For nearly three years, Valsamma Mathai toiled in the gilded halls of the Llenroc mansion.
Barely speaking a word of English, the Indian woman in the country illegally worked 17-hour days without a vacation or sick time for wages that amounted to only a few thousand dollars a year. The conditions she work under at the palatial five-story were enough to land her boss — 40-year-old Annie George — a federal conviction for harboring an illegal immigrant.
Now prosecutors are moving to seize the landmark 34-room mansion in Rexford, even though George’s defense attorney insists she owns only a minority share of the property. On Friday, Assistant U.S. District Attorney Richard Belliss filed a request that a federal court judge issue a preliminary order of forfeiture of the entire 12.5 acre property, claiming the mansion helped facilitate the crime for which George was convicted earlier this month.
The mansion is technically owned by Power Angels, a limited liability corporation consisting of George, her five young children and Siju Augustine, the brother of her deceased husband. George owns only 10 percent of the corporation, with the others holding equal shares of 15 percent.
George’s husband, local hotelier Mathai Kolath George, had a contract to purchase the property for $1.87 million from Joseph Costello, the former owner. But before the July 2008 contract could be executed, George, his 11-year-old son George M. Kolath, and a local physician were all killed when their single-engine plane crashed into the Mohawk River after takeoff from an airstrip in Glenville.
The corporation was founded in August 2009, just two months after the plane crash. And in October, Annie George canceled the contract acting as the executor of her husband’s estate and then purchased the property with Power Angels.
Belliss is arguing the government has the right to take the entire property because the family and Mathai moved into the mansion more than a year before the new contract of sale was executed.
“The LLC was created in August 2009, and thus, the vesting of the government’s interest in the property predates the vesting of the LLC’s interest,” Belliss wrote in court documents filed in Albany.
George faces up to five years in federal prison when sentenced July 9. During her trial, she argued that she was kept in the dark about her husband’s financial dealings, and that Mathai was treated like a family friend.
Mark Sacco, George’s defense attorney, intends to file a response challenging the government’s position by Friday. Reached by phone late Monday, he said George intends to fight any attempt to seize the home, of which she is only a partial owner.
“We’re going to vigorously fight the forfeiture of her home,” he said. “The home is owned by the LLC and she’s a minor shareholder.”
Llenrocwas built in 1990 by insurance magnate Albert Lawrence. He never made public what they paid to build the mansion, but the cost was rumored to be roughly $32.5 million.