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A $30 million will contest that reads like a Russian novel acquired a subplot last week when a claimant to the fortune sued to oust the administrator, defrocked New Jersey Superior Court Judge John Richardson. Richardson surrendered his Somerset County, N.J., judgeship three years ago in a plea bargain to the federal offense of not reporting $150,000 in cash he held for a real estate client before his judicial appointment. He paid a $2,500 fine, accepted a year’s probation and a reprimand from the state Supreme Court and returned to private practice in Somerville, a block from the courthouse. It was a convenient location. In November 2004, Superior Court Judge Frank Gasiorowski appointed Richardson, his former colleague, as temporary administrator of the estate of Mykola Bojczuk, a millionaire Ukrainian immigrant whose son and two stepchildren are vying for his inheritance. None of the lawyers in the case made a peep about Richardson’s record last year or two months ago when Gasiorowski dropped the “temporary” from his title and made him administrator cum testamento annexo with power to run the estate’s substantial businesses. When he died last year at age 91, Bojczuk owned the Days Inn Hotel in Bridgewater, 17 acres of developable land near Route 22 in Springfield, a stonecutting business and more than $5 million in cash, stocks and bonds. Now the decedent’s son, Stefan Bojczuk, is alleging that Richardson’s ethics history makes him unfit to serve. The son wants Richardson to obtain a $30 million bond, and he is accusing the former judge of mismanagement, including the payment of unwarranted fees to lawyers. Richardson’s advocates counter that the allegations are untrue and say the suit is a mischief-making miscalculation that will delay a settlement. “I don’t think John is screwing up in any way,” says Richardson’s lawyer, Miles Winder III of Bernardsville, who responded to the allegations point by point in an interview last week. The dispute is another twist in a story that has, surprisingly, attracted no public attention despite the huge sums involved and a diverse cast of characters. There’s also a long list of lawyers, from solos in Somerville to former state Attorney General Robert Del Tufo of Skadden Arps Slate Meagher & Flom in New York. “This case is a lawyer’s dream; there’s enough money to pay all of them,” says John T. Lynch, a Martinsville solo and scrivener of the 1982 will disputed in the case, In The Matter of the Estate of Mykola Bojczuk, 04-01261. ESCAPE AND REUNION Until World War II, Bojczuk lived in a portion of Western Ukraine where nationalism remained fervid during a millennium of subjugation by whatever Central European power had the upper hand at the time. Bohdan Shandor, a Hazlet solo who was seven when he met Bojczuk and did legal work for him, says Bojczuk was a successful farmer and businessman who fell afoul of Soviet authorities and went into hiding in 1941. His wife, Anna, and 6-year-old son, Stefan, disappeared. When the Germans invaded later that year, Bojczuk stayed behind and continued making money. When the tide of war changed in 1944 he fled westward — one step behind the retreating Germans and ahead of the Red Army. By war’s end in 1945, he was in the sector liberated by American troops, and he stayed in Germany running businesses, including a luggage factory whose profits enabled him to bring a substantial nest egg to the United States in 1949. Bojczuk flourished in America, and his fortune increased with his 1952 marriage to Mae Maudslay of Springfield, who had inherited money from her husband, who had died in a truck accident and owned a stone yard. Bojczuk never adopted her school-age children, Dorothy and Marshall, but he did treat them as if they were his own. Shandor says Bojczuk wasn’t sure whether his wife was alive when he obtained an ex parte Mexican divorce from her before marrying Maudslay. Not until December 1955 did Bojczuk discover that Anna and Stefan had survived; they had been deported to Kazakhstan in 1941. Over the years, he sent them money and presents, and Stefan grew up to be the head electrician at a large Soviet cotton mill, Shandor says. One day in 1994, after the Soviet Union broke up, Stefan arrived unannounced in Bridgewater and met his father for the first time in 53 years. He had come on a tourist visa, but later he entered a lottery for new immigrants and won the right to settle in America. DNA TESTING DODGED How happy was Bojczuk to be reunited with his son? Depends on whose side you are on. There is evidence in the case that Bojczuk had little regard for his new-found son and favored his stepchildren. There is evidence of great love for the son, too. In his 1982 will, Bojczuk had left everything to his wife except for specific five-figure bequests to Stefan, the two stepchildren and the Ukrainian-American Freedom Foundation. But he made no provision for what might happen to the residuary if Mae predeceased him. Lynch says he warned Bojczuk that if he didn’t say where his money should go, the law of intestacy would give it to Stefan, then in the Soviet Union, his only blood relative. Lynch says Bojczuk replied at the idea of Stefan inheriting, “no, no, no, he’s a communist.” Even so, Bojczuk, a strong-minded person who did what he wanted despite others’ good advice, kept the will the way it was, Lynch says. Big mistake from an estate-planning standpoint. His wife Mae died in 2001. “Maybe what he wanted all along was for Stefan to inherit everything,” Lynch says. The fight over his intent broke out even before he died. In 2002, when Parkinson’s disease, dementia and hypertension conspired to rob Bojczuk of his senses, Stefan asked a judge to appoint him guardian as the only blood relative and as chief beneficiary under the 1982 will. The stepsiblings challenged and requested that they be named guardians and heirs. “Marshall is my son, and Dorothy is my daughter,” Dorothy Maudslay quoted the old man as saying. He was actually afraid of Stefan, who was now living with him at the Days Inn, Dorothy said. Indeed, the Maudslays asked, in effect, how could anybody be sure that Stefan — arriving out of the blue from Kazakhstan — was really Bojczuk’s son? A DNA test would clear up the matter, they said. But Stefan refused to take one, for reasons that appear murky. Stefan’s lawyer at the time, David Berman, who has a firm in Morristown, argued that it was unheard of to require a DNA test for someone who was able to produce — as Stefan