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The 1 percent of the 1 percent: How Huguette Clark's millions were spent

Associated Press

This is the last known photo of Huguette Clark, taken 80 years ago. She hid away in a New York hospital room for at least the past 22 years, until her death in May. This photo was made on Aug. 11, 1930, the day of her divorce, in Reno, Nev. Her marriage lasted two years. She had no children.

NEW YORK — More than $3 million dollars on dolls. Nearly $2 million to her attorney's favorite charity. Another $380,000 in checks written to the staff on a single day, just as the press started to ask questions. And a magic bottomless checking account with $43 million to spend.

These details emerge from court documents filed in the early stages of a legal battle over the $400 million copper-mining fortune of the late reclusive heiress Huguette Clark. The documents give us new glimpses into the life of one of America's richest families. And they raise new questions about the actions of her attorney and accountant, who remain under criminal investigation even after her death in May at 104.

Attorneys are readying for a battle in the probate court known as Surrogate's Court in Manhattan. The building is less than a mile from Exchange Place near Wall Street, where Clark's father, former U.S. Sen. William Andrews Clark, managed the fortune he made from the mines of Montana and Arizona, and from banks, railroads and other ventures. Clark's relatives, kin from her father's first marriage, are expected in coming weeks to challenge her last will and testament, which cut out her family entirely, leaving about $34 million to her nurse and more than $17 million to her attorney and accountant through fees and direct bequests.

In this early phase of the massive estate case, her attorney and accountant have had to account to the court for all financial transactions they made using her legal power of attorney. They held that power, in various forms, for the last 15 years of her life, beginning in July 1996 when she was 90 years old.

The attorney and accountant are also being investigated by the Manhattan district attorney after questions were raised in a series of articles on msnbc.com about the sale of various properties owned by Clark, and about how the attorney and accountant ended up owning one of the homes of another elderly client. The pair asked the court to keep their financial accounting secret, arguing that they wanted to protect Clark's privacy. But the court rejected their request, making the following details available for anyone to read at the Surrogate's Clerks office.

In all, the records show $126.3 million in spending by her attorney and accountant from her accounts during those 15 years, and another $43.3 million that was transferred into her personal account, apparently to cover her own spending. The total of $170 million works out to $1 million per month for a woman who never left her hospital room during that time.

Among the highlights of the financial disclosure, drawn from the hundreds of pages of court records:

While her attorney and accountant were writing the checks for all the expenses for her three empty mansions, for her health care, for her staff, her legal expenses and all the rest, Huguette Clark had her own personal checkbook. We don't yet have the details of the checks that she wrote, but the accounting does show how much was transferred into her checking account, in lumps of $50,000, $200,000, even $5 million at a time. Between January 1997 and February 2009, a period of 12 years when she was between 90 and 102 years old, her magic checkbook was refilled in the amount of $43,325,000.

Au Nain Bleu, a renowned doll and toy shop in Paris, was paid $2.5 million in 110 separate payments from 1997 to 2006. One of Clark's friends has said that her dolls were "her closest companions." The largest payment was for $82,513 in February 2004.

Theriault's doll auctions received $729,000 in 21 payments from 1997 to 2009. The largest was $232,680 in July 2007.

Christopher Sadowski

Attorney Wallace "Wally" Bock says he has always done exactly what his client, heiress Huguette Clark, has asked. He acknowledged soliciting from her a gift of $1.5 million for the community where his daughter and grandchildren live. Court records show the amount to be $1.85 million.

Clark, who was raised a Roman Catholic, made several large contributions to Jewish settlements on the West Bank, where her attorney's daughter lives. Msnbc.com disclosed in 2010 that the attorney, Wallace "Wally" Bock, 79, asked Clark to contribute $1.5 million to a security system for his daughter's settlement. Bock acknowledged that payment in a legal filing last year. The new accounting shows that the total was actually $1.85 million. Bock or Clark's accountant, convicted felon and registered sex offender Irving Kamsler, 64, wrote four checks on her account totaling $1.65 million from 2000 through 2002 to the Central Fund of Israel. Then in September 2003, Bock wrote a check on her account for $200,000 to American Friends of New Communities in Israel.

The accounting shows that Kamsler received a stipend for his accounting services, peaking at $7,500 a month, or a rate of $90,000 per year. Bock's law firm was paid $18,000 to $25,000 per month, or about $250,000 per year. If the will is upheld, they stand to gain much more. Bock and Kamsler would receive $500,000 each as beneficiaries, and about $8 million each if the court allows them to serve as executors of her estate, with additional fees or salary as directors of a charitable foundation to be established to show her art in her California mansion. Both men have declined to comment on their actions, but their spokesmen have said the men both acted honorably in carrying out Clark's wishes.

