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Widow of mall developer Disque Deane is sued by their children for fraud

Carol Deane (center), at a charity event in 2015.
Carol Deane (center), at a charity event in 2015.Bill Brett for the Boston Globe

Disque D. Deane made a fortune developing shopping malls, including South Shore Plaza and the Burlington Mall, as well as Starrett City in Brooklyn, the largest federally subsidized housing complex in the country. More than 10 years after his death, two of his adult children are fighting with their mother over money he set aside for them.

Anne and Carl Deane filed a lawsuit last week in Boston against Carol Deane, alleging she defrauded them as minors by transferring to herself tens of millions of dollars in financial interests that belonged to them. The holdings were set aside for the siblings by their father when they were small children, with their mother — Disque Deane’s third wife — serving as custodian.

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Carol Deane “engaged in breaches of fiduciary duty, fraudulent conduct, and outright theft against her own natural children . . . when they were minors and not even 10 years old,” according to the lawsuit, which was filed in Suffolk Superior Court. “Despite that Anne’s and Carl’s father . . . had made plans to, and in fact did, leave Carol very wealthy, with not less than $50,000,000, Carol decided that was not enough.”

It is at least the second time that Anne, 32, and Carl, 29, have gone to court against their mother. In a 2018 lawsuit in New York, the siblings alleged that she unilaterally and improperly reduced their stake in a entity called Starrett City Preservation LLC that owned 20 percent of Starrett City. Anne runs a fashion company in London and Carl grows soybeans in Bolivia.

The move cut the siblings’ proceeds from the sale of Starrett City earlier that year by $5.9 million each, according to the lawsuit. They lost that case.

Reached by telephone, Carol Deane, 69, who has long maintained a home on Beacon Hill, declined to comment. Her attorney, Kenneth E. Warner in New York, later e-mailed a statement calling the lawsuit baseless.

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“Instead of gratitude for the tens of millions of dollars already bestowed on them by their parents, the children have repeatedly sued their mother for more. . . . They are taking advantage of their father’s passing to now continue in the courts of Massachusetts their relentless pursuit of more and more money, in the process attacking their father’s name and reputation, as well as their mother’s.”

In a statement, her children said, “We are saddened by the fact that we have been compelled to file this lawsuit against our mother Carol Deane.”

The Boston lawsuit also involves Starrett City, which was renamed Spring Creek Towers in 2002 but is still widely known by its original name. This time, Anne and Carl focus on a combination of transactions orchestrated by their mother that took place long before the massive rental complex was sold for more than $900 million — a deal that was unsuccessfully challenged by four children of Disque Deane from previous marriages.

According to the new lawsuit, those transactions, conducted from 2005 through 2009, were unlawful and effectively cut Anne’s and Carl’s combined stake in Starrett City by more than half, breaching Carol’s fiduciary duty as custodian to act in the best interests of the children.

Carol Deane also failed to adjust the ratios by which distributions were made to her and her husband, Anne, and Carl, at the expense of the siblings, the lawsuit alleges. And she caused business records, documents, and files to be shredded and destroyed by both her and, at her direction, her late sister Mary Clarke.

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In the lawsuit, the siblings said they are seeking at least $119 million in compensatory damages.