New York Daily News :Lask Uncovers Estate Theft

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December 16, 2003




When Richard Howe's father died in Queens two years ago, Howe was living in Florida, so he asked a New York cousin to help him take care of the estate.

Instead of helping, Marquila Ferguson helped herself, prosecutors charged yesterday in a 26-count indictment alleging grand larceny, conspiracy and perjury.

Ferguson, 33, of Manhattan, falsely claimed to be the rightful heir and then sold the bulk of the modest estate and kept the profits for herself, Queens prosecutors said.

Howe and Ferguson have waged a contentious Surrogate's Court battle over the estimated $280,000 estate since September.

Her "crimes of greed" included the documents she filed in her court battle to obtain the proceeds of her uncle's home, District Attorney Richard Brown said.

"If she had done it nice and legally she could have gotten her share," said Richard Howe's lawyer, Susan Chana Lask. "But she was desperate and sold it and took off thinking she could get away with it."

Ralph Howe, a retired airline food services company employee who lived in South Ozone Park, was 55 and had no will when he died on Dec. 7, 2001, according to court documents.

Richard Howe and Ferguson had been close as children and so he asked her to help, Lask said.

Instead, Ferguson claimed in court papers that she was the only relative entitled to manage the estate.

Ferguson, whose attorney did not return calls yesterday, faces 15 years in prison. She pleaded not guilty yesterday and was released on her own recognizance.

Queens Surrogate's Court Judge Robert Nahman is scheduled to decide the outcome of the case in early January.