By LIBBY CUDMORE • Special to www.AllOTSEGO.com
COOPERSTOWN – Attorney General Eric Schneiderman brought charges today against an Albany area town justice and Cooperstown developer Thomas Lagan for allegedly siphoning $4 million from the family trusts of a Capital Region philanthropist.
“As we allege, the defendants orchestrated a complex scheme to steal millions from trusts they were responsible for protecting,” said Schneiderman. “We have zero tolerance for those who try to game the system and violate the public trust in order to line their own pockets.”
According to the complaint, Lagan, along with Town of Guilderland Judge Richard Sherwood, provided estate planning and related legal and financial services to Capital Region philanthropists Warren and Pauline Bruggeman and Pauline Bruggeman’s sister, Anne Urban, since at least 2006. The Bruggemans each created a revocable trust, which contained sub-trusts designed to provide for Anne Urban and Pauline’s other sister, Julia Rentz. Other funds were to be awarded to Anne Urban and Julia Rentz outright upon the deaths of the Bruggemans.
In 2011, the Anne S. Urban Irrevocable Trust (AUIT) was created using some of the funds from the Bruggeman trusts; Sherwood was named Trustee and Lagan was named Successor Trustee.
According to the complaint, a sub-trust with approximately $2 million was to be returned to the Pauline Bruggemen Revocable Trust for distribution to six named charities upon Anne’s death; the complaint alleges that, rather than returning those funds after Urban died in 2013, the funds were disposed of through the AUIT primarily for the benefit of Sherwood and Lagan.
Additionally, Schneiderman alleges that Sherwood and Lagan conspired to deceive an Ohio attorney into sending over $2 million of Julia Rentz’s money to the AUIT, under the premise that it would be sent to charity, but, according to Schneiderman, Sherwood and Lagan allegedly formed the Empire Capital Trust to benefit themselves and funded it with over $1 million of the money. In January 2015, they allegedly transferred $3,598,908 from AUIT to a Trustco Bank account in Sherwood’s name and $2,693,865.92 from the AUIT to a Trustco Bank account in Lagan’s name.
The complaint alleges that Sherwood and Lagan stole a total of $4 million from the trusts.
The complaint charges Lagan with two counts of Grand Larceny in the First Degree (a Class B felony); one count of Scheme to Defraud in the First Degree (a Class E felony); and two counts of Criminal Possession of Stolen Property in the First Degree (a Class B felony).
Lagan, a Cooperstown resident and investor in downtown properties, was one of three businessmen who proposed a downtown hotel in 2015-16 in the former TJ’s Place in Main Street.
The defendants were arraigned today before the Albany City Judge Gary Stiglmeier.