9 Oct 2009

Heir convicted of theft from Astor estate

4:06 pm on 9 October 2009

A court in New York has convicted the son of late American socialite and philanthropist Brooke Astor of looting his mother's estate in her final years.

Anthony Marshall, 85, was found to have given himself an unauthorised pay rise of $US1 million for managing her finances.

Prosecutors had argued that there was no way his mother could have consented to the payment because she had advanced Alzheimer's disease at the time.

Brooke Astor left a fortune put at $US180 million when she died in 2007, the BBC reports.

Marshall, her only son, faces a jail sentence of between one and 25 years. The jury also convicted one of the lawyers for Mrs Astor's estate, Francis X Morrissey Jr, on forgery charges. Both are on bail and will be sentenced in December.

After a five-month trial, the jury at the State Supreme Court in Manhattan found Marshall guilty of first-degree grand larceny, scheming to defraud and 12 other counts. It acquitted him of two other charges.

During the trial, prosecutors portrayed Marshall as greedy and said he had exploited his mother's declining mental state to secure for himself millions of dollars of inheritance that were intended to go to charity.

Marshall's lawyers had said his mother was lucid when she willingly bequeathed him the riches he inherited from her fortune.

But the prosecution argued that Mrs Astor's Alzheimer's had advanced so far when she amended her will and made other financial decisions that benefited her son that there was no way she could have consented.

Brooke Astor was 105 when she died. She played a prominent role in New York's social life, giving millions to institutions including the New York Public Library and the Carnegie Hall.