How Francis X. Morrissey Swindled New York's Best and Brightest

Francis X. Morrissey Jr. was the kind of white guy rich white people could trust. He's a lawyer specializing in wills, he's old, he wears loafers. He also, incidentally, swindled New York City's rich and very rich out of millions of dollars, a number of apartments and at least one art collection. Currently, Mr. Morrissey is facing an 18-count indictment along with her nogudnik son Anthony Marhsall for financially exploiting the late Mrs. Astor in the twilight of her life. But the Park Avenue matriarch was just the one lady in a long line of very rich, very dead and very punked clients Morrissey defrauded. He's swindled artists, gallery owners and even Mother Teresa's doctor. In Morrissey's defense, he does claim to be dyslexic. Judging from his massive history of defrauding the dead, he's still a nam dab! But how did he do it? [NB: Oh yeah, and by a fluke in our legal system, he's totally innocent until proven guilty! Please insert "been accused of" between pronouns referring to Morrissey and verbs referring to him.]

Through out his career, Morrissey ripped off many of the dying captains of industry, the asphyxiating intelligentsia and the last-gasp socialites as they went gentle into that good night. For example, some rich lady named Elisabeth von Knapitsch, a retired ladies apparel exec, was worth $15 million and dying when she called in Morrissey and his two compadres (one a priest, the other a Yalie) to help draft her will. "Under the will, Mr. Morrissey received most of Ms. von Knapitsch's $15 million estate, including her six-room apartment on Park Avenue. Mr. Forsythe, who had served as her lawyer, was co-executor of the estate." Later, Morrissey "helped" economist Sam Schurr draft his dying wishes. They included, weirdly and probably NOT AT ALL, that Morrissey received Schurr's Manhattan apartment and art collection. He also swindled Richard T. York, an art gallery owner; William Draper "Dean of American Portraiture"; Jose Juarez Garza, legendary New York art dealer to the likes of Babe Paley and Anne Getty; and Jay Lovestone, once head of the American Communist Party.

What was his secret, other than a lack of morals? Well! It's simple!

Mr. Morrissey has earned a reputation for helping take care of elderly people, some of whom he had known for decades, without billing them for his work. And he has provided gifts like smoked hams and turkeys during the holidays, or cashmere robes. In return, a number of these people have left him bequests in their wills or chosen him as a fiduciary of their estates.
Ham, turkey and cashmere robes in exchange for an apartment and $15 million dollars! A deal to die for!

Many Clients of Astor Lawyer Left Him Bequests in Their Wills [NYT]