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NY NewsDay: Lask Assists Estate Fraud Arrest for DA

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Theft Charges in Sale of House

By Herbert Lowe
December 16, 2003

A Manhattan woman surrendered yesterday on charges of trying to steal the inheritance of a cousin in Florida by selling a dead uncle's Queens house, prosecutors said.

Marquila Ferguson, 33, of 223 W. 145th St., pleaded not guilty to a 26-count indictment in state Supreme Court in Kew Gardens. Justice James Griffin let her go without posting bail and set her next court date for Jan. 28.

"The defendant has been charged with crimes of greed that include stealing, lying and filing false documents," Queens District Attorney Richard Brown said in a statement.

Prosecutors said Ferguson sold Ralph Howe's house at '-12 123rd Ave. in South Ozone Park without approval from Queens Surrogate Court and after falsely claiming in documents that only she and another family member were heirs of the uncle's estate. The April 26, 2002, sale was for $200,000, they said.

Howe, a retired airline food-service employee, died at age 57 on Dec. 7, 2001, without leaving a will. One of his three sons, Richard Howe, of North Lauderdale, Fla., asked Ferguson to handle selling the estate on his behalf. The other sons don't have a claim because one is in jail and the other was born out of wedlock, attorneys said.

Ferguson was charged with grand larceny, perjury, offering a false instrument for filing, falsifying business records, making an apparently sworn false statement and conspiracy, prosecutors said.

If convicted, she faces up to 15 years in prison.

Richard Howe's attorney, Susan Chana Lask, said Ferguson's next date in Surrogate Court in Jan. 6.

"We're very happy and pleased and it's time that justice is done and Marquila needs to basically face the music," Lask said of the indictment. "She basically stole a $200,000 house."

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