Montco prosecutors won’t get into Perelman family squabble

Posted: August 25, 2012

Montgomery County prosecutors said Friday that they would not investigate a claim by the philanthropist Raymond Perelman that his wife's death certificate was illegally altered last year by their son Jeffrey.

Declining to wade into a bitter family feud involving two moneyed titans of Philadelphia society, a deputy to District Attorney Risa Vetri Ferman said the office would not take the case because none of the alleged misdeeds occurred in the county.

The letter from Deputy District Attorney Christopher Maloney also chastised Perelman, 95, for wasting time and other resources.

Maloney noted that Perelman took his claim to Montgomery County after being rebuffed by the Philadelphia District Attorney's Office, which said it "lacked prosecutorial merit," and by a Common Pleas Court judge in the city.

"Your failure to mention any of these facts when you endeavored to convince my office to file charges based on the same unfounded and rejected complaint," he wrote, "is troublesome and curious."

The letter said Maloney planned to send a copy to the Bucks County district attorney so he "might not squander the limited prosecutorial resources of his office should you attempt a third similar effort."

The decision stirred dueling, if not predictable, responses from the father and son, who have been privately and publicly warring for several years - before, after, and now aboutthe July 2011 death of Ruth C. Perelman.

Jeffrey Perelman, 63, hailed the prosecutors' decision as an appropriate end to a "frivolous" complaint.

"My father's ploy to use our legal system to harass my family over charges that consistently and repeatedly have been found to be without merit is disturbing," Jeffrey Perelman, of Wynnewood, said in a statement. "I hope that my father and his lawyers can learn to exercise better judgment going forward."

Raymond Perelman brushed off the ruling as just a battle in a campaign and signaled he would appeal to the county court.

"We believe the Montgomery County D.A. has jurisdiction, and we will seek to compel the prosecution of this offense to the fullest extent of the law and have the courts uphold my right to seek justice," said the statement from Perelman, who spent Friday at the East Hampton, N.Y., home of his older son, the billionaire investor Ronald Perelman.

The elder Perelman's name adorns - and his fortune has helped build - some of the region's most recognizable art, cultural, educational, and medical institutions. Jeffrey Perelman and his wife, Marsha, have attained similar status through successful business ventures and as prominent supporters of institutions such as Children's Hospital of Philadelphia.

The family estrangement, detailed in reams of court filings in recent years, is almost as legendary. The private criminal complaint was just the latest.

In it, Raymond Perelman contended that Jeffrey Perelman and a lawyer, John Boxer, improperly persuaded a funeral director to change Ruth Perelman's death certificate in August 2011.

The original form, in which Raymond Perelman is identified as the person supplying the information, listed the couple's Palm Beach address as their mailing address and Florida as the state they called home.

The complaint noted that Ruth Perelman, who died at age 90 after seven decades of marriage, had voted in Florida almost 20 times since 1996. But on the amended death certificate, Ruth Perelman's mailing address was listed as her Rittenhouse Square home. She died July 31, 2011, in Philadelphia.

Raymond Perelman claimed his son changed the document without permission from him, the certificate informant, and in doing so committed document deception and record tampering.

The criminal complaint did not explain why or how the younger Perelman would benefit from such a change, but the elder Perelman said it could expose him to "significant financial harm" because he and his wife enjoyed tax breaks by declaring to be domiciled in Florida. Property-tax records show their oceanfront home was assessed in 2010 at $19 million, with taxes of $92,000.

In his complaint, Perelman said he brought the claim in Montgomery County because his son lives there, suggesting that Jeffrey Perelman and Boxer may have been in the county when they arranged to change the certificate.

Boxer has declined to discuss the matter. His law firm, Morgan, Lewis & Bockius, issued a statement Friday declaring that the prosecutor's decision "speaks for itself and puts this matter to rest."

Contact John P. Martin at 215-854-4774 or, or follow @JPMartinInky on Twitter.

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