Troubled Calverton farmer preps to sue towns, county — addresses letter to President Obama

08/12/2011 12:16 PM |

BARBARAELLEN KOCH FILE PHOTO | A 2007 picture of Marie Tooker with kids from the Giving Camp, which she had run at her Calverton farm.

A Calverton farm owner who was arrested last month for allegedly neglecting horses and other animals has filed separate notices of claim seeking $200 million each from Riverhead and Southampton towns, as well as Suffolk County, the News-Review has learned.

She’s claiming discrimination, harassment, civil rights violations and other charges that have led to the loss of her property, where she had once dreamed of building an orphanage.

A notice of claim reserves the right to file a lawsuit down the line.

Marie Guerrera-Tooker owned the 130-acre Abbess Farm on Route 25 in Calverton, which is currently the subject of a foreclosure.

She also owns land in Flanders at which she used to house homeless people. The town had charged her with code violations after investigating the property, but she says she won on 17 of the 24 charges in court.

She was fined, sentenced to three years’ probation and made to take psychiatric tests on the seven code violations for which she was found guilty, she said.

The Suffolk County SPCA recently charged her with animal cruelty, saying that horses, a pony and other animals on the Calverton farm off Edwards Avenue were unfed and neglected.

Ms. Tooker has maintained that since her Abbess Farm went into foreclosure, it has been in the hands of a court-appointed receiver, and she is not permitted on the land, although she was living there when authorities descended on the property in late April and took custody of  two dozen horses and ponies — two of which were allegedly found locked in a barn with no food or water. She was just charged last month with three counts of animal cruelty in connection with that raid.

One of the locked-up horses was severely malnourished and a pony was found suffering from an intense eye infection, Suffolk SPCA Chief Roy Gross, had said.

The Suffolk SPCA has since launched a campaign to raise $5,000 in order to get that pony surgery and medication to save its eye.

Over the years, Ms. Tooker has frequently alleged that Riverhead Town and Suffolk County officials have harassed her and thwarted her efforts to use the Calverton land — in particular to realize her long-held dream of building an orphanage — in an effort to take it from her for non-payment of taxes or foreclosure. She has even said her own relatives have been conspiring against her in a bid to take the land and sell it.

She said she will include the SPCA actions in her lawsuit against the county, though the SCPA is a nonprofit group that has no affiliation with the Suffolk County government.


In 2005, Ms. Tooker sold the development rights to 90 of the 130 acres on Route 25 to Suffolk County, meaning that the 90 acres can be farmed, but not developed.

In a letter sent to the News-Review this week, but addressed to President Barack Obama, Ms. Tooker, who describes herself as a “single mother of three,” writes, “I have been left with no other choice but to serve three municipal entities that are under your administration a notice of claim for $200 million each for incomprehensible crimes including but not limited to United States Constitutional Violations of the First, Fourth, Eighth, and Fourteenth Amendments and New York Constitutional Violations as well.”

She said she filed notices of claims against Riverhead Town, Southampton Town and Suffolk County and writes, ” I assure you that my claim is valid and will be proven.”

In the notice of claim filed with Riverhead Town and dated July 28, Ms. Tooker, who filed the claim without an attorney, alleges: “police misconduct, United States Constitutional Violations of First, Fourth, Eighth and 14th (amendments), conspiracy, fraud, conflict of interest, the RICO (Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations) act. destroying the viability of a farm, impartial treatment in dealing with the government officials and offices in the Township of Riverhead, obstruction of justice, malicious prosecution, harassment, discrimination, unlawful threats, false allegations and charges, infliction of emotional distress, and negligence.”

It does not give specific examples of those allegations, which is not required in a notice of claim.

Town Attorney Bob Kozakiewicz confirmed that the town has received the notice of claim and will be preparing a response.

Prior to the foreclosure proceedings, Ms. Tooker had held or proposed several events on the Calverton property, often to raise money for a charity. These included a carnival featuring a concert by rapper Darryl McDaniel of Run-DMC that took place in 2006 and was a fundraiser for a non-profit group co-founded by Mr. McDaniel that wanted to build a camp for orphans at Abbess Farm.

The Long Island Irish Festival also was held on the land in 2008. It was a fundraiser for a plan to build an Irish cultural center at Abbess Farm, according to the Irish Cultural Centre of Long Island, which promoted the event and was seeking to build the center.

Other plans didn’t fare so well.

In 2009, a motorcycle daredevil show was proposed at the site to benefit the United Veterans Beacon House of Bay Shore, but the show was canceled after the promoter, stunt rider Louis Re of Middle Island, blamed the town for dragging its feet in processing the application.

Ms. Tooker also frequently hosted school children and children from orphanages at the farm, letting them interact with the farm animals.

She said she plans to file separate lawsuits against the three municipalities once the 30 day period by which they must respond to her notices of claim have passed.

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