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Lawyer accused of loot case involving Brooke Astor's son

An attorney once suspended from practicing law was charged of having helped Brooke Astor's son loot the philanthropist's $198 million (134 million EUR) estate.

Prosecutors announced Tuesday that trusts and estates lawyer Francis X. Morrissey Jr., 65, had been indicted on charges related to suspicious changes in the socialite's will in 2004.

Morrissey was expected to be arraigned later Friday on charges that include forgery, criminal possession of a forged instrument, scheme to defraud and conspiracy.

Marshall, 83, was arraigned Tuesday on grand larceny, scheme to defraud, conspiracy and other charges. He was released on a personal recognizance bond of $100,000 (67,746 EUR) and told to return to court on Jan. 30.

Astor, known for decades as the doyenne of New York society, gave away nearly $200 million (135 million EUR) to charities and institutions before dying in August at age 105. She left a fortune estimated at more than $130 million (88 million EUR) and a trust valued at more than $60 million (40 million EUR).

Among her beneficiaries were what she called New York City's "crown jewels" - the New York Public Library, Carnegie Hall, the Museum of Natural History, Central Park, the Bronx Zoo and the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

In the final year of her life, a nasty family feud over her care was splashed all over the city's tabloids - including allegations that she was forced to sleep in a torn nightgown on a couch that smelled of urine while subsisting on a diet of pureed peas and oatmeal. Those allegations were never substantiated.

The indictment unsealed earlier this week charges that Marshall and Morrissey took advantage of Astor's diminished mental capacity - she had been diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease in 2001 - to defraud her and the charities named in her will out of millions of dollars.

Prosecutors allege that Morrissey and Marshall induced her to execute amendments to her will leaving more money to Marshall and higher fees for Morrissey. Morrissey is accused of forging Astor's signature on one of the amendments.

Morrissey was suspended from practicing law for two years in the mid-1990s for taking $925,000 from a client's escrow account without the client's permission. He was reinstated in 1998.

While he has been accused of using undue influence to get elderly clients to name him as a principal beneficiary of their estates, he had never been criminally charged until this week.

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