A Long Island woman pocketed more than $13 million by selling off her daughter’s birthright, including seven Gramercy Park co-ops and a Brooklyn apartment building, the daughter charges in court papers.
The daughter, Elizabeth Marcus, has tried for years to loosen mom Geraldine Lettieri’s grip on a trust fund established for Marcus by her dad, real-estate investor Alan J. Marcus, before his death in 1994.
The battle over his estate has been unfolding in Bronx Surrogate’s Court, where Lettieri first won control of the trust in 2003.
Lettieri, 67, treated the fund like a piggy bank, buying fancy cars and a Hamptons mansion, Elizabeth Marcus, 32, charges.
“Geraldine is irrational, self-involved, and solely motivated by money and greed,” Marcus says in court papers.
The mom dismissed the claims as “absurd,” saying the trust ran a deficit for years and that the real-estate portfolio comprised mostly “money losers.”
Lettieri first met Alan Marcus in the summer of 1983 after the Queens teacher put an ad in New York magazine seeking a mate. Marcus, then 51, said he was “impressed” by the then-34-year-old Lettieri’s “sweetness and kindness, and loving nature,” according to court records.
Lettieri was pregnant by November, and the couple wed that spring.
But the bloom was soon off the rose, the lawsuit alleges, with Lettieri allegedly refusing to sleep with her husband after she had their daughter.
“Geraldine married Alan solely for his wealth,” her daughter told the court.
The pair split by their fifth anniversary. They shared custody of Elizabeth.
Alan Marcus specified in his will that his $30 million estate be split between his two children — Elizabeth and her older half-sister, Pamela.
The Riverdale man established two trusts for Elizabeth Marcus, including one with nine co-ops at 201 E. 15th St. in Manhattan and an 87-unit apartment building in Sheepshead Bay, court papers show.
Alan Marcus directed that Lettieri get “no portion of my estate . . . either directly or indirectly.”
Pamela Marcus was designated executor of the estate, and Citibank was appointed to oversee the then-9-year-old Elizabeth’s trust fund.
Lettieri fought for nine years for control of Elizabeth’s financial affairs.
When she finally got it, Lettieri plundered the real-estate portfolio to establish “several failing investment corporations” and splurge on a BMW 325i, a Mini Cooper convertible and a $5.92 million Amagansett mansion neighboring actress Gwyneth Paltrow’s Hamptons home, Elizabeth Marcus claims.
Lettieri allegedly kept tight control well into Marcus’ adulthood, forcing her daughter to keep a joint bank account with her in which Marcus deposited her pay from a software-administrator job.
The mom also regularly opened Marcus’ mail, and twice tried to impersonate the girl to get access to her credit cards, the daughter charges in court papers.
Lettieri demanded Marcus take out loans and cash advances for the mom’s use and “became outraged” in 2014 when Marcus, then 30, declared she was going to open her own bank account, the daughter claims.
Lettieri bought an East 72nd Street apartment for Marcus to live in after selling some of the Gramercy Park co-ops but put the pad in her own name and used it as leverage to control the young woman, according to court papers.
“Elizabeth lived in constant fear of being homeless,” court papers say.
Marcus says she has never seen a penny from her trust.
“Geraldine has no income of her own . . . except the money that she has absconded from Elizabeth,” court papers say.
In addition to fighting her mom in Bronx courts, Marcus is suing Lettieri’s longtime lawyer, Dennis Houdek, in Manhattan Supreme Court for $15 million, claiming he represented both her and her mom in an “obvious conflict of interests.”
Houdek didn’t return messages.
Lettieri denies her daughter’s accusations.
“The trust has always been operating at a deficit,” she argued in court papers.
The Sheepshead Bay building, which Lettieri sold in 2009 for $13 million, had operated at a “huge” monthly deficit, she claims.
The Manhattan apartments were rent-stabilized and “ran heavy monthly deficits from the first day they went into the trust,” Lettieri charged.
Apartments in the building sell for up to $1 million.
“Far from the sinister spin the petition seeks to put on events, the truth is the trustee held the trust afloat,” the mom argued.