Son Must Pay Estate $1.6 Million Money Hidden By Track Owner's Kin

Posted: December 02, 1986

Eugene E. Mori, son of the late founder of Garden State Park, has been ordered to pay his mother's estate about $1.6 million, which a judge says he had hidden in a Swiss bank account.

Burlington County Superior Court Judge Harold B. Wells 3d ordered Mori to turn the money over to Bernard W. Capaldi, executor of the estate of Olive Mori, who died in 1975 at age 76. The judge also ruled that Eugene Mori was liable for interest on unpaid taxes on the money.

"The court rejected his defense that these actions were taken in good faith to implement the alleged wish of his parents that the money be given to him upon their deaths free of taxes, " Wells wrote.

Capaldi, acting on behalf of the estate, sued for the money, which Mori had kept hidden from his two sisters, Joan McCrane and Janice Vondra, from March 1974 to May 1977, according to the decision.

Wells, in a decision dated Nov. 21 and released yesterday, said, "He comingled the assets with monies of his own in an account called the Maraflora Foundation, from August 1975 to May 1977, in the Union Bank of Switzerland at Lausanne and used certain of the monies during that period of time for his own purposes.

"He failed to account either as co-guardian or as co-executor of the assets in Switzerland as required by law and the rules of the court.

Eugene V. Mori, who died three months after his wife at age 77, was born to humble surroundings in Vineland, N.J. He amassed a fortune after building the old Garden State Park, which opened in 1942, and took control of Hialeah Race Course in Florida in 1955. His fortune at his death was estimated at $35 million.

While the elder Mori was amassing his wealth, he began to deposit money in his own Swiss bank account by carrying cash in a briefcase to Switzerland once or twice a year between 1958 and 1972. Mori called his bank account Man of War, after the great racehorse.

In 1974, the elder Mori was declared incompetent to handle his own affairs, and his son and wife were appointed guardians.

Then, in August 1974, the son and wife opened an account in Olive Mori's name at the Swiss Credit Bank in Zurich and transferred to it the assets of the Man of War account, according to court documents.

Within a month of his mother's death in July 1975, the younger Mori transferred the assets of his mother's Swiss bank account to the Maraflora Foundation account, according to the documents.

After her mother's death, Joan McCrane became suspicious, while rummaging through some papers, that her mother might have a Swiss bank account. McCrane then acted to have the suit brought against her brother.

In 1977, a judge ruled that Mori had used "undue influence" on his father in the drawing of a will in 1974 that would have given him a cash settlement and placed his sisters' inheritances in trust.

McCrane, of Moorestown, could not be reached for comment last night, but her attorney, Julius B. Poppinga, said the money would go to the estate and then be disbursed to McCrane and Vondra.

"It's been a long time coming," Poppinga said.

Wells has scheduled a hearing for Jan. 12 to determine the exact amount of money, including counsel fees and other expenses, to be recovered from Mori.

Neither Mori nor his attorney could be reached for comment last night.

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