A glamorous caregiver has admitted she was in an ‘intimate relationship’ with infamous New York lawyer Burt Pugach, but denies starving the 93-year-old to death to snag his $15million estate, DailyMail.com can reveal.
Friends of Pugach – who became notorious in the 1950s for blinding his lover and then marrying her when he got out of prison – claim that Shamin ‘Sheila’ Frawley seduced the ailing millionaire to seize control of his fortune.
Pugach went to live with Frawley and her former NYPD cop husband after suffering a stroke and died on Christmas Eve, leaving the bulk of his money to her rather than a foundation for the blind he set up with his late wife.
His friends claim in a shocking lawsuit that 52-year-old Frawley exerted ‘undue influence’ on Pugach while he was under her roof, coercing him to change his will before she ‘stopped feeding him and took his life
But in new court filings exclusively obtained by DailyMail.com, Frawley’s legal team insist the former pals are making ‘baseless, despicable’ allegations to ‘obtain money that they are not entitled to’.
Shamin ‘Sheila’ Frawley, 52, – who is married – claims she had been in an ‘intimate relationship’ with late New York lawyer Burt Pugach (pictured together in 2019) after meeting him in 2016. Frawley had served as his caregiver until his death
Pugach, who died on Christmas Eve, left his $15 million estate to Frawley (pictured right with her husband William) 52. The funds were frozen by a judge after friends and ex colleagues accused Frawley of coercing Pugach into changing his will after he suffered a stroke
The mother-of-four has also defended her relationship with Pugach, insisting her marriage was over by the time she became his girlfriend and that the pair were a ‘monogamist’ couple – despite a 41-year-age gap.
‘I loved him deeply and spent half a year caring for him in the most compassionate and loving way imaginable,’ she protests in an affidavit filed in New York City Supreme Court.
Pugach became a household name in 1959 when he hired thugs to attack Linda Riss, a 22-year-old secretary with whom the married attorney had been having an affair.
When Linda broke off the relationship and got engaged to another man, Pugach warned her: ‘If I can’t have you, no one else will have you, and when I get through with you no one else will want you.’
True to his word, he hired three thugs who splashed her with lye, though he later claimed in interviews that he merely asked them to beat her up.
The abrasive chemical, commonly used in alkaline drain cleaners, left Linda blind in one eye and nearly blind in the other, and she hid her injuries behind her trademark oversized sunglasses for the rest of her life.
Her decision 14 years later to marry Pugach when he finished his sentence – by then divorced from his first wife and disbarred because of his felony conviction – dumbfounded friends and family while gripping the media.
Pugach shot to infamy in the late 1950s when he hired goons to blind his young lover Linda Riss with lye for ending their affair, yet married her 14 years later (pictured together)
Despite their troubled history, the marriage lasted 39 years. Linda succumbed to heart failure in 2013
Against all odds, their second act lasted for 39 years and became the subject of numerous articles, a book and the smash hit 2007 documentary, Crazy Love.
Pugach revised his will at least five times after Linda succumbed to heart failure in 2013, gifting differing amounts to friends, but always leaving the bulk of the money to the Burton and Linda Pugach Charitable Foundation for the visually impaired.
The foundation was left with nothing, however, when the will was updated for the final time in October last year, five months after Pugach suffered a stroke and went to live in Flushing with Frawley and her husband William, 55.
Pugach’s former attorney Peter Gordon, Gordon’s wife Maris, and his longtime friend Samuel Jacobowitz, say he was kept a virtual prisoner by Frawley who took advantage of his deteriorating health to steer him towards leaving her his money.
‘I have learned after his passing that during the period of Burt’s confinement, March 2020 through to his demise, approximately $15million was pledged to relatives and friends of Sheila,’ Gordon states in court documents.
Gordon said he noticed during visits to Frawley’s home that his friend of three decades was ‘susceptible to undue influence in that he was isolated from his friends’ and dependent on her for his meals, medication, and personal hygiene.
‘He would refer to Sheila as Mommy’, added Gordon, who hired Pugach as a paralegal after he was disbarred.
Frawley has insisted her marriage to William (pictured together in 2011) was over by the time she became Pugach’s girlfriend and that the pair were a ‘monogamist’ couple
The mother-of-four said she and William split in 2015 but the pair remained ‘amicable’ and didn’t divorce because she couldn’t afford health insurance and for ‘other financial reasons’
Gordon and his wife say they were due to receive $1million from Pugach’s estate before the revisions. Jacobowitz claims he was similarly written out of $5million.
‘I had visited Mr Pugach on at least 50 occasions since he lived at the home of Sheila where it appeared he was cared for and all his needs were being met until she stopped. Stopped feeding him and took his life. Claiming that was Burt’s wishes,’ Jacobowitz states in his affidavit.
‘This all occurred after all the changes in the beneficiaries and a new will was prepared and executed sometime in October 2020.’
Frawley, whose two sons Bill and Nicholas are also cops, refused a DailyMail.com request to discuss her relationship with Pugach, whom she first struck up conversation with inside a Queens deli in 2016.
