A lawyer who helped facilitate the sale of Bed-Stuy’s Slave Theater and a neighboring lot has been charged with stealing nearly $600,000 from the estate of its former owner, Judge John L. Phillips Jr.
The lawyer, Frank Racano of Queens, was hired by Philips’s nephew by marriage Samuel Boykin in 2010 to help sell off the judge’s real estate holdings. The Times reports that in 2012 and 2013, more than $700,000 was placed by a buyer into Racano’s lawyer trust checking account. In the year to follow, Racano went on to write a series of checks, with figures ranging from $45 to $7,500, from the account.
Racano copped to the theft in April. Acting Brooklyn district attorney Eric Gonzalez said in a statement that Racano “disregarded his duty to his client” and has “now been held accountable for his brazen theft and shameful conduct.” Gonazalez also noted that Racano stole “nearly all of the proceeds” due to the judge’s estate.
Racano’s theft is just another bit of fallout in the Slave’s long march to an end. The civil rights cultural landmark—alas, the Slave was never deemed a New York City landmark—became embroiled in a dramatic ownership dispute with allegations of elder abuse, back taxes, and politically-motivated revenge following Philips’s death in 2008.
The decrepit building sold to an anonymous LLC, identified by Brownstoner as being owned by Yosef Ariel, for $2.1 million in August 2013. At the time, the Daily News reported that the developer had no plans to keep the building a theater. That turned out to be true: The Slave was demolished earlier this year.