By Mary Keon
On September 15, 2011, 54 year-old Susan Vosilla died unexpectedly, at her home in Jewett, NY. The cause of death was never determined. Despite the fact that Susan’s death was unattended, no autopsy was performed and her body was cremated, at the request of her Trustee and Executor, attorney Anthony Bucca, and her aunt, Renata Kenul, over her sister, Doria Vosilla’s objections. Photos of Susan, as she was found in her home, were forwarded to the District Attorney, by the Sheriff’s office, who did not investigate further.
Though Susan had many health challenges, her sister did not expect her to die at the age of 54. Doria Vosilla states that both the Sheriff’s Dept. and the coroner, Hassan J. Basagic III, a principal of Aston-Basagic Funeral Home in Hunter, NY,refused to conduct an autopsy. When asked for comment by the Westchester Guardian, Bucca responded: “Nobody expected her to die, but she had been ill with diabetes and other ailments, and the county coroner ruled that her death was not suspicious.”
Upon learning of her sister’s death, Doria Vosilla went to Susan’s home to find that jewels and other family items Susan was known to possess were missing. “Also, the recliner where she was found dead was mysteriously removed and never located,” according to Vosilla.
Susan and Doria, were beneficiaries of the estate of their mother, Natalina Vosilla, owner of the Villa Vosilla Resort, who died on September 5th, 2010, following a long illness.
According to Doria Vosilla, Executrix of her mother’s will, the estate was to be split equally between the sisters: Doria and her family would receive the hotel, as they were the acting managers, while Susan, who was disabled and suffered from numerous ailments, would receive a monetary settlement.
Susan’s medical history included juvenile diabetes, a series of strokes, peripheral vascular disease, neuropathy, short term memory loss and stage III kidney disease. Her conditions were exacerbated by alcohol and drug abuse in early adulthood. Fifty-three years old at the time her mother died, Susan was a partially blind, insulin-dependent diabetic who also took oral medication to control her blood sugar and had limited ability to walk. She had dropped out of high school in the 10th grade. Her family paid all of her bills and kept close watch over her.
Susan Vosilla left her mother’s funeral mass on September 10th, 2010, in the company of Yolanda Calligaro and Margaret Kaufman. She never made it to her mother’s burial and September 10, 2010, was the last time Doria Vosilla saw her sister alive. Following Susan’s death, the family learned Calligaro and Kaufman brought Susan to Bucca's office that day, where “unbeknownst to anyone, Bucca was given Power of Attorney” [over Susan], said Vosilla.
Yolanda Calligaro, Margaret Kaufman and Renata Kenul, Susan’s maternal aunt, who was estranged from the family, according Vosilla, would become beneficiaries of Susan’s will; all three women were significantly older than Susan. Kenul was reportedly a friend of Calligaro. Bucca’s wife, Harriett was also a beneficiary as were Susan’s cousins, John and Anthony Vosilla, who Vosilla says never visited the family.
Doria Vosilla states that Anthony and Harriet Bucca, accompanied by Yolanda Calligaro, drove Susan to the LaVelle and Finn Law firm in Albany NY, on December 21, 2010, their deceased mother’s birthdate, where Susan’s will and an irrevocable life trust were signed, following an initial meeting held at the firm on November 22, 2010. She learned this only after her sister had died.
LaVelle and Finn employee Julie Morin submitted an affidavit to probate court, dated April 22, 2013 confirming the meetings on these dates. Morin, who is a para-legal and neither a licensed, board-certified psychiatrist nor a physician, describes Susan as “being of sound mind and body,” in this document. Doria Vosilla doubts her sister could have read the small text, given her poor eyesight, much less understood it.
In a December 13, 2010 email from Bucca to “Julie”/ Martin Finn at LaVelle and Finn, presented in court, Bucca directed them to add the following text to the trust: “nothing herein shall preclude or prohibit the trustee from acquiring a second or a vacation home for the use of the beneficiary and/or for investment purposes. … The Trustee shall account to the Grantor and only to the Grantor and shall have no duty to account to any of the other beneficiaries. (Also, Expenditures made with the consent of the Grantor should be ‘bulletproof.)”
