Carvel ice cream heiress’s trip to bankruptcy court ends in sticky mess; judge seeks her arrest

By Dan Christensen,

Pamela Carvel testifying in New York in 2009

One of Florida’s strangest bankruptcy cases is drawing to a close in federal court in Fort Lauderdale.

Pamela Carvel, the litigious niece of Carvel Ice Cream’s late rags-to-riches founder, filed the case voluntarily last year amid a bitter, 17-year legal struggle for control over the assets from an estate once valued at $67 million.

She got more than she bargained for.

Carvel’s $1.6 million home on secluded Mayan Lake off A1A in Fort Lauderdale’s exclusive Harbor Beach neighborhood was seized and auctioned at the end of May to the highest bidder. Her six New York City rental apartments were also sold off against her wishes by court order.

U.S Trustee Leslie Osborne said he’s recovered about $2.9 million to pay off Carvel’s creditors, including several law firms and the Thomas and Agnes Carvel Foundation, with whom Pamela Carvel has grappled so long in court.

Carvel also is now a fugitive.

U.S. Bankruptcy Court Judge John K. Olson of Fort Lauderdale ordered U.S. Marshal’s to arrest her on sight nearly a year ago for civil contempt after she repeatedly ignored his orders.

Carvel does not have an attorney. In a recent email to Broward Bulldog, she accused the judge and Osborne of being in cahoots with the foundation created by her late aunt and uncle.

“There has been theft of over $700 million belonging to the Carvel family, with tax evasion through estate tax fraud, income tax fraud, charity fraud and capital gains tax fraud,” she wrote. “’Justice goes to the highest briber. Crime is rampant in the courts…but this is nothing new.”

Carvel’s initial court filings indicate, and those familiar with the case contend, that Carvel’s bankruptcy filing was a ploy in her broader legal war against the foundation.

If so, she was the one trapped by the legal tactic.

Thomas Carvel

Court records trace the “genesis” of the litigation to the 1988 “mirror-image wills” signed by the Carvels.

When one of them died, their assets were to be placed in a marital trust to provide income for the life of the surviving spouse. In the end, the money would go to their charitable foundation.

Pamela Carvel got a specific bequest of $20,000.


Thomas Carvel, creator of the Cookie Puss and Fudgie the Whale ice cream cakes, died in New York in 1990. His wife, Pamela and five others were appointed co-executors of his estate and co-trustees of the trust.

In late 1994 and early 1995, without telling the other co-executors, Pamela Carvel transferred more than $2 million from her uncle’s estate into an account in London, where she was then living, in her own name and that of her aunt, records say.

Her aunt moved to London to live with Pamela. About the same time, Pamela got a judge in Palm Beach, where she also had a residence, to name her as limited guardian of her aunt’s property.

Agnes died in 1998 at age 90.

Without notice to the Thomas and Agnes Carvel Foundation, based in Yonkers, New York, Pamela Carvel quickly probated another will her aunt had signed in 1995 in London. The will purported to change her beneficiary from the foundation to a corporation “apparently controlled by Pamela Carvel,” court records say

When the foundation found out, court records say, lawsuits started flying in New York, Florida, Delaware and the United Kingdom.