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Thursday, June 13, 2024 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

Carvel Ice Cream Heir Loses Ruling on Rent

(CN) - The niece of ice cream magnate Tom Carvel lost her bid in Manhattan Federal Court to collect seven years of back rent she claimed a franchise company owed her.

Pamela Carvel, who is the only surviving family heir, is "no stranger to litigation regarding the estate of Agnes Carvel," U.S. District Judge John G. Koeltl wrote.

She has suggested in other recent actions that the Carvel ice cream founder was murdered after he discovered employees were embezzling millions of dollars from the company.

"There have been numerous lawsuits regarding the estate and related matters," the opinion states. "In the course of the complaint, the plaintiff alleges that the decision of the surrogate was itself fraudulent and corrupt."

Carvel filed a lawsuit last year against the state of New York, claiming Carvel employees conspired with the attorneys and judges involved in the administration of her uncle's estate.

She said hundreds of millions of dollars were stolen, which her uncle intended to leave to his heirs and various charities.

The litigation's history dates back to 1988, when Tom and Agnes named the Thomas and Agnes Carvel Foundation the ultimate beneficiary of their estates.

After his death in 1990, Agnes was barred from altering the will and reciprocal agreement the couple entered into two years prior.

Tom Carvel, who many say is the father of modern franchising, sold his ice cream business to Investcorp. for $80 million a year before his death. Agnes died in 1998.

The battle over the estate has taken place on several fronts, with the New York State Surrogate Court in Westchester County, Florida Federal Court, Delaware Federal Court, and a court in England, among others, all handling aspects of the dispute.

In the current case, Carvel accused Franchise Stores Realty of failing to pay rent on a lease agreement from 2000 to 2007. She said her aunt assigned the lease to a company called Realties in 1994, and that Realties assigned the claim to her.

The defendants said they did not have to pay her rent, because prior court proceedings determined that she did not own the property.

Carvel sued in Delaware Federal Court, claiming Carvel Corp. was required to make lease payments on the same property involved in the current case in Manhattan, according to the judge. She sued as the executrix of Agnes Carvel's estate.

Judge Koeltl said Carvel has previously tried to obtain enforcement orders from several courts without disclosing the existence of a retraining order preventing her from doing so.

"The plaintiff's own allegations in the Delaware action are inconsistent with her claims in this case," he wrote.

The defendants moved for dismissal on the grounds that "any transfer of the property from Agnes Carvel to Realties after the death of her husband was in violation of the agreement."

The judge tossed several of the claims as time-barred, saying "the remaining claims in the amended complaint are plainly without merit and should be dismissed."

"A court in England found that Pamela Carvel could not represent the estate because she is in a position of 'irreconcilable conflict' with the estate beneficiary; that she was either dishonest, deliberately disregarded her duties, or does not understand her responsibilities and is unwilling to learn them," Koeltl said.

But the bitter dispute over the estate continues. Pamela has implied that natural causes did not take her uncle's life.

She claims he told her that he was firing his secretary and his lawyer, and that he placed his niece, a fraud investigator in Florida, in charge of launching an investigation into collusion between his employees and attorneys at Investcorp.

A day later, she claims, Tom Carvel was found dead, and the estate's records were "altered, forged, or destroyed."

Pamela unsuccessfully brought an action in federal court in Fort Lauderdale, seeking an exhumation and autopsy.

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