Saturday, November 07, 2015

WV Landlord Agrees To Settle Civil Rights Feds' Suit Alleging Three Former Employees Sexually Harassed, Retaliated Against Female Tenants In Violation Of Fair Housing Act; 11 Victims To Split $110K, Gov't To Pocket $10K In Penalties

From the U.S. Department of Justice (Washington, D.C.):
  • The Justice Department announced [] that the owner and former property manager of Perkins Parke Apartments (Perkins Parke) in Cross Lanes, West Virginia, have agreed to pay $120,000 in damages and civil penalties to settle a lawsuit alleging that three former agents sexually harassed and retaliated against female tenants in violation of the Fair Housing Act (FHA).

    The department’s complaint, filed in November 2014, alleged that Perkins Parke’s district manager, Anthony James, and maintenance worker, Christopher T. James, sexually harassed female tenants at the complex, and that Perkins Parke’s site manager, Kisha James, failed to take appropriate steps when tenants complained about the harassment.

    The complaint alleged that the harassment included entering the residences of female tenants without permission or notice; coercing female tenants to engage in unwelcome sexual acts; making unwelcome sexual comments and unwelcome sexual advances to female tenants; subjecting female tenants to unwanted sexual touching and other unwanted sexual acts; and taking adverse actions against female residents when they refused the sexual advances or reported the unwelcome conduct.

    This lawsuit arose as a result of complaints filed with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) by five tenants. After an investigation of the complaints, HUD issued a charge of discrimination and referred the case to Justice Department.

    The settlement, which is subject to approval by the U.S. District Court of the Southern District of West Virginia, requires Perkins’ Parke former property manager, Encore Management Company Inc., and the property’s owner, Perkins Parke LP, to pay $110,000 to eleven victims of sexual harassment and $10,000 to the United States as a civil penalty. The settlement resolves the lawsuit with respect to Encore Management Company Inc. and Perkins Parke LP, but not the individual defendants.


    Fighting illegal housing discrimination is a top priority of the Department of Justice. The federal Fair Housing Act prohibits discrimination in housing based on race, color, religion, national origin, sex, disability and familial status. More information about the Civil Rights Division and the laws it enforces is available at Individuals who believe that they may have been victims of housing discrimination can call the Justice Department at 1-800-896-7743, e-mail the Justice Department at, or contact HUD at 1-800-669-9777 or through its website.

Female Section 8 Tenants & Applicants Allegedly Subjected To Sexual Harassment By Employees Of NC Public Housing Agency Score $2.7M In Damages In Resolution Of Consolidated Lawsuit Brought By Civil Rights Feds, Private Plaintiffs

From the U.S. Department of Justice (Washington, D.C.):
  • The Justice Department [] announced that Southeastern Community and Family Services Inc. (SCFS), a public housing agency that administers the Section 8 voucher program in Scotland County, North Carolina, and two of SCFS’ former employees have agreed to pay more than $2.7 million in monetary damages and civil penalties to settle consolidated Fair Housing Act lawsuits brought by the Justice Department and private plaintiffs. SCFS was formerly known as Four-County Community Services Inc.

    The suits allege that Wesley, SCFS’s former Section 8 housing coordinator, and Pender, SCFS’s former housing inspector, sexually harassed female voucher program participants and applicants. This represents the largest monetary settlement ever agreed to in a sexual harassment case brought by the Justice Department under the Fair Housing Act.


    “No one who provides much-needed housing or housing benefits to low-income women has the right to demand sexual favors in exchange for that housing,” said Assistant Secretary Gustavo Velasquez of the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). “It’s wrong and it’s illegal. Today’s settlement reaffirms the Justice Department’s and HUD’s commitment to protecting the rights of women to live safely in their homes, without harassment.”

    The department’s complaint, filed in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of North Carolina, alleges, among other things, that Wesley and Pender subjected voucher program participants and applicants to unwanted sexual comments, sexual touching and other sexual acts, conditioned or offered Section 8 benefits in exchange for sexual acts and took adverse housing actions against those who rebuffed their sexual advances. As alleged in the complaint, Wesley and Pender engaged in this conduct while exercising their authority as employees