U.S. may become next owner of troubled Llenroc mansion
REXFORD Federal charges of harboring an illegal immigrant against the current occupant of the Llenroc mansion in Rexford could result in a new owner for the mansion — the U.S. government.
In an indictment filed last week in U.S. District Court in Albany, a formal forfeiture allegation contends any stake defendant Annie George has in the mansion at 708 Riverview Road is subject to seizure by the government if she is convicted.
The indictment accuses George, also known as Annie Kolath, of concealing, harboring and shielding from detection an illegal alien “for the purpose of private financial gain.”
George has denied the accusations through an attorney.
She is facing the charges after she allegedly held a woman from India at the Rexford property and forced her to perform servant work for little pay.
Because the illegal immigrant was held at Llenroc, the mansion is a target for seizure by the federal government if George is convicted.
If she is not the sole owner, the government would go after her interest in the property.
The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Richard Belliss, who explained Monday that federal law allows for the forfeiture of any property, whether it’s a vehicle or a home, if that property is used in the harboring of an illegal immigrant.
Exactly what stake, if any, George has in the mansion was unclear on Monday. The mansion is officially owned by a limited liability corporation calling itself Power Angels. The address for the LLC, according to the Department of State, is that of the mansion.
George, though, has lived there since 2008, Belliss noted, and that indicates to prosecutors she has some ownership stake in the mansion.
The LLC’s listed organizer is Hudson attorney Paul Freeman. A message left at Freeman’s office was not returned Monday.
If George is convicted and the U.S. Government seizes her share of the property, whatever that share is, the feds might have to get in line.
Saratoga County is expected to start foreclosure proceedings on the property in September, if back property taxes aren’t paid by then.
Power Angels now owes more than $250,000 in back property taxes to the county, town and local school district dating from 2010, according to Saratoga County officials.
Belliss indicated liens are factors when the government considers whether to seize a property. Any innocent party with an interest in the property would be heard in court, if the case got to the point of forfeiture proceedings, Belliss said.
As for the George family’s connection to the property by name in public documents, that only comes in the form of a canceled contract to purchase the estate.
George’s late husband Mathai Kolath George, a local hotel owner, had a contract to purchase the property dated July 2008, according to paperwork filed in the Saratoga County clerk’s office.
That contract, however, was canceled in paperwork filed in November 2009. Mathai Kolath George, 42, his 11-year-old son George M. Kolath, and a local physician were all killed in a June 2009 plane crash into the Mohawk River after takeoff from Glenville.
The allegations involving Annie George are just the latest chapter in the sad saga of Llenroc.
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. To construct the building, 1,200 tons of Ithaca’s Llenroc stone were used.
Flooring in the mansion is Scandinavian marble and walnut inlaid hardwood, which was estimated to cost $3.5 million to purchase and install, a figure that is more than the entire property sold for in two subsequent sales combined.
Albert Lawrence ended up going to prison for white-collar crime involving his bankrupt insurance company, the Lawrence Group, and died of cancer in 2002 at age 73.
Joseph Costello, a commodities trader, bought the mansion the next year for $1.4 million. He put it back on the market in 2007, asking $12.9 million. The same day that Mathai Kolath George’s contract was canceled, a new sale was recorded. Costello sold the property to Power Angels LLC.
The selling price, $1.9 million, was far less than what Costello originally asked.
According to the original complaint against Annie George, the Indian servant, identified only as “V.M.,” came to work for the Georges in 2005 after they offered her about $1,000 a month for her services.
Investigators say she slept on the floor of a walk-in closet.
From 2005, until immigration authorities pulled her from the home in May 2011, “V.M.” told agents she was paid only about $29,000 total, including an alleged $4,000 attorneys fee that the Georges said they withheld for an immigration consultation.
V.M. worked for the family at homes in Menands and in Greene County, moving with them to Llenroc in 2008. She also reported working from about 5:45 a.m. to 11 p.m. every day, with no time off. She was also never taken to a doctor.
V.M. was actually entitled to approximately $206,000 over the span of her employment, according to the federal complaint.
In recordings of conversations with V.M.’s son in India, cited in the complaint, George allegedly admitted that she knew V.M. lacked a passport and a visa.
In addition to housing her at Llenroc and rarely allowing her to leave, authorities alleged, George allegedly personally escorted V.M. to the basement of the mansion and told her to stay there when investigators arrived.
After investigators told George they weren’t leaving without the woman, she was eventually released after George consulted with an attorney, according to the complaint.
The original complaint cites a charge related to “encouraging and inducing an illegal alien to come, enter, or reside in the United States.”
The indictment alleges a different section of the illegal alien statute, related to harboring and shielding V.M. from detection.
Belliss said he didn’t prepare the original complaint, but said that the case was always intended to be a harboring case.
Through a previous attorney, George has denied the allegations. A new attorney is listed for her, Mark Sacco. He did not return calls for comment.