In her January 12 filing, Frawley says she split from William one year earlier but the pair remained ‘amicable’ and didn’t divorce because she couldn’t afford health insurance and for ‘other financial reasons.’
‘I became involved in an intimate relationship with Burton Pugach in 2016. Shortly after meeting we began seriously dating in a monogamist relationship whereby we would attend family functions together and travel together,’ Frawley states.
‘We would frequently spend evenings at each other’s residences. I have never asked Burton Pugach for any financial assistance whatsoever.’
Frawley says she let Pugach move into her home in June 2020 only because he refused to go to a rehab facility and ‘no one else would take care of him.’
‘He had complete freedom to have anyone he wanted over to my house. Additionally, Burton had access to his cell phone to contact anyone he wanted to,’ she goes on in the filing.
‘In fact Burton regularly conducted his normal business of trading stocks on this phone, transacting dozens of trades during his stay at my home.
‘I was incredibly hurt and dismayed when I read that I was somehow responsible for Burton’s death.’
Pugach was married to another woman when he first crossed paths with Linda Riss, a 22-year-old secretary from the Bronx who bore more than a passing resemblance to a young Elizabeth Taylor
Her decision 14 years later to marry Pugach when he finished his sentence – by then divorced and disbarred because of his felony conviction – dumbfounded friends and family while gripping the media. Pictured: The couple in 1974
Frawley’s riposte includes a statement from a Dr Jeffrey Karwoski which states that Pugach was ‘mentally aware of his situation and able to make competent decisions’ when he changed his will on October 1 last year.
Her lawyers have submitted an affidavit from Steven Bracco, the attorney who drew up the paperwork, who says he held meetings with Pugach on four occasions and said his elderly client was not suffering from any physical or mental impairment which would have affected his judgement.
Against all odds, their second act lasted for 39 years and became the subject of numerous articles, a book and the 2007 documentary, Crazy Love
‘He was clear minded and under no duress or influence. He was a very strong willed and strong minded individual,’ Bracco states.
Frawley’s lawyers say the only money included in the final will and testament was a TD Ameritrade account containing $2.5million.
Everything else was signed over to Frawley in 2019, well before Pugach suffered his stroke and before anyone accuses her of having ‘undue influence’, argues Jonathan B. Strauss, who is representing her in the estate dispute.
In fact, Pugach was concerned that Gordon, rather than Frawley, was after his fortune, according to Strauss, who says he will present video and audio recordings to the court to prove this.
‘On several occasions, on video tape, Mr Pugach states that he is in fear that Mr Gordon is attempting to steal his money,’ Strauss writes.
‘We possess multiple video tapes of Mr Pugach where he makes unsolicited remarks stating how lucky he is to be at Shamin’s home and how well he is being cared for and how much he adores Shamin.’
Strauss says that Pugach was ‘last attended to’ by a physician two days before he died and that his death certificate lists natural causes rather than anything nefarious.
‘These baseless, despicable allegations demonstrate how money hungry these Plaintiffs are and that they will say anything in an attempt to obtain money that they are not entitled to,’ he adds.
Frawley’s final submission is a statement from Joe Rhodes, who says he was Pugach’s financial advisor for three decades until his retirement in 2010.
He says went to Frawley’s home every couple of weeks to check in on his old pal.
‘I asked him what would happen to the foundation he had set up in honor of Linda,’ Rhodes adds.
‘He said he didn’t care what happened to after it after he was gone… it was just a tax shelter.
Burt Pugach was ‘enchanted’ with glamorous caregiver – echoing intense obsession he had for his late wife, friends say
Grieving pals told DailyMail.com how Burt Pugach became ‘enchanted’ with his glamorous younger caregiver – echoing the intense obsession he had for his late wife Linda.
The rich widower is said to have become instantly smitten with Shamin ‘Sheila’ Frawley after striking up conversation during a 2016 meal at Ben’s Kosher Deli in Queens.
‘Burt was a flamboyant guy, fur coat, gold watch, nice car,’ said attorney Peter S. Thomas, who is suing Frawley on behalf of three of Pugach’s closest friends.
Grieving pals told DailyMail.com how Burt Pugach became ‘enchanted’ with his glamorous younger caregiver – echoing the intense obsession he had for his late wife Linda
‘In March, when Burt went into Sheila’s house and was paralyzed, he still had the idea he would get better and eventually move out.
‘She convinced Burt to swing more than $15m from the estate to her in a new will drafted by a new attorney.’
Peter Gordon, one of the three people suing Frawley, claims she coerced Pugach into changing his will.
‘She was married, she was with her husband when they met. But he was enchanted with their family, this woman, her husband and their children,’ Gordon, who is also a lawyer, told DailyMail.com.
Social media accounts suggest Frawley has two young daughters, whom she regularly takes to New York Mets games.
It’s not immediately clear what credentials she has as a caregiver though it’s believed she had previously worked as a home health aide.
Court entries seen by DailyMail.com reveal Frawley filed for divorce from her husband William, 55, in October.
Frawley hung up when reached by telephone and did not respond to further requests for comment.