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Llenroc owner’s trial to start

Llenroc owner’s trial to start

Trial of the woman accused of harboring an illegal alien at the Llenroc mansion for financial gain i
Llenroc owner’s trial to start
Llenroc seen from the Mohawk River in Rexford.
Photographer: Marc Schultz

Trial of the woman accused of harboring an illegal alien at the Llenroc mansion for financial gain is to begin this morning with jury selection.

Annie George faces the federal count, accused of essentially holding a woman from India and making her work long hours for little to no pay.

The servant typically worked more than 17 hours per day and slept on the floor of a walk-in closet after moving into the mansion in 2008, authorities have alleged.

In court filings last week, prosecutors outlined parts of their case, and named a number of their expected exhibits.

Jury selection is expected to begin today in Albany, with opening statements as early as Tuesday. Testimony is expected to last just three days.

In a letter to Judge Gary L. Sharpe, assistant U.S. Attorney Richard Belliss outlined more recent financial findings, as well as issues with securing a proper interpreter.

Prosecutors allege that the servant, identified only as V.M., was paid between $25,000 and $30,000 total for more than five years of work. She was entitled to more than $200,000 in pay during that time. The woman also claimed she hardly had any time off and never received medical care.

In the filing, Belliss indicated investigators found $10,000 in checks written to V.M. by George’s late husband Mathai Kolath George, who died in a 2009 plane crash.

Investigators also found $5,000 in checks written by George herself, as well as $4,000 sent to V.M.’s son via Western Union money transfer.

As far as the translators, V.M. was set to testify via a Malayalam translator. That translator, however, had to back out due to health concerns. Malayalam is a language spoken in India. If a new Malayalam translator wasn’t found, V.M. was expected to testify in Hindi, through a Hindi translator, Belliss wrote. A filing Friday, though, indicated a new Malayalam translator was located.

Expected exhibits

The prosecution’s filings also include a list of nearly 30 expected exhibits. The expected exhibits include photographs of the Llenroc mansion, as well as previous homes.

There is also a “V.M. immunity letter” dated July 12, 2012. The filing doesn’t detail what the letter is.

George’s attorney, Mark Sacco, has said his client did not know about the servant’s immigration status or how much she was being paid, because George’s late husband handled the finances. Sacco has also said he believed the woman’s accusations could be a pretext for her to stay in the United States. He could not be reached for comment Friday.

Then there are CDs containing recorded conversations between V.M.’s son and George, as well as English transcripts.

An affidavit filed at the time she was originally charged a year ago includes translated dialogue from a recorded phone conversation between the two, in which she allegedly acknowledged the woman lacked a passport and visa. The affidavit also said George urged the son to lie and say his mother was a relative of the Georges.

“If she says anything about working, it would become a big crime,” George allegedly said to V.M.’s son in one of the translated recordings. The conversations were conducted in Malayalam. “They’ll start adding up all the taxes and everything for all this time.”

It was to her children in India that V.M. repeatedly asked George to send her earnings, prosecutors have alleged. George, though, allegedly responded that her sons would just waste the money, so George would hold it for her. Or George would say there was no money to pay V.M.

The “no money” excuse was met in the paperwork last year by a footnote from the prosecutor. In September 2009, the family received payment on a $5 million life insurance policy after the death of George’s husband.

If George is convicted, she not only faces prison time, but also the loss of the Llenroc mansion. The federal government has moved to seize the mansion, or at least her stake in it, if she is convicted.

Llenroc, which is “Cornell” spelled backward, was built in 1990 by the insurance magnate Albert Lawrence, who was a Cornell University alumnus, as was his wife, Barbara. The building is modeled after the school’s campus center.

The 61,403-square-foot house sits on 12.5 acres facing the Mohawk River. It has five bedrooms, 10 bathrooms, 15 fireplaces, four galleries, a five-floor glass elevator and a 15-car heated garage. The building also included the walk-in closet that allegedly served as V.M.’s sleeping area.

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