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Is Desitin heiress victim of a Romeo scheme?

Soon-to-be axed husband claims elderly wife has fallen prey to scammers.

Athanasios Konidaris and his wife, 82-year-old Desitin heiress Shelley Upsher Konidaris (Thanasis Konidaris / FOR THE DAILY NEWS)
Athanasios Konidaris and his wife, 82-year-old Desitin heiress Shelley Upsher Konidaris (Thanasis Konidaris / FOR THE DAILY NEWS)Read more

A CERTAIN irritation is festering between a married Main Line millionaire couple, and the wife has made a rash decision, according to a court filing by her husband.

Athanasios Konidaris contends that his wife, Shelley Upsher Konidaris, one of two heirs to the Desitin (diaper-rash cream) fortune, is being duped by opportunistic grifters who've poisoned her mind against him and seek to fleece her out of Desitin's millions.

The couple until recently shared a home in Bala Cynwyd. For the past 21 years they have operated Zesty's Greek restaurant in Manayunk.

At 83, Shelley is 12 years her husband's senior. According to documents filed in Montgomery County Court, when Shelley decided she wanted to look and feel younger, a family aide introduced her to Rex Hughes, a personal trainer.

Athanasios alleges when he saw that Hughes had billed Shelley $12,000 for a few simple workout sessions, he raised a fuss. Soon after, Athanasios found himself locked out of their homes, served with divorce papers and a protection-from-abuse order after a quarter century of marriage.

He also claims, in his response to the divorce action, that his wife is being duped by Hughes and "family office administrator" Beverly Ben-Lulu under the guise of helping her recapture her youth.

Depending on which lawyer is asked, Shelley's inheritance is worth between $2 million and $100 million.

Ben-Lulu has worked as an assistant to Shelley for many years, helping her around the house and driving her to and from doctors' appointments, according to the filings. Hughes, according to Athanasios, is an alias for a man named Gerald Feldman.

On social-media websites, Hughes describes himself as a "health, wellness and fitness professional and dog rescue-rehab trainer." A YouTube video shows him expertly commanding three pit bulls on New York's Lower East Side.

Attorney Mary T. Vidas, who represents Shelley, vehemently denies the $12,000 payment allegation and calls Athanasios' claims of a conspiracy between Hughes and Ben-Lulu a "fairy tale."

Vidas also contends Athanasios' assertion that he and Shelley enjoyed a "happy" and "loving marriage" was false, that it was a union plagued by his verbal abuse and constant berating.

As Shelley got older, Athanasios became "obsessed" with having her change her will so he would be named as her sole heir, according to Vidas' response to his filing. This was despite the fact that Athanasios had waived that right in a prenuptial agreement and the fact that Shelley's money is tied up in a private trust, with distributions limited to monthly allowances.

"Despite knowing full well that he waived his rights to any and all of plaintiff's separate property, defendant would harass plaintiff for hours on end to contact her attorneys to change her will," Vidas' response to Athanasios' motion reads.

"During the last few months of the parties' marriage, defendant limited plaintiff's contact with her attorneys and trusted friend and monitored her every move and telephone calls."

A search on the Montgomery County Court docket website shows Athanasios has had civil complaints pending against him since 2009 in relation to Zesty's and from major credit-card lenders.

When reached by phone, Vidas declined to comment further on the case.

Bruce Castor is a former Montgomery County district attorney representing Athanasios in the protection-from-abuse action.

Castor said his client believes Hughes and Ben-Lulu played on Shelley's vanity only to pad their own pockets, charging exorbitant fees for workouts tantamount to "simple grade-school stretching and lifting exercises."

"We represent Mr. Konidaris only on the quasi-criminal matter where he is falsely accused of abusing his wife," Castor said. "We want to know why he is under attack.

"If there is no fortune, no trust fund, no alias, no excessive payouts . . . then their answers could simply reflect that. So why resist? Learning who would benefit from hurting him, and whether anyone has benefited so far, is the core of our discovery motion."

Castor claims his client believes Hughes and Ben-Lulu worked to "poison Shelley's mind in order to gain control of her vast estate . . . playing on the aging heartstrings of an enfeebled elderly woman so that [they] could gain the key - not to her heart - but to her bank account."