The servant, identified only as “V.M.” in a court filing, cooked for the George family, cleaned the sprawling mansion, and cared for the couple’s five children.
The George estate has a helicopter pad, an indoor swimming pool, 15 fireplaces, Scandinavian marble flooring, a four-story solarium, 24-karat gold gilded ceilings, a glass elevator, and an array of other features. Before his death, George’s husband listed the residence for sale at $30 million.
According to a criminal complaint filed Monday against Annie George, 39, the servant entered the U.S. on a non immigrant visa in 1998 to work for the family of a United Nations employee. She began working for the Georges in late-2005 after being offered about $1000 per month, a substantial pay increase.
In reality, “V.M” received sporadic minimal payments from the Georges. A U.S. District Court complaint estimates that the servant received about $29,000 over the five-and-a-half years she worked for the family. A U.S. Department of Labor investigation determined that the woman was “lawfully entitled” to a minimum of “approximately $206,000 for the entire approximate six years of V.M.’s work
Annie George Kolath-She knew the law, but the husband George Kolath was not there to help
For many people, the Llenroc Mansion in Rexford represents opulence and elegance. To others, it's a symbol of greed and corruption.
More than a decade after Llenroc's original owner, Al Lawrence, went to prison for his financial misdeeds, the property's current owner is now facing unsettling charges of her own.
A criminal complaint filed this week in U.S. District Court in Albany alleges that the family has had an illegal immigrant from India working for them for several years.
Court papers say the domestic worker, who speaks virtually no English, was hired for "cooking, cleaning and child care" and was expected to work from "approximately 5:45 a.m. to approximately 11 p.m. every day of the week....with no personal or sick days."
She says she was "never taken to a doctor or dentist during the entire period of her employment" and she "slept on the floor in a walk-in closet."
The U.S. Labor Department estimates the worker may have been shortchanged by "approximately $206,000."
Mathai K. George Kolath died in a plane crash.
A single-engine plane bounced along the runway and struggled to get aloft before it crashed into the Mohawk River on Sunday afternoon, witnesses said.
Divers pulled the bodies of a 52-year-old man and an 11-year-old boy from the 1969 Piper more than an hour after it sank to the bottom of the river, FAA spokesman Jim Peters said. A 41-year-old man who has not been located also is believed to have been aboard the plane, which crashed at 2:21 p.m. and sank in about 20 feet of water shortly after it took off from Mohawk Valley Airport, State Police Capt. John McCarthy Jr. said.
Authorities have not released the victims' identities. The plane is expected to be removed from the river today. FAA and National Transportation Safety Board investigators are expected to be at the scene today.
One of the apparent victims was George Kolath of the Sage Estates in Latham. Kolath, 41, also known as Mathai K. George, is a real estate developer who is currently trying to sell the famous Llenroc mansion in Rexford for $30 million. Llenroc is the palatial estate overlooking the Mohawk built by the late insurance magnate Albert Lawrence in the 1990s, before he lost his fortune and was sent to federal prison for fraud.
Kolath Mansion- It has a helicopter pad, 15 fireplaces, an indoor swimming pool shaped like a sailboat and ceilings gilded in 24-karat gold.
But the castle-like mansion known as Llenroc — one of the Capital Region’s most impressive and grandiose homes — has sold for a discounted sum that’s only a fraction of the original asking price.
The mansion at 708 Riverview Road in Rexford was once the pride and joy of disgraced insurance magnate Albert Lawrence, who built the home nearly 20 years ago and modeled it after the campus center at Cornell University.
In November, the mega-home was purchased for $1.87 million — far less than the $12.9 million asking price of two years ago and dramatically beneath the $30 million that an Albany-based hotelier sought for the property before he died in a plane crash.
The purchase price seems like a steal. After all, the home sits on 12 acres along the Mohawk River. It has Scandinavian marble flooring once valued at $3.5 million. The mansion also has 34 rooms, including 10 bathrooms; a five-story glass elevator; eight fountains; and underground parking for 20 cars.
To some, the house is a monument to greed and materialism. To Lawrence, the house was a monument to his financial success and to his alma mater. (Llenroc is Cornell spelled backward.)