The most remarkable day covered by the financial disclosure may have been Nov. 16, 2009. This was one month after this reporter met with Bock at his office and made clear that msnbc.com was going to publish a story raising questions about Clark's whereabouts and financial affairs. On that Monday in November, Bock or Kamsler wrote $380,000 in checks on Clark's personal account, which apparently hadn't been used in nine months. Checks went to Dr. Henry Singman, her internist, for $50,000; nurse Hadassah Peri for $60,000; her husband Daniel Peri for $60,000; accountant Kamsler for $60,000; personal assistant Christopher Sattler for $60,000; nurse Geraldine Coffey for $30,000; goddaughter Wanda Styka for $50,000, and nurse Erlinda Ysit for $10,000. That was followed three weeks later by a check to attorney Bock for $60,000. In all, $440,000.

Claudio Papapietro

Irving Kamsler, Huguette Clark's longtime accountant, pleaded guilty in October 2008 to attempting to disseminate indecent material to minors on AOL. The court sentenced him to five years of probation, but he was allowed to keep his license as a certified public accountant. In a letter he told his client only the barest details of the case.

Through the years her main private nurse, Hadassah Peri, received $2,520 a week, or $131,040 a year. She also was paid a lump sum of $5 million in 2009. As previously reported, Clark gave Peri the money to buy four homes for herself and her children. If the will is upheld, Peri would receive about $34 million, in addition to Clark's doll collection, value unknown.

Beth Israel Medical Center, the New York hospital where she lived for years, received $4.9 million from December 1997 through February 2011, not counting payments to various doctors and departments. That works out to about $1,000 per day. The hospital has declined to explain why it allowed Clark, who was said to be quite healthy, to live in hospital rooms for the last 22 years of her life.

Her primary physician, internist Dr. Henry S. Singman, received regular monthly payments peaking at $5,000 a month, or $521,000 during this period. He is named in her will for another $100,000.

Her closest friend, Suzanne Pierre, received regular payments of $50,000 for service as a social secretary, totaling $1.7 million. Pierre also received a $10 million gift back in 2000. Pierre, who was the widow of Clark's physician, died just weeks before Clark.

Only a few public charities appear in the accounting. The largest is $810,000 to the Corcoran Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C., where the bulk of her father's art collection resides. In the will, the Corcoran stands to receive one of Monet's Water Lilies series, a small canvas valued at roughly $25 million. The painting has not been seen publicly since 1925.

Bock or Kamsler wrote checks for other small charitable gifts: $1,000 to the Music Academy of the West, $100 to the New Canaan Firefighters Benevolent Fund, $25,000 to the Santa Barbara Community Arts Music Association. Two gifts were made in the spring of 2010, just after her case came to light: $10,000 to the Paul Clark Home founded by her father in Butte, Mont., and $1,000 to the Spence School, her alma mater in Manhattan. Other charitable gifts may have been made from her personal checkbook.

Clark, who had no children of her own, apparently paid tuition and fees for several students. Bock or Kamsler wrote checks to Boston College ($53,000), Boston University ($20,000), New York City College of Technology ($6,600), and four Catholic Schools: Long Beach Catholic School ($25,000), Sacred Heart Academy ($47,700), St. Bernard's School ($15,000), and Saint Ignatius Loyola School ($500).

She made payments to the IRS for $45 million, and New York state income tax of $15 million. And state gift tax payments of $975,000.

Her unoccupied 5th Avenue apartments, said to be the largest property under a single ownership anywhere on the prestigious avenue, cost $3.75 million during these 15 years just for the taxes and co-op fees, peaking at $28,844 per month. She has 15,0000 square feet on two floors of 907 Fifth Ave. at 71st Street. Another $900,000 went to Anton Sattler Management Co., which handled affairs at her apartment. And $1.5 million was paid through the years to Christopher Sattler, who worked as a personal assistant and property manager. He also would receive $500,000 if the will is upheld.

Her vacant country home in New Canaan, Conn., on the market for several years at $24 million, cost over $100,000 a year just to pay the property taxes.

Her unoccupied Santa Barbara oceanfront estate, with an estimated value of $100 million, cost her $8.8 million in various operating costs from 1997 to 2011.

All of Clark's properties are locked down now, protected by the court until the case is resolved.

The expenditures will be investigated by attorneys for the New York County Public Administrator, whose office was appointed by the Surrogate's Court to serve as a third temporary executor, along with Bock and Kamsler. One of the roles of the Public Administrator in this case is to make sure the estate was protected, both before and after Clark's death.

To keep up with the spending, her attorney and accountant were raising money during this period as well: $87 million transferred in from a custody account at J.P. Morgan, $15 million from a Bank of America account, a $5 million loan from J.P. Morgan in 2009, the $6 million sale of one of her Stradivarius violins, and $52 million in sales at Sotheby's. (Her last major purchase at Sotheby's was in 2000 for $124,000.)

Huguette Clark did save considerable money through the years in one respect: electricity. As she lived in a hospital room on the Lower East Side, the Con Edison bill at her 15,000-square-foot apartments on Fifth Avenue rarely rose above $100 a month.


If you have information on Huguette Clark's finances, use the links below to contact Bill Dedman.

The full archive of Clark stories, photos and videos is at http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/38810137/.