A MAN WHO STOLE a dead woman's house and car pleaded guilty yesterday to felony charges of theft by deception and conspiracy.
Romanoff Quarles, 44, was one of six men accused of conspiring to steal the house or car of Dorothy Kennedy, who lived alone on Marshall Street near Johnston, in South Philly, and who died Aug. 21, 2010, at 79. Her husband, Frank, died two years earlier.
Quarles lived around the corner from the Kennedys, on Johnston Street near Marshall. After Dorothy Kennedy died, he contacted real-estate attorney Andrew Kaufman and told him he wanted to buy Kennedy's house at a low price.
The two then carried out a scheme, with the help of a real-estate agent and two men who were in the funeral-home business, allowing Quarles to buy Kennedy's house for $26,000 - about half its market value of $52,380. The sale closed in 2012.
Quarles also stole Kennedy's Buick LeSabre. Within months after Dorothy Kennedy died, he drove off with the car, which was parked behind her house.
About two years later, he went to West City Select, an auto-tag shop in West Philly, to get the title of the car transferred from Frank Kennedy's name to his own. He forged Frank Kennedy's name as the car's seller and signed his own name as the buyer.
As part of a plea agreement, Quarles is expected to be sentenced to six to 23 months of house arrest, followed by four years' probation. He also will have to pay $26,000 in restitution to the commonwealth, Assistant District Attorney Brad Bender said.
Under the law, since Dorothy Kennedy had no legal heirs and no will, her estate should have been transferred to the state.
As part of the scheme to steal the house, Kaufman proposed that Quarles become the administrator of Kennedy's estate as a creditor. He advised Quarles to "build up a case against the estate" by paying for expenses on behalf of the estate, according to the grand-jury presentment in this case.
Kaufman advised Quarles, for example, to pay for Kennedy's funeral expenses.
With the help of Marvin Kimble, who once ran his own funeral home, and Antoine Turay, who runs Turay Memorial Funeral Chapel, on 22nd Street near Sergeant in North Philadelphia, Quarles was able to obtain a bogus funeral bill that artificially inflated funeral expenses for Kennedy, showing about $6,000 in services, according to the presentment.
In reality, Kennedy was buried in a pauper's grave.
While Kaufman had petitioned to have Quarles appointed the administrator of Kennedy's estate, the Register of Wills office instead appointed Kaufman the administrator since he was Quarles' attorney.
A sentencing date for Quarles was scheduled for Oct. 14 before Common Pleas Judge Robert Coleman.
Kaufman, 57, of Cherry Hill, pleaded guilty to theft and conspiracy charges in February. Vincent Marciano, 63, a South Philly real-estate broker, is expected to plead guilty next month.
Kimble, 58; Turay, 35; and another defendant, Damion Rivers, 32, who worked at West City Select, are expected to take their cases to trial.
Quarles' attorney, Daniel-Paul Alva, said yesterday: "Mr. Quarles today took responsibility for what he had done. In cooperating with the commonwealth, he hopefully can make amends for what he did wrong."
Asked if Quarles will testify against his co-defendants, Alva said: "If called to testify for the commonwealth, he will do so."
In another case, Turay pleaded guilty June 11 to stealing $300,000 and a house from a 91-year-old woman. He was sentenced under a plea deal to 10 years' probation and ordered to pay restitution to the victim.
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