The family of a Chicago businessman who died of cyanide poisoning after winning a $1 million lottery jackpot is disputing a deal he purportedly signed leaving his share of several dry cleaning stores to his wife.
In an emergency motion filed Monday in Cook County probate court, the sister of Urooj Khan argued the business assets should be part of his estate and divided equally among his only two heirs — Khan's widow, Shabana Ansari, and 17-year-old daughter, Jasmeen, from a previous marriage.
Judge Susan Coleman agreed to freeze the business assets pending a hearing next month
The filing was the latest turmoil to erupt as relatives fight over Khan's estate, once valued at $2 million, including about $425,000 in lottery winnings. He left no will.
According to the widow's lawyer, Khan signed the deal with his business partner just weeks before his death last summer. Under that alleged deal, if Khan died, his half of the dry cleaning operation and its real estate, valued at more than $1 million, would go to his widow, her lawyer said.
Khan's sister, Meraj, who was granted guardianship of Jasmeen, following his death, argued in the latest filing that the contract was not valid in probate court in part because there were no witnesses to its signing. She also accused Ansari of quickly arranging a sale of her share of the company to her husband's partner, Shakir Mohammed.
Khan's siblings had raised concerns that Ansari might try to keep the lottery winnings for herself instead of sharing the proceeds with the daughter.
In addition, Ansari's lawyer, Al-Haroon Husain, has said that a real estate agreement Khan signed with his wife in 2007 entitled her to sole ownership of their West Rogers Park home, which is valued at almost half a million dollars.
Removing the business and real estate assets would drop the estate's worth to about $680,000, which would then be split between Khan's widow and daughter, according to Husain.
On Monday Husain defended the agreement between Khan and Mohammed as legal.
"I think this is just a desperate attempt to try something," Husain said.
David Feinberg, who represents Khan's daughter, declined to comment.
Ansari has been questioned by Chicago police detectives in her husband's death, but she has denied any wrongdoing and has not been accused of a crime.
Police said Monday the case remained an active homicide investigation.
Khan, 46, won the scratch-off lottery prize in May but died unexpectedly in mid-July before he collected the check.
As the Tribune first reported, the Cook County medical examiner's office initially ruled that Khan died of hardening of the arteries after no signs of trauma were found on his body and a preliminary blood test did not raise any questions. But the investigation was reopened about a week later after a brother raised concerns about Khan's death.
Police became involved in September after testing found cyanide in Khan's blood. By late November, more testing showed lethal levels of the toxic chemical, leading to a homicide ruling. In January, authorities exhumed Khan's body in order to perform an autopsy, but Chief Medical Examiner Stephen Cina said little new evidence was gleaned because the remains were badly decomposed.
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