Julie/Martin Finn were also directed to “verify that the trustee shall, in addition to statutory commissions, be eligible to perform legal services for the trust with reasonable compensation and to engage in other legal counsel and services, accounting services, business management services and other professional services but not limited to trust taxation and business and accounting matters.”
Another clause states “no state law on acts of self-dealing by a fiduciary shall apply to an Executor or Trustee who is a descendent of mine, except to the extent (but only to the extent) such restraint may not be waived under applicable local law by a governing instrument.”
Doria Vosilla states that her sister had always promised to name Doria’s sons as her heirs.
Anthony Bucca was appointed Trustee of each Trust under the will, which left nothing to Destiny Hart, who told Vosilla she had often purchased groceries for Susan and the two had frequently walked their dogs together. Charles Bucca, Anthony and Harriet’s son, then a Greene County Assistant District Attorney, was named Bucca’s successor Executor and Trustee. Though Bucca claimed in court he did not want to be a beneficiary in Susan’s will, Bucca was written in for $15,000, ostensibly to defray costs of caring for Susan’s 3 dogs, but he was not compelled to use the money for this.
In early October 2010, Anthony Bucca approached Doria Vosilla and asked to be appointed Susan’s Guardian. He presented her with papers, which she signed. At this point, Doria Vosilla was physically and emotionally exhausted from caring for her mother. From that point forward, as far as Vosilla was concerned, Anthony Bucca was the Guardian taking care of her sister, with the $430,000 from Natalina’s Life Insurance proceeds, given to him for Susan’s care.
Unbeknownst to Doria, though Bucca had presented the Guardianship request to Judge Dan Lalor at the Guardianship hearing in October 2010, he then withdrew it in December 2010, a fact she only learned following Susan’s death. Despite the fact that Court Evaluator Robin Shanley found that Susan Vosilla needed a Guardian, Doria Vosilla states she was never notified of the Guardianship hearing, nor was she notified that Bucca had withdrawn his petition.
Doria Vosilla has repeatedly asked for an accounting of the money given to Bucca for her sister’s care and has never received one. Though Bucca did not ultimately become Susan’s Guardian, he had Power of Attorney over Susan Vosilla. As her Trustee and Executor, he had unlimited power to bill her account.
During a telephone interview with The Westchester Guardian, Anthony Bucca asserts that he helped Susan Vosilla and acted pro bono on her legal matters because she did not have any money. He said her money had been depleted by fees incurred during the estate case of her mother, Natalina Vosilla, and other legal matters. “She was very much afraid she was going to lose her share of her mother’s estate through trickery” by other lawyers she had employed, he said.
Absent an accounting of the funds given to Bucca for Susan Vosilla’s care, it is not possible to verify his claims of having acted “pro bono.”
Lee McGunnigle, Doria’s husband, says that the only pro-bono work he is aware of that Bucca did on behalf of his sister-in-law was “to defend her against credit card theft of her mother’s card in 1990 at a time when she was abusing drugs. During that time, he prevented our family’s intervention to get her proper care at Betty Ford, a residential treatment center. He had the judge order psychiatric treatment which Susan did not cooperate with. She continued to use drugs for three more years and suffered a stroke, after which she was sober for 15 years, but was seen to be drinking in 2008 during her mother’s illness and this may have continued up to the time of her death.”
Destiny Hart agreed that Susan was worried about money, reportedly telling Doria Vosilla that Susan had told her “she had no money.” Hart has subsequently disappeared, said Vosilla, adding that State Investigator Peter Kusminsky told her Destiny’s whereabouts are unknown.
Bucca attributes the photos of squalor at Susan’s residence at the time of her death to her “limited mobility and state of mind.” As he managed her money, he provided it for her when she needed it, he said. “Susan was a very close friend of mine and I treated her well,” he added. “She and I were very fond of each other. She had a sense of humor. She loved being around people.”