But the man who headed Lawrence Group Inc., a Schenectady-based stable of insurers and underwriters, filed for bankruptcy protection in 1997. He lost his mansion to foreclosure that same year, but the mortgage holder allowed Lawrence and his wife Barbara to continue living in the home until its sale.
In 2000, Lawrence was sentenced to 20 years in prison for embezzlement, fraud and tax evasion in connection with the collapse of his business. He died in jail in 2002.
Joseph Costello, a commodities trader, and his wife bought the house in 2003 for $1.4 million, well below its $3.2 million assessed value.
Their real estate agent said the Costellos had become “empty nesters” and no longer needed a home so large, so they put Llenroc back on the market in 2007 for $12.9 million — on the eve of a real estate slump that made expensive real estate exceedingly difficult to sell.
Experienced Capital Region real estate agents rolled their eyes at the asking price.
“That seems like that was just fantasyland,” Scott Varley, a Saratoga Springs agent, said Friday.
But that didn’t stop Mathai Kolath George, a hotelier also known as George Kolath, from asking $30 million for the property earlier this year. George died in June, when the plan that carried him hurtled off a Mohawk Valley Airport runway and landed in the Mohawk River. His 11-year-old son also died in the crash.
It is unclear whether Kolath ever lived at Llenroc, but he marketed the property as the Kolath Estate and it seems he was planning to take ownership of the property at the time of his death.
A cancellation of a contract of sale between Costello and Kolath is on record with the Saratoga County Clerk. In early November, a deed was filed marking the sale of the property from Costello to an entity called Power Angels LLC.
Power Angels listed its address as an Albany post office box, but no other information about the buyer was available Friday.
It is unclear whether Power Angels plans to use Llenroc as a single-family home, although Clifton Park Town Supervisor Philip Barrett said Friday that no plans have been filed with the town to change the mansion’s use.
Real estate agents say the $1.9 million purchase price seems low, considering the size of the estate and that less opulent properties can be bought for the same amount.
Bob Blackman, who was involved in trying to sell the property after the Lawrence foreclosure, noted that Llenroc’s view of the Knolls Atomic Power Laboratory, across the river in Niskayuna, is a minus for some buyers.
And many potential buyers, he said, are turned off by the property’s more ostentatious and maintenance-intensive features, such as the indoor pool.
“You couldn’t rebuild it today for that price,” said Blackman, a vice president at RealtyUSA in Clifton Park. “But at the same token, all the amenities aren’t necessary things that people want.”
They were an unlikely couple from the start, as friends and relatives of Yesica Suarez and Akshaan Arora kept reminding them.
She's from Venezuela; he's from India. She's a devout Catholic; he's a Hindu-turned-atheist. She grew up speaking Spanish and watching telenovelas; he grew up speaking Hindi and watching Bollywood musicals.
Even at George Mason University -- where Suarez and Arora met and where immigrants and international students make the campus of 30,000 feel like the United Nations -- their melting-pot romance prompted friends to ask whether they knew what they were doing. They weren't sure how to answer.
"I never thought I would date anyone outside my culture," said Suarez, a 21-year-old senior studying information systems operation management.
"It's sometimes more easy to talk to someone who knows the language you do, who knows the culture you do," said Arora, a 21-year-old finance major.
The United States is home to every kind of immigrant -- Bosnians and Bolivians, Circassians and Frisians -- but when it comes to dating, and especially marrying, most people stick with their own kind. Of married immigrants in the United States, 10 percent are wed to immigrants from a different country, 19 percent to U.S. natives and 71 percent to immigrants from the same country, according to the Pew Hispanic Center.
There are plenty of reasons not to date across cultures: religious differences, family intolerance, social gatherings that are deadly boring for the significant other who doesn't understand the language. But in the densely diverse Washington area, many immigrants cross paths, and where paths cross, love can blossom.
It did for Suarez and Arora. They met in 2008 when they pledged the same professional fraternity at George Mason and immediately formed a tight friendship. Both had long-distance relationships -- she with a guy who lived in Venezuela; he with a woman in Sweden -- and they would talk on the phone into the early hours of the morning, counseling each other on love.
But when those relationships ended, the two started to notice things about each other.
"Her lips," he said. "Definitely her lips."
His eyes -- "big, brown puppy eyes," Suarez said.
Arora started behaving differently. "He was being more special with me," she said. "Like we'd be at a friend's party and he'd be like, 'Hey, are you going to stay late?' And he would get the pool stick for me, and not for anyone else."
