Howard Frank, the beggar with the million dollar collection of entertainment photos who died under mysterious circumstances early in the morning of June 28th in Brooklyn, left a will. That will disinherits his only sibling and does not mention his business partner Frank Pohole or the man who loaned him tens of thousands of dollars to pay for the storage of those photos. Does that mean Howard Frank wasn't murdered?
Does the will you can read below mean that Howard Frank, a beggar with a million dollar photo collection, was not murdered?
I don't think so. Here's why.
Even though they're not mentioned in the will, several people had liens against Howard Frank's property. One is Henry Hewes, who paid tens of thousands of dollars in storage fees for Frank's photos. Two others are old friends who also loaned Howard Frank money – although significantly less than Hewes' $80,000.
However, Hewes wouldn't see his money until the collection sold or Howard Frank died. I'm told that police, however, don't consider Hewes to be a viable suspect because, they claim, Hewes has too much money to kill someone for $80,000.
Howard Frank's partner Frank Pohole may own a chunk of those photos, but he wouldn't have been able to sell them without Howard Frank's permission. Howard wanted top dollar for those photos, and wouldn't agree to sell for less.
Pohole told PIX 11 that he thought Satmar rabbis could have arranged to kill Howard Frank, because Howard Frank allegedly had dirt on them. Hewes allegedly told police something very similar to that, claiming that Howard Frank had dirt on many haredi rabbis in Brooklyn, and that he was threatening to use it unless the rabbis gave Howard Frank money to pay off his debts.
A friend of Howard Frank told me that Howard told him just before he died that he went to a particular rabbi's house, expecting to get the money he was promised. Instead, the rabbi handed him $200 and said this is the best I can do. This enraged Howard, and he may have threatened to release the dirt he had on that rabbi.
Another person close to Howard Frank told me that a few years ago, Howard Frank met a young prostitute whom he befriended. He wanted to get her help and brought her to the home of a haredi rabbi he was close to. The haredi rabbi saw the girl, turned pale and passed out – allegedly because he had previously had sex with her.
I asked Howard's brother Robert if Howard really had dirt on these haredi rabbis and on others. He told me he believed Howard probably did.
We don't how much of Howard Frank's photo collection was sold or traded to people who helped him, and we don't yet know the details of liens against his estate.
Friends of Howard Frank who were with him in the hours before he died and who are certain that he was not suicidal have called the NYPD in order to tell police what they know. None of them received a return call. None were spoken to by police who seem intent on having this death ruled a suicide or accident.
Howard Frank's death certificate lists the cause of death as, I'm told, "pending."
The lack of a definitive cause of death (thanks to the interference of Misaskim, the haredi organization that specializes in blocking them) coupled with Howard Frank's claims in the days and hours before his death that he was soon to be murdered because of a debt he owed point to a homicide, not an accidental drowning or a suicide.
We also don't know much about Howard Frank's relationships with the second cousins who inherit him. At least one had lent or given Howard money over the years, which in and of itself means nothing.
I called Paul Browne, the NYPD's chief spokeman, Tuesday to ask some questions regarding the will and some related documents I haven't yet posted.
He did not return my call.
(You may recall that weeks ago, when I broke this story, Browne responded late at night to an email I had sent him earlier that day seeking comment. He wrote that he would call me during the day. But he did not keep that promise.)
Howard Frank disinherited his brother Robert in large part because he blamed his brother – who is a haredi ba'al teshuva – for the lack of help he got from the Orthodox and haredi community, just as Howard blamed his brother decades before for deciding to become Orthodox. It was as if Howard wanted to punish Robert for what Howard saw as the failings of Robert's adopted community and its rabbis.
Howard Frank – a man who could not swim and who from his earliest years was terrified of water – breathed his last in the murky waters off Sunset Park, Brooklyn in the early morning of June 28, 2012, after telling more than a dozen people that he was about to be murdered. At this point, due to the lack of an autopsy and some really shoddy police work, we don't know what really killed him.
And due to the NYPD's unprofessional behavior and Misaskim's interference, we may never know for sure.