November 27, 2007 / 6:14 PM / 12 years ago

Son of NY socialite charged with robbing estate

NEW YORK (Reuters) - The son of the late socialite Brooke Astor pleaded innocent on Tuesday to charges that he swindled money from his mother’s $198 million estate, built from marrying into one of America’s great family fortunes.

A Manhattan grand jury indicted Anthony Marshall, 83, on 16 counts, including grand larceny, criminal possession of stolen property and falsifying business reports. It also charged Marshall’s former lawyer, Francis Morrissey, with six counts, including forgery. Morrissey is expected to appear in court later in the week, prosecutors said.

The indictment alleges Astor’s signature was forged on a modified will that transferred money from some of her favorite charities into Marshall’s control.

Astor, who died of pneumonia in August at age 105, was the heir to a tremendous family fortune and a philanthropist who was a fixture on the city’s social scene for decades.

“Tony Marshall faithfully and effectively managed his mother’s affairs for more than 25 years, increasing the value of her investments from $19 million to $82 million,” Marshall’s lawyer, Kenneth E. Warner, said in a written statement.

“Brooke Astor loved Tony, her only child, and whatever he received was in accordance with her wishes.”

Appearing tired and walking with a cane, Marshall posted $100,000 in bail and surrendered his passport before leaving New York State Supreme Court with his wife, Charlene.

Marshall, a Broadway producer, is also fighting a civil lawsuit brought by his son, Philip, claiming he neglected his mother in her final years and looted her estate.

Astor’s last years were marked by controversy when a court ordered her care be taken away from Marshall after he was accused by his son of keeping her in squalid conditions. Marshall denied the accusations.

Guardianship of Astor was given to her friend Annette de la Renta, wife of fashion designer Oscar de la Renta.

Astor had married Vincent Astor, heir to the real estate fortune of John Jacob Astor. She inherited about $60 million, which grew to hundreds of millions, allowing her to donate some $195 million to libraries, museums and charitable groups.

Editing by Philip Barbara

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