had — his parents’ marriage license and his own birth certificate. And it was an invasion of privacy, Berman argued. When Stefan finally caved in, he passed two DNA tests so conclusively there was 99.9 percent certainty he was Bojczuk’s son. With Del Tufo now in the case for Stefan, Superior Court Judge Victor Ashrafi rejected the Maudslays guardianship claim and appointed Stefan co-guardian with Joan Geiger, a Bridgewater solo. It also looked like a will contest was on the brink of being averted. Del Tufo and the Maudslays’ lawyer, Alexander McGimpsey Jr., now of Lyndhurst’s Scarinci & Hollenbeck, shook hands on a settlement that would have provided the Maudslays with the stone business and other financial considerations. Not only did the Maudslays reject the deal, they hired new lawyers: James Shrager and M. Karen Thompson of Somerville’s Norris, McLaughlin & Marcus. Thompson suggests that the Maudslays’ claim is based more on just vague promises by Bojczuk to “take care” of his stepchildren if anything happened to her. She says Bojczuk made the vow to secure Mae Maudslay’s agreement to turn over half ownership of the stone yard and associated real estate to him when they were married. That, in turn, helped Bojczuk build the fortune he eventually obtained, Thompson suggests. “She supported his business endeavors while he got on his feet,” Thompson says. “He was able to develop his empire because of her fiscal assistance.” THE UKRAINIAN FACTOR With Bojczuk’s death in October 2004, the inheritance dispute was ready to be renewed. But when Stefan presented the 1982 will for probate, he made a startling discovery. Someone else had beaten him to the Somerset County Surrogate’s Office: The Ukrainian American Freedom Foundation. The day after Bojczuk died, that New York association submitted a 2002 will signed by Bojczuk, and the surrogate’s office, apparently unaware that a battle over the 1982 will was raging across the street in the courthouse, had accepted it. The 2002 will left $500,000 to Marshall Maudslay, $500,000 to Stefan’s daughter Maria, back in Ukraine, and all the rest to guess who? The Ukrainian American Freedom Foundation. Now, Stefan and the Maudslays — like the Russians and Americans in 1941 — had a common enemy. According to the story as it developed over the next year in hard-fought litigation, Bojczuk had been a hearty supporter of the association, which lobbied for Ukrainian nationhood during the Cold War and afterward continued supporting Ukrainian causes and cultural activities. After Bojczuk’s health declined, Lynch wrote to the foundation to stop importuning Bojczuk for money without speaking to his financial advisers. That did not stop three members of the group from visiting Bojczuk on March 27, 2002, in the dining room at the Integrated Health Services nursing home in Rutherford, where he had been sent after a debilitating stroke. They left the home that afternoon with his signature on a will that had been prepared by a lawyer for the foundation. Nurses testified later there was no way the demented Bojczuk could have known what he was signing. Del Tufo called in handwriting expert Gus Lesnevich to opine there was no certainty the signature on the will was Bojczuk’s. One of the foundation representatives certified that Bojczuk knew what he was doing when he signed the will and that it reflected his wish as a staunch Ukrainian nationalist to disinherit Stefan because Stefan had been a Soviet official during the Cold War. Judge Gasiorowski didn’t buy it. He threw out the 2002 will this past August. What’s more, the foundation agreed to pay the estate $40,000 to settle a tortious interference claim Stefan lodged. Now the fight over the 1982 will is back, and Stefan has a new lawyer, David Mazie of Roseland’s Nagel, Rice & Mazie. Before Richardson’s appointment, Stefan had been running the estate, particularly the Days Inn, which had fallen into such disrepair during his father’s neglectful stewardship that more than half the 170 rooms were unbookable, the banquet hall and pool were out of commission and the roof leaked. According to Mazie’s suit, Stefan had been doing a good job before Richardson came in. Stefan was fixing up the hotel to get it ready for profitable operation or sale and had been looking into the sale of the Springfield property. Stefan can’t speak English, but has assistance from people who do, including Shandor. The suit says Stefan made a good decision to switch the liquid assets of the estate to PNC Bank accounts that increased the return on investments from paltry checking-account style interest to 10.33 percent per annum. When Richardson came in, he switched to UBS Bank for no defensible reason, according to the complaint. It says Richardson appeared at an Oct. 3 status conference and without warning falsely accused Stefan of misusing hotel funds and misappropriating hotel equipment for his own use. Before the conference was over, Judge Gasiorowski had made Richardson adminstrator CTA with total control over the assets. The suit also complains that all parties agreed to put up the properties for sale with a $27.5 million reserve. But Richardson, without notice, announced in early November that he intended to accept a $22.5 million offer without bid. This is remarkably below market value, considering a contingent offer of $36.6 million from K. Hovnanian, the complaint says. Richardson should be required to get a bond to cover any mistakes he makes, and his ethics history — which makes him unfit to manage other people’s money — will also cost the estate more than another administrator would have to pay for such a bond, Mazie contends. Winder says the ex-judge’s decisions have been good. He switched from PNC to UBS because its policy on commissions for stock sales saves the estate money, Winder says. It’s too early to tell how the switch will affect the percentage return for the estate, he says. Winder, who has served as a special master in ethics cases for the state Office of Attorney Ethics, dismisses the notion that Richardson’s guilty plea and ethics reprimand disqualify him. “John’s plea was basically a plea to a paperwork requirement, nothing more,” Winder says. “It was clear both before the Disciplinary Review Board, the ethics committee, before anybody, that he hadn’t done it for monetary gain.” “This matter would resolve itself much quicker if Mazie settles with the Maudslays and gets the Maudslays out of here,” Winder says. “Then John is out of here.”

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