Friday, November 16, 2007

A Bronxville Lament: with friends like these. . .

At least a dozen Bronxville residents, including current Mayor Mary Marvin and her husband, Brad, and former mayor Sheila Stein and her husband, Fritz, were, according to a Westchester grand jury indictment unsealed on Oct. 24, victimized by Alicia Eimicke in what has been described by the Westchester District Attorney's office as a $9.2 million investment fraud scheme aimed at keeping her family's failing business afloat. Eimicke succeeded her father, Victor, as president of V. W. Eimicke Associates, after his death in 2000.

The felonies set forth in the indictment include 25 counts of Grand Larceny in the Second Degree, which are class “C” Felonies; seven counts of Grand Larceny in the Third Degree, class “D” Felonies; one count of Scheme to Defraud, a class “E” Felony; and two counts of violating the Martin Act, class “E” Felonies. The Martin Act sets forth the statutory framework governing the offer and sale of securities in New York State.

Alicia Eimicke, age 46, a cum laude graduate of Harvard, who grew up in the Sarah Lawrence neighborhood bordering Bronxville but now lives at 255 West 94th St. in Manhattan, faces a maximum of five to 15 years in state prison on each of the 25 top felony counts. The 35-count indictment charges that, from March 15, 1999 to June 1, 2004, when the Eimicke business form and greeting card supply company filed for bankruptcy, the defendant “directly, or indirectly through people who had already invested, convinced at least 32 investors. . .to purchase new bonds based upon the false understanding that business operations could sustain that high rate of return.”

According to county D.A. Janet DiFiore also a Bronxville resident, by the time Alicia Eimicke took over the management of V.W. Eimicke Associates in September,
2000, it had been insolvent for six years but had been kept going by her father's offers of a 15 percent rate of return on bonds sold to family and friends. Alicia Eimicke, according to the D.A.'s statement, “continued and increased the bond program.” The defendant is further charged with “consistently” refusing “to disclose the company’s true financial condition, maintaining that” the lenders' “investments were secure,” even though “the high returns that were paid required an ever-increasing flow of money from new investors in order to keep the scheme going.”

Eimicke's bail was set at $150,000 cash/$300,000 bond at her October arraignment, and, although she was led out of court in handcuffs, she was released later that afternoon after posting $150,000 in cash. If convicted on all counts and sentenced to consecutively-served minimum terms, she could spend the rest of her life in jail. Her attorney, Ronald P. Fischetti, entered a plea of not guilty. (Fischetti represented New York City Police Officer Bernard Schwarz, who was charged with assault in the 1997 torture and sodomy of Abner Louima. After three trials Schwarz was convicted on only one count of perjury, for which he was sentenced to five years imprisonment and three years of supervision.)

Alicia's sister, Laura Klimley, and their 81-year-old mother, Maxine, who were officers of the family company, filed for personal bankruptcy in 2004. In February, Bankruptcy Court Judge Adlai S. Hardin approved a $600,000 settlement in Klimely's case but, according to creditors, they saw none of it; it all went for attorneys' fees. However, the Klimleys recently sold their 19th century stone mansion at 5 Oakledge Drive in Bronxville for a reported $10.5 million, which could be vulnerable to individual creditors' civil lawsuits.

Maxine's bankruptcy case has been complicated by the fact that the Bankruptcy Court Trustee assigned to it, Barbara Balaber-Strauss, died in October. In February, however, Balaber-Strauss accused the family matriarch of falsely stating that furs, jewelry and antiques that she had previously valued at $4.3 million actually sold for only $443,000 (amounts that jibe insofar as they both contain 4's and 3's). The trustee rejected Eimicke's claim that the items' resale value turned out to be only five to 35 percent of their replacement value. Balaber-Strauss also named the Klimleys as defendants. According to Bankruptcy Court records, the case remains open. Maxine Eimicke's attorney, Nathan Horowitz, through his secretary, agreed that “as far as he knows, it's still open.”

Neither Laura Klimley nor her mother would comment when reached by telephone at their respective Bronxville homes. Klimley was a director of the family company, and her mother was its vice-president and secretary-treasurer. The company was founded by Victor Eimicke in 1951 and did business in Europe and Canada. Its 2004 bankruptcy filing listed investor debt of $27 million.

Ironically, it was the apparent uprightness of the famously churchgoing Eimickes that allowed the Peyton-Place-like scandal (albeit one involving money rather than sex) to accelerate beneath a veneer of small-town propriety. Victor, after all, was a respected elder and Sunday school superintendent at Bronxville's Reformed Church; a member-at-large of the General Synod of the Reformed Church in America; a treasurer, president and board chairman of the National Bible Association; a vice-president of the board of the Japan International Christian University Foundation; a member of the board of Lawrence Hospital; a director and then president of The Community Fund of Bronxville Eastchester Tuckahoe; and chairman of the board of Hope College in Holland, Michigan, where he and his wife established the Maxine and Victor Eimicke Scholarship Fund. Incongruously, he also served on the corporate board of Nathan's Famous and was a member of the National Council of the Metropolitan Opera.

Indeed, Fritz Stein recalls that his and Sheila's long friendship with the Eimickes developed through the Reformed Church, deepened through mutual entertaining in Bronxville and also included nights at the opera.

“On numerous occasions we had dinner with them at their house and in New York City,” Stein said in a phone interview. “Our kids were in Sunday school and he was a teacher at the Sunday school. We met their friends, and we felt comfortable with them.” In fact, Stein added, “we felt lucky when he [Victor] asked us to invest.” Which they did—-to the tune of six-figures.

“The interest rate was very good, but we never gave it a thought,” said Stein. Nor did they ever “get anything on paper” about the security of the bonds Eimicke was selling. But, because they first invested in the company 20 years ago, before it became seriously troubled, the Steins collected the 15 percent interest for enough years to avoid losing a lot of money. But they ended up not making any either. Then, Stein said, “when Victor was sick and Alicia took over” and the company was “close to going belly-up, she did ask us if we would put in $100,000.” However, he said, “we didn't have “$50,000 or $100.000 lying around.”

Though he now feels lucky to have come out no worse than even, Stein said he became concerned about more recent investors who were about to lose substantial sums, losses that did, in fact, mean financial ruin for some of them. According to Stein, Betty Duval, who is now elderly and suffering from Parkinson's disease, was at the wrong end of the pyramid and badly hurt. Even worse, according to Stein, her octogenarian brother, who lives in Florida, lost his retirement money, had to sell two houses and was reduced to playing piano in two bars to keep a roof over his head. Despite his age, however, he went back to school, passed the necessary exams and, instead of enjoying retirement, he is selling stocks for a living.

Stein's own sister, who lives in San Antonio, invested $50,000 with the Eimickes and, said Stein, “lost it all.” And Dr. Thomas Romo, a well-known plastic surgeon and Bronxville resident and his wife, Diane, lost a six-figure amount to the Eimickes and are pursuing a private lawsuit. Theirs is a particularly bitter pill because they were neighbors and friends of the Klimleys. (Romo is president of the The Little Baby Face Foundation, for which he heads a team of volunteer surgeons who provide corrective surgery, regardless of a family's ability to pay, for children born with missing or malformed ears, cleft palates and facial deformities.)

Stein remembers how “strange” it seemed to him that “when all this was turning sour, the Eimickes, Maxine and her daughter Laura, would go to our church and would just walk around the church as if nothing had happened. . ..” He testified before the grand jury and said he will “be happy to testify” at Eimicke's trial, if he's asked, “because I feel like it was a terrible thing they did.”

Other Bronxville residents, in addition to the Marvins, who are listed by the district attorney's office as having lost “in excess of $50,000” in investments with the Eimickes are Henry Blom, William and Julia Hertlein, Terence Cryan and Frank and Donna Madonna. And, in addition to their prior Eimicke investments, the Steins are listed as having lost “excess of $3,000” between April 16, 2002 and June 1, 2004.”

Alicia Eimicke's next court appearance will be on Dec. 12. At her arraignment it was noted that the defendant now works at a job in New Jersey which pays her $120,000annually. In 1984 Eimicke married Ferruccio Renzo Barbieri of Madesimo, Italy. She is the mother of two sons.


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