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Lawyer Charged with Stealing from Estate, Including Slave Theater Sale: DA

 Attorney Frank Racano is accused of stealing nearly $600,000 from the estate of the late John L. Phillips, Jr., who was the former owner of the Slave Theater on Fulton Street.
Attorney Frank Racano is accused of stealing nearly $600,000 from the estate of the late John L. Phillips, Jr., who was the former owner of the Slave Theater on Fulton Street.
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DNAinfo/Paul DeBenedetto

BEDFORD-STUYVESANT — A Queens lawyer is charged with stealing more than half a million dollars from a late judge’s estate including money from the sale of Bedford-Stuyvesant’s historic Slave Theater, prosecutors said.

Frank Racano, of Howard Beach, was indicted Wednesday on a charge of second-degree grand larceny, according to the Brooklyn District Attorney’s Office.

Racano, 54, stole $587,160 from the estate of New York City Civil Court Judge John L. Phillips Jr. between February 2013 and May 2015, officials said.

Phillips Jr. died in February 2008 unmarried, childless and without a will, according to prosecutors.

About a year after his death Samuel Boykin, the judge’s nephew by marriage, was appointed administrator of his estate, officials said.

Boykin hired Racano to help in the sale of Phillips Jr.’s real estate holdings, which included the Slave Theater at 1215-1217 Fulton St. and 10 Halsey St., a vacant lot behind the theater, according to the Brooklyn DA.

The properties went into contract in 2012 and the buyer paid the estate a down payment of $220,000, prosecutors said. The check was payable to “Frank Racano, as attorney,” according to officials, and was deposited into Racano’s attorney trust checking account.

The property buyer’s attorney paid closing expenses and taxes owed on the property during the closing in 2013, and the net proceeds of the sale — more than $517,000 — were given to the estate in two checks payable to Racano, the DA said.

Between February 2013 and May 2015, Racano wrote and cashed more than 300 checks to himself in amounts ranging from $45 to $7,500 without authorization from the estate or court, according to prosecutors.

“This defendant had a duty to his client but instead allegedly stole nearly $600,000 of the proceeds from the sale of two properties belonging to the estate of Judge Phillips, including the historic Slave Theater,” Brooklyn DA Ken Thompson said in a statement.

“He’s charged with writing himself hundreds of checks until all the money was gone. We will now hold him accountable for these shameful criminal acts.”

The iconic Bed-Stuy theater formerly served as a hub for civil rights activism, as well as arts and culture.

Community members and activists have been fighting to “Save the Slave,” protesting the planned demolition of the building and its sale.

Racano pleaded not guilty on Wednesday and is being held on $250,000 bail and bond, according to court records. He is set to return to court on Aug. 10.

At attorney for Racano declined to comment.