New Jersey judge to consider removing an executor of the estate of ‘Queen of Salsa’ Celia Cruz

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NEWARK, N.J. (AP) – A New Jersey judge next month will consider whether to remove one of the executors handling the affairs of the late Celia Cruz, a singer beloved as the “Queen of Salsa.”

The hearing is to be held in response to charges by the executor that co-executor Luis Falcon has been spending money intended for Cruz’s husband, ailing trumpeter Pedro Knight.

In addition to scheduling the Feb. 9 hearing, Superior Court Judge Peter E. Doyne this week appointed a New York lawyer to represent Knight’s interests as guardian.

Falcon has drained funds from accounts for Knight, made “extravagant expenditures” and failed to account for transfers of more than $1 million from Cruz’s estate, according to a lawsuit filed by co-executor Omer Pardillo, of Cliffside Park.

In addition, Falcon is exercising improper influence over Knight, who is 85 and suffering from dementia, the lawsuit claimed. After Cruz died in 2003, Knight moved to California with Falcon, the lawsuit said.

Efforts to reach Falcon for comment Thursday weren’t successful. A phone number he included on a legal document he filed last month in another case rang unanswered on several attempts.

Falcon doesn’t have a lawyer, according to the document and to Pardillo lawyer Gilberto M. Garcia, who sought to have a guardian appointed for Knight.

Knight is believed to be living with Falcon in Torrance, Calif., Garcia said.

Cruz and Knight had lived outside New York in Fort Lee, N.J. Cruz died July 16, 2003, of a brain tumor at age 77. Cruz named Knight her sole beneficiary in her will, the lawsuit said.

Cruz rose to fame in the 1950s with Afro-Cuban group La Sonora Matancera, but left Cuba after the 1959 revolution. The Grammy-winning performer recorded over 70 albums.

Even before her death, streets in Cuban-American sections of Union City, N.J., and Miami were named in her honor.

The hearing before Doyne, who sits in Hackensack, also will address Pardillo’s request for Falcon to provide information on the estate’s finances.

“An accounting has to be rendered, which is one of the most important things, because there are allegations of mismanagement of the estate,” Garcia said.

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