Brooklyn – Homicide detectives are investigating the mysterious death of an Orthodox Jewish man who begged for money outside shuls, even though his massive collection of vintage TV photos was said to be worth millions of dollars.
“I actually think he was murdered,” said shul regular, Aaron Farrell, when PIX 11 met him outside the shul on Friday. “He was always nervous the last few weeks. He was saying he owed $80,000 to someone and he was supposed to meet him.”
The money was apparently owed for Bensonhurst storage fees to house Howard Frank’s huge collection of one million photos ….of TV stars from the 1950’s to the 1990’s. He started collecting when he was 18, but his business took a “downturn” after the 9/11 terror attacks hurt the economy. Still, Frank was trying to find ways to digitize his collection.
On Wednesday night, June 27th, other members of the Landau Shul noticed Frank left much earlier than usual. His business partner of recent years, Frank Pohole, told PIX 11 that Howard Frank never made it home to Sunset Park, where Pohole had given the collector a place to sleep. Pohole was operating the website, Personality Photos.com, that sought to sell Howard Frank’s collection to serious bidders, if they were willing to offer “eight digits”. Those offering anything less were told to not bother contacting the site.
According to Howard Frank’s estranged brother, Reuven, acquaintances of Howard’s later said the troubled collector was telling them, “People were after him. They wanted to kill him.”
Some believe Howard Frank committed suicide, because he was evicted from his apartment several years ago, didn’t have a job, and owed money.
When we reached Frank Pohole on the phone Friday, we asked him about a document Howard Frank signed about a week before his death, putting a “lien” for $78,000 on his photo collection, in the event he died. This was to cover the storage fees he accumulated over the last, few years.
“Don’t you think it’s curious the timing of him signing this, and then he’s dead a week later?” PIX 11 asked Pohole.
Pohole responded, “Well, there were a lot of other things in Howard’s life he never told me about.”
“Howard kept a lot of things to himself,” Pohole told PIX 11. The business partner said he was cooperating fully with detectives from the 72nd Precinct in Brooklyn and “I told them what I knew.”
When we asked Pohole about the “eight figures” he wanted, before selling the collection, he responded, “You start high, then you work your way somewhere else.”
Reuven Frank said his brother’s begging-and his photo collection-sometimes helped Frank Pohole pay bills. “He told me he was paying this guy’s property taxes,” Reuven Frank said.
Frank Pohole acknowledged that was the case, at times. He answered all the questions PIX 11 put to him freely.
Howard Frank’s body was prepared for burial by an Orthodox Jewish group.
Howard Frank had never threatened suicide, according to his brother and sister-in -law. “He wouldn’t kill himself,” said Barbara Frank. “He was eccentric, but he wouldn’t kill himself.”
Yet Frank sensed he was going to die, in the days before he turned up in the Gowanus Canal. “He was saying good-bye to friends and telling them, ‘nice knowing you,'” his brother said.
Read the full report at WPIX TV.