CLICK HERE TO REPORT LAW ENFORCEMENT CORRUPTION (Provide as much information as possible: full names, descriptions, dates, times, activity, witnesses, etc.)

Telephone: 347-632-9775

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Marshal's Net Income Soars Above $1 Million

One Connecticut State Marshal's Net Income Soars Above $1 Million
The Hartford Courant by MATTHEW KAUFFMAN and DAVE ALTIMARI - May 31, 2009

John T. Fiorillo is the million-dollar marshal.

Boosted by his ties to the state's two major foreclosure firms, Fiorillo, a Hartford County marshal, reported a net income of more than $1 million for delivering court papers in 2008, according to disclosure forms filed with the Office of State Ethics. Law firms paid Fiorillo more than $3 million to serve legal papers last year. But he reported spending nearly two-thirds of that on employee and office expenses, leaving him with a bottom line of $1,119,706. Fiorillo's take was more than double the next-highest-earning marshal. On top of reimbursements for mileage, recording fees and other costs, state marshals generally receive $30 plus $1 a page for each set of legal documents they serve. For Fiorillo, those dollars added up. After expenses, he cleared more than $21,000 a week — roughly the equivalent of delivering a 40-page lawsuit every 15 minutes, 12 hours a day, six days a week.

Several other marshals work out of Fiorillo's office, in a brick office park in Rocky Hill with no signs on the door or the building identifying the business. Two reported receiving a total of about $160,000 from Fiorillo for serving process — about 5 percent of Fiorillo's gross income. It is unclear who served the rest of the papers. Fiorillo will not discuss his income or business arrangements, according to a woman at his office who would not give her full name or title. "I will definitely give him the message, but he definitely will not have a comment for you," she said. "I've already been instructed to say that we have no comment." Fiorillo's main benefactor last year was the foreclosure firm of Hunt Leibert Jacobson in Hartford, which gave Fiorillo more than $2.2 million in business. The state's other major foreclosure firm, Bendett & McHugh in Farmington — formerly known as Reiner, Reiner & Bendett — provided $762,000 worth of work. The two firms are the busiest in the state, filing about 1,200 suits a month last year, 99 percent of them foreclosure actions. The firms directed about half of their process-serving work last year to Fiorillo, according to the disclosure forms, and sent most of the rest to a handful of other marshals around the state.

After The Courant reported on marshal earnings a year ago, state officials expressed concern about the concentration of business among a small number of process-servers. Now, Attorney General Richard Blumenthal says his office has been actively looking into the issue for several months. "We have an ongoing investigation involving a number of law firms and marshals relating to potential abuses in the mortgage-foreclosure process," Blumenthal said. "We're interested in whether there has been improper assignment or allocation of work," he said. "At the most basic and simple level, the question is whether a single person or such a small group of people could possibly do all this work alone." Blumenthal said his office has interviewed lawyers, marshals and litigants, and received complaints from all three groups. Adam Bendett, a partner in Bendett & McHugh, said the firm directs a large amount of business to Fiorillo based on the quality of his work. "Marshal Fiorillo and his office provide excellent service, which is why we utilize his office to meet the service-of-process needs of our clients," Bendett said in a written statement. Richard Leibert, a founder of Hunt Leibert, did not return a telephone message. At least two other big earners, Edward DiLieto of East Haven and Thomas Foldy of Bridgeport, also owe most of their paychecks to foreclosures. Those marshals each reported about $800,000 in gross revenue and more than $300,000 in net income last year, with nearly all of it coming from Hunt Leibert.

And the marshal whose paycheck took the biggest hit in 2008 saw his income fall 80 percent after he was dropped from the list of marshals who earn money from the foreclosure firms. In the past, Charles Ferrato delivered papers for Hunt Leibert, but stopped at the end of 2007. That year he reported net income of more than $500,000. Last year, that figure dropped to a little more than $100,000. Ferrato did not respond to a message seeking comment. The annual disclosure forms show eight state marshals reported a net income of more than $250,000 in 2008, and an additional 27 had net income exceeding $100,000. But most of the more than 200 state marshals earn far more modest incomes, with the majority reporting a profit of less than $39,000. And many marshals may be losing some of their income if state officials have their way. Looking for new revenue streams to offset growing budget deficits, the legislature is considering a bill to have the state treasurer's office take over court-ordered bank and wage executions that marshals currently handle. When marshals serve papers to attach a defendant's bank account or wages, they add a 15 percent fee for themselves. Under the pending bill, the treasurer's office would take over that work and collect a 12.5 percent fee for the state. Last year, marshals collected more than $3.3 million serving 22,000 executions. "The fact of the matter is when times are bad, we do good and debt collections are a big source of revenue that they are trying to take away from us," said a longtime marshal who earns a significant amount of income from executions.

The marshal said it is well-known that a small number of process-servers do most of the foreclosure work in the state. The marshal said many colleagues wish they could share in all that money. "Would I like to see those law firms spread that work to another 20 marshals? Sure," the marshal said. "But it's a free market and they can choose who they want to use and as long as those guys are doing the job there's not much you can say." Foldy, the fourth-highest-earning marshal with a net income of more than $340,000, recently served a two-week suspension after the State Marshal Commission, which oversees marshals, ruled he had paid a non-marshal to serve legal papers for him. Foldy ran afoul of Norwalk police in October 2007 when a civilian named Edwin Scott Powley served an eviction notice for Foldy without a state marshal present as required by law. Powley was wearing a state marshal cap during the eviction and gave authorization for a locksmith to change the locks on the apartment, according to police reports. Powley then entered the apartment. Powley was arrested for impersonating a police officer and criminal trespassing. He pleaded guilty to simple trespassing and paid a $50 fine. The marshal commission also investigated and found that Foldy had illegally used Powley more than once to conduct marshal business.

In his testimony before the commission, Foldy said he believed that other Fairfield County marshals had it in for him. "Foldy also believed other marshals were jealous of him for taking most of the work of the Hunt, Leibert Jacobson law firm and that some marshals were looking to discredit him and were aggressively tracking Mr. Powley," the commission wrote in its final report. For decades, the lucrative business of serving court papers was controlled by elected county sheriffs, who doled out the jobs to political allies. But following a string of corruption scandals, voters amended the state constitution in 2000 to abolish the sheriff system and turn the work over to state marshals controlled by a new State Marshal Commission. But all of the paper-servers were allowed to keep their jobs, and more than two-thirds of the current state marshals got their jobs when the system ran on patronage. Fiorillo, for example, began serving papers more than 20 years ago under former Hartford County Sheriff Alfred J. Rioux, who was later convicted on federal charges of extorting money from his deputies. And in 1996, Fiorillo was fined by the State Elections Enforcement Commission for making illegal campaign loans to Rioux's successor, Walter J. Kupchunos.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

The State Marshal's in Connecticut are not law enforcement. They are civil process servers and do not have any law enforcment powers at all.