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N.Y. firm asks court to take over Moonda assets

| Saturday, Feb. 17, 2007

A New York investment firm has asked federal court to take control of more than $2 million invested by a Mercer County physician shot and killed along the Ohio Turnpike.

Dr. Gulam Moonda, 69, of Hermitage, had one account owned jointly with his wife, Donna, and four individual retirement accounts that named no beneficiary, according to a plea for relief filed in Pittsburgh this week by Merrill Lynch, based in New York City.

Donna Moonda, 47, is scheduled to stand trial in June in a federal court in Akron in her husband's death. She is accused of hiring her lover, Damian Ray Bradford, 25, of Beaver County, to kill the doctor so they could split her share of his estate.

She faces the death penalty if convicted. Bradford has pleaded guilty and is cooperating with prosecutors in exchange for a prison sentence that would be completed by the time he is 40.

The two co-executors of Dr. Moonda's will, Dr. Ravindra K. Sachdeva and Dr. Iftikhar A. Chata, as well as Donna Moonda, each have claimed an interest in the accounts, according to court papers filed by Merrill Lynch.

However, if Donna Moonda is convicted, she would be unable to collect any of her husband's estate under Pennsylvania's "Slayer's Act," which forbids anyone from benefiting by causing the death of another.

Merrill Lynch is making no claim to any of the funds in the five accounts, except to satisfy any fees or commissions that are due.

The firm said it needs direction from the court to determine who is entitled to the proceeds.

Merrill Lynch said it is willing to place the accounts with the federal clerk of courts or to keep them under court control.

The investment firm wants the court to issue an injunction barring anyone from commencing civil action against Merrill Lynch because of the accounts.

Earlier this month, Sachdeva and Chata agreed with a request by Northwestern Mutual Life Insurance Co. to allow the court to take control of $683,482 in life insurance benefits. Donna Moonda was named the beneficiary of those accounts.

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