A former East Hampton Town justice has been ordered to pay back more than $1 million that her late husband deposited into their joint bank account after he secretly sold East End land he owned with a business partner, court records show.
Catherine Cahill, who served on the bench for 20 years before retiring last year, must pay back $1,045,400 to Nelson Gerard, who owned Buckskill Farm with Cahill's husband, Marvin Hyman, said State Supreme Court Justice Paul J. Baisley.
"Hyman then deliberately and stealthily carried out his plan to spirit away the proceeds of the sale out from under the nose of his partner," Baisley wrote.
His April 21 decision is the latest development in a dispute that began after Hyman sold 6.8 acres of land to the Town of East Hampton in September 2005, deposited $1.9 million in proceeds into the firm's account and then wrote a check for nearly that amount into a personal account he held with Cahill, the decision said.
Hyman died in December 2005.
Gerard, a co-owner of the company the two men established, Buckskill Farm, claimed he was entitled to the bulk of the proceeds from the sale because the men agreed Hyman would collect $850,000 and end his interest in the firm, and Gerard would collect the rest.
The judge agreed with Gerard, ordering Cahill to pay the money with 9 percent interest.
"There was an agreement reached between Gerard and Hyman for [Buckskill] to buy out the interest of Hyman for $850,000 or one lot conditioned on Gerard's consent to the signing and filing of a subdivision map for Buckskill Farm and the sale of the foregoing; defendant is directed to restore the sum of $1,045,500 to the account of Buckskill Farm," read the decision.
"I thought it was a clear case from the beginning," said Jeffrey Stark of Uniondale, who represented Gerard. "[Hyman] secretly closed with the town, secretly took the money out of Buckskill's bank account and put it in his own with his wife."
But Stephen Angel of Riverhead, who represented Cahill, said he will be filing an appeal, and declined further comment.
Baisley found Cahill's testimony during trial "not credible," adding that her answers to questions about how much she knew about the deal and the funds were "self-serving, or intentionally vague and disingenuous."
Stark said it does not matter whether Cahill knew the source of the funds.
"If the money didn't belong to her and belonged to somebody else . . . [it] makes no difference at all in the law," Stark said.