Then, a year ago, he asked her to spend Valentine's Day with him in Baltimore. They walked around the Inner Harbor and watched a kids' magic show on the sidewalk. Arora seemed nervous.
"Normally, he's very talkative," Suarez said. "But he was so quiet. I was like, 'Come on, hey, what's up, we're best friends.'"
As the afternoon progressed, she got cold. He put his arm around her shoulders, and they kissed.
But falling in love was just the first step. What would they tell their families?
For the first six months, they said nothing. Suarez's parents knew she had a friend named Akshaan, but only her younger sister, who was sworn to secrecy, knew they were dating.
When she finally broke the news to her parents, "at first, my mom was really confused," said Suarez, whose family moved to Woodbridge when she was 10. "She would say, 'He's from India, that's a different culture from you, he doesn't speak Spanish.' . . . She'd be like, 'Bring him over,' and totally interrogate him."
The interrogations didn't necessarily calm her fears. "She's like, 'Yesica, he doesn't believe in God, are you okay with that?' "
Jaclyn Chaudhuri, who blogs about intercultural relationships at gorigirl.com, said that family members can be one of the biggest sticking points. "They're not sure what to talk about -- cultural references, TV shows, all the odds and ends that you share in growing up in a particular culture or particular nation, you just don't have those things to relate to."
Negotiating cultural chasms takes work, said Martha Silva, an immigrant from Colombia who married an immigrant from Iran 25 years ago. At social gatherings, Silva and her husband, Kambiz Karimian, limit the time they chat with others in Spanish or Farsi before switching to English.
"In Iranian culture, the men don't usually ask each other's wives to dance," Silva said, whereas in Colombia, that is common among friends. Silva now dances with friends they've known for decades, and Karimian doesn't mind.
Arora's parents live in India. "My mom really, really expected me to marry within my culture," said Arora, who came to the United States four years ago to attend college. In the absence of his parents, his aunts and sisters, who live with him in Vienna, vetted Suarez.
"I was so nervous," Suarez said. "Oh, my God, am I going to be like the awkward kid here? Are they going to ask too many questions? Are they going to stare at me?"
But the women bonded over girl talk. "They basically just sat down and talked about me. They just bashed me down for hours," Arora said, laughing as the couple recently shared a sundae pie at George Mason's food court.
The two cut striking figures on campus. He's 6-foot-3, with an open smile and those puppy eyes; she's 5-foot-10, with long, chestnut-colored hair and a wide, easy smile. At school, they cuddle often. But with his socially conservative family, they are careful not to be too "smoochy."
"We don't show a lot of affection in front of them," Arora said.
Suarez's mom, Florangel Pernia, said she'd always worried that American boyfriends might not be as family-oriented as Venezuelans. She had no idea what to expect from an Indian. But she was won over last year when Suarez had surgery.
"I was expecting a phone call later, but no, he showed up. He just stayed quiet in a corner, waiting and waiting all the time," she said. "I could see how concerned he was, trying to talk to the doctor."
Suarez couldn't drive after the surgery, so Arora drove her everywhere. "When I see those kinds of behaviors with my daughter, I'm very happy that she's with this guy."
That doesn't mean everything always goes smoothly. When Arora prepared a vegetable dish for Suarez's family a few months ago, her father screamed. Her sister cried. Everyone started gulping down milk.
"If you look in her cupboard, she has only one small bottle of black pepper," Arora said. "In ours, we have black pepper, red pepper, Cajun pepper, green chili pepper."
And there are more serious differences, too, as they discovered when discussing a future that might include children. "I'm like, 'I'm going to teach them how to be Catholic,' " Suarez said, "and he's like, 'No, no, they'll choose for themselves.' "
But they have much in common. Both are athletic -- they played a lot of tennis over the summer -- and he has been helping her sharpen her billiards skills. They have come up with rituals, such as Monday movie nights, when they take turns choosing the film. (She picks mushy movies; he likes horror.)
They don't know where they'll end up living after graduation, but they fantasize about moving to Rome. Why?
"Because it's a completely new culture for both of us," Suarez said. "It's not one person's." That also goes for the relationship they've made together, she said. "I feel like we created our own thing: a Spanish-American-Indian mix."