Lawyer Frank Cassisi. Photo: Cassisilaw.com
A lawyer named Frank Cassisi filed a forged retainer agreement in U.S. Bankruptcy Court in an attempt to work with a chapter 7 trustee to gain control over potential proceeds from a debtor’s personal injury lawsuit, a Black Star News investigation shows.
Ashmeen Modikhan, the debtor, has maintained for three years that there are no creditors of standing in her bankruptcy case and that the trustee, Alan Nisselson, is poised to wrongfully seize control of her personal injury lawsuit and distribute potential proceeds to entities that are not entitled.
Modikhan has claimed that the bankruptcy court, Eastern District of New York, also let a lawyer named Courtney Williams from the Gross Polowy LLC law firm file fraudulent proofs of claim in order to gain standing for her clients, as previously reported by Black Star News.
Modikhan’s allegations that she was the victim of a loan modification scam while she was in chapter 13 proceedings in the same court was also covered in the two previous Black Star News articles, on August 2, 2022 and August 25, 2022.
The judge currently handling the case, Jil Mazer-Marino has cleared the way for Modikhan to sue her lawyer in chapter 13 proceedings, Darren Aronow, for malpractice. Judge Mazer-Marino however dismissed Modikhan’s lawsuit against the parties whom she’d accused of involvement in the modification scam against her while she was in chapter 13 proceedings, including the lawyer Williams and the companies Rushmore Loan Management Services Inc. and Fay Servicing LLC.
Modikhan is currently in chapter 7 proceedings. After Judge Mazer-Marino allowed the proofs of claim by Rushmore and Fay, she denied Modikhan’s motion to withdraw from the bankruptcy court proceedings.
As previously reported by Black Star News, the bankruptcy court documents show that Williams, the Gross Polowy lawyer, filed a proof of claim on January 9, 2020 for Tiki Series IV Trust as creditor for $689,154.49. The servicer listed was Rushmore. However, the court papers show that the assignment of mortgage from a company named MTGLQ to U.S. Bank as trustee for Tiki Series IV was executed on April 28, 2020, more than three months after Williams filed the proof of claim stating that on January 9, 2020, Tiki Series IV was in possession of the note.
Judge Mazer-Marino also allowed the trustee Nisselson to hire Cassisi, Modikhan’s former lawyer in a $5 million personal injury lawsuit she filed against Golden Touch Transportation of New York Inc. in 2015 in State Supreme Court in Queens County. He was also allowed to hire his law firm Windels Marx Lane & Mittendorf LLP for a fee of $700 an hour.
This in essence meant Modikhan no longer owned her personal injury case and that the trustee Nisselson could distribute any recovery from the lawsuit. Judge Mazer-Marino approved trustee Nisselson’s settlement of the case for $500,000.
Modikhan, who sued for $5 million has rejected the settlement as illegitimate. She was an American Airlines employee when in 2014 the door of the employees’ bus used to transport staff from terminal to parking lots crushed her right hand. The bus was operated by Golden Touch Transportation.
Modikhan is appealing Judge Mazer-Marino’s decisions, including allowing the alleged fraudulent proofs of claim, the forged retainer agreement filed by Cassisi, and the dismissal of her lawsuit against the parties she claims victimized her in the loan modification scam. “How can I be deprived of my assets based on fraudulent documents?” Modikhan said.
Cassisi had already filed a motion in the State Court to change the caption to make the trustee Nisselson the plaintiff and beneficiary, instead of Modikhan, with Cassisi as his counsel. Cassisi would also earn his one-third of proceeds as his fees; trustees typically earn 10%.
In examining court papers, Black Star News discovered that the retainer agreement filed by Cassisi’s firm in the bankruptcy court on June 22, 2022 was undated. The purported agreement bears Modikhan’s signature and a signature attributed to Matthew Maloney, an associate at the Cassisi firm. In this document, a paragraph stating that Cassisi would share his fees with George Crozier, an acquaintance of Modikhan’s who introduced her to Cassisi, has been crossed out.
The signature attributed to Maloney in the undated retainer agreement doesn’t match his signature on a copy of a retainer dated April 16, 2015, which also bears Modikhan’s signature. The dated retainer agreement also contains the fee-sharing clause between Cassisi and Crozier. “I have been saying all along that the parties have been filing fraudulent papers in bankruptcy court and in state court,” Modikhan said. “Now this forged retainer agreement by Cassisi is the best proof that I have been speaking the truth.”
Chief Judge Alan Trust in the U.S. Bankruptcy Court didn’t respond to an e-mail message from Black Star News seeking comment on the forged retainer agreement filed by Cassisi.
Lucian Chalfen, spokesperson for the State Supreme Court also did not respond to inquiries from Black Star News seeking comment about whether the court will review other documents filed by Cassisi on the personal injury case; there are other documents reviewed by Black Star News with signatures attributed to Maloney that don’t match the ones on the retainer agreement, including the forged one. The judge presiding over the State court case is Maurice E. Muir.
Cassisi also didn’t respond to inquiries from Black Star News seeking comment about the retainer agreement he filed in the bankruptcy court. Judge Muir was supposed to hold a hearing on Oct. 5 on Cassisi’s motion to change the case’s caption; that court date has been rescheduled to January 30, 2023.
Modikhan in a letter informed the Administrative Judge Marguerite Grays in the State Court that she had terminated Cassisi; she’s not been able to file papers opposing Cassisi’s attempt to change the caption as the court still regarded Cassisi as the attorney of record.
The Grievance Committee is also reviewing a complaint Modikhan filed against Cassisi.