In his papers to the Court, Bucca alleged that the sisters did not get along. Doria Vosilla said that while her sister could be difficult at times, she loved Susan, who spent a great deal of time with her family through the years, and believes that Bucca poisoned their relationship, to isolate her. The family’s attempts to look in on Susan from time to time were rebuffed.
Vosilla alleges that Bucca sent emails and letters to attorney William Simon directing him to prohibit Doria and her family from communicating with Susan. As a result, they were unaware that Bucca had allowed Susan’s health insurance to lapse, though Vosilla had continued to pay for Susan’s housing throughout this time. Vosilla alleges that when she confronted Bucca about Susan’s apparent lack of care, following her death, he claimed it was not his job to care for her or her house. It was only his job to take care of her money.
He did not hire anyone to care for her wellbeing, her home or her dogs, says Vosilla.
Bucca’s alleged statement to Doria Vosilla above, contradicts the language in the Guardianship papers he had earlier presented to her, where he asked to petition the court to: “apply her assets and income as necessary for the comfort support, maintenance and well-being of Susan” …He also asked for extraordinary power “to provide for the extraordinary expenses in respect to the proper care and maintenance of Susan Vosilla, and to pay the maintenance of the same, including physicians, hospitals, nurses, aides, nursing homes, if any.” (Objectant’s Exhibit F –Article 81Guardianship Petition, (R 838 –R 846, dated September 29, 2010.)
Why did Renata Kenul drive from Brooklyn to the Catskills to pay for Susan’s funeral at the Aston-Basagic Funeral Home in Hunter, according to Vosilla, 2 months before Susan died when there did not seem to be a reason to anticipate her death was imminent. Moreover, it was not Kenul’s place to plan or pay for Susan’s funeral as Doria’s family were her closest living relatives and funeral costs are normally paid by the estate of the deceased.
Vosilla states that “Destiny Hart was upset when Susan told her that her aunt had planned her wake and funeral. She said that Susan appeared very nervous about it all and said, ‘I did it because it my aunt wishes that I do this.’”
Anthony Bucca says he has a $5 million defamation suit against the family in the Greene County Court because of what he said were defamatory statements made about him that were untrue. He added that he was limited in what he could say about the case because it was pending.
“I can’t stand the things being said about me,” he said in a telephone conversation. “I have to tell you it’s not true. They’re deliberately trying to destroy me.”
Doria Vosilla says they “are not doing anything deliberately to harm Bucca at all, they just want answers. They don’t even know what happened to her sister or what happened to the money.”
When asked how persons, whom Susan was not known to be close to, were named as beneficiaries in her will, Bucca responded: “Anybody can leave anything to anybody they want. She wanted to reward people who helped her over the years.”
Susan’s family has also charged that she was not competent to make decisions regarding finances and legal matters, but Bucca disputed that. “She was really competent,” he said. “She got familiar with estate matters. It’s very rare in an estate case for a person to have a chance to say what’s going on in their mind, and she wanted to have her say.”
However, this statement contradicts assertions Bucca made in the Guardianship papers that Doria Vosilla signed, presumably the same papers initially presented in court and then withdrawn, where he described Susan as “unable to manage her financial affairs.” Bucca wrote that Susan was “unable to provide for her personal needs and property management.” He further asserted that “she cannot adequately understand the nature and consequences of such inability…and exhibited difficulty in discerning who were her true friends and who were trying to deprive her of financial resources they thought she had.”
So how was Susan Vosilla, a partially blind stroke survivor with a 10th grade education, suddenly capable of executing complicated legal documents granting Bucca Power of Attorney or understanding the implications of a will and trust?
Doria Vosilla was the executor of her mother’s estate but has been removed from that position in favor of an independent executor, Greene County Treasurer, Peter Markou according to Vosilla. It is expected that the Villa Vosilla Boutique Resort will be sold. The proceeds will be used to settle liabilities and the remaining money will be divided among the beneficiaries. Bucca said the judge is awaiting the administrator’s recommendation before final disposition of the estate. The case is being heard by the Hon. Judge George Bartlett, III who has appointed Nancy Hilscher to be an independent referee.
Vosilla states she fighting the forced sale of her 54-year old family business.