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Dysfunctional Warshaw Family Matters Include Fraud, Crimes & Misdemeanors

By Mike Hudson

Two brothers at war: Robert Warshaw, politically connected police monitor for Niagara Falls and his brother Donald.

During the 1990s, while current Niagara Falls City Police Monitor Robert Warshaw was serving as Rochester’s police chief, his brother, Donald, seemed far more successful. The police chief of Miami, Fla., Donald Warshaw was to his brother Robert what Joe DiMaggio was to his younger sibling Dom back in the glory days of the Boston Red Sox-New York Yankees rivalry of the 1940s.

That was before Robert Warshaw formed Police Performance Solutions, a company allegedly created to root out police corruption, and Donald Warshaw found himself indicted for embezzling nearly $90,000 from two Florida law enforcement charities.

The two brothers then had it out, each figuratively looking for the jawbone of an ass, to lay the other low, as they squabbled over their wealthy but ailing mother’s fortune. A story worthy of Eugene O’Neil to be sure, but Niagara Falls has never suffered from a lack of colorful characters with interesting stories.

In September 2000, a federal grand jury indicted Donald Warshaw, the former Miami police chief and city manager, on charges of conspiracy to commit fraud and mail fraud.

In a stunning mid-afternoon announcement that capped a yearlong investigation, U.S. Attorney Guy Lewis said the grand jury's five-count indictment charged Warshaw with illegally funneling tens of thousands of dollars from the Miami Police Relief and Pension Fund, and a charity into his personal accounts over a six-year period, beginning in 1993.

According to the feds, Donald Warshaw committed an especially reprehensible offense: using his position as an assistant police chief, and later as chief, for personal gain.

He was accused of using the corporate American Express cards of the pension fund and Do The Right Thing of Miami Inc., a charitable organization that helps disadvantaged youths, for his own benefit. The charity was funded in part by law enforcement trust funds administered by the city.

According to the indictment, from May 1993 to April 1999, Warshaw charged to the credit cards of the pension fund and charity personal expenses amounting to $86,563. He then paid the bills using funds of the two organizations. The money paid for Florida Panthers hockey tickets and for shopping trips to Lord and Taylor's and Victoria's Secret.

The indictment also charged Warshaw with depositing checks and cash belonging to the charity into his personal bank account and using that money to pay for personal expenses and bank overdrafts.

He pleaded guilty to one charge of federal mail fraud in 2001 and served a year in federal prison. Warshaw, 61, was released in 2002. In 2004, he was denied a $128,000-a year pension because of his conviction.

But the problems were far from over for anyone in the Warshaw family, which has certainly known its share of sadness and tragedy. In April of 2007, Jodi Lynn Warshaw-Donald’s daughter and Robert’s niece, was murdered at the age of 36 by her abusive, estranged husband, Ben Barone, in the parking lot of a Pennsylvania convenience store. Barone then shot himself.

Having nationally recognized law enforcement officials for a father and an uncle was no protection for Jodi Lynn Warshaw, whose obituaries and gravestone list her by her maiden name.

Just seven months later, in November 2011, the names of both Donald and Robert Warshaw surfaced in a lawsuit filed in North Carolina by Donald Warshaw's ex-wife Karen against her husband, his mother and brother Robert Warshaw, the Rochester police chief, U.S. deputy drug czar, and current nemesis of the Niagara Falls Police Department.

The charges and countercharges began to fly in the sordid family feud.

''This whole thing was orchestrated by my brother,'' Donald Warshaw said. ``It's ugly.''

The brothers' battle erupted when Karen tried to collect a $119,362.50 judgment against Donald Warshaw from their 1995 divorce settlement. She learned Donald had transferred a major asset -- half-interest in the seven acres in Sylva, NC, -- to Eugenia Warshaw, the brothers then 95-year-old mother, who immediately deeded the property to Robert Warshaw, who had a home on the acreage.

Karen Warshaw, a certified paralegal, filed a Miami-Dade court motion to undo her ex's real estate transaction. The court ruled the property transfer was ''fraud'' designed to ''hinder'' Don's creditors, including Karen, but lacked jurisdiction in the matter.

So Karen sued Donald, Robert, and Eugenia Warshaw in North Carolina, claiming collusion in a ''fraudulent transfer.'' Robert and Eugenia filed papers denying any wrongdoing. In those documents, Eugenia mounted her ''cross claim'' against her black sheep son Donald, who, she claimed, deeded his half-interest as ''restitution'' for spending her annuity funds.

Currently, Robert Warshaw still lives and works in North Carolina, where the Niagara Falls Reporter attempted to reach him last week to no avail.

Robert Warshaw has been given the task of overseeing the Niagara Falls Police Department by former state Attorney General and current Gov. Andrew Cuomo. Whether or not he got the lucrative no-bid contract as a result of his close relationship with Cuomo’s running mate, Lt. Gov. Robert Duffy, is an ongoing topic of debate.

While it remains to be seen what sort of work he is actually doing for the money Niagara Falls taxpayers are being forced to hand over to him, one thing is certain: his recent family history could provide the Webster Dictionary people with the very definition of “dysfunctional.”



Niagara Falls Reporter - Publisher Frank Parlato Jr. www.niagarafallsreporter.com

Jul 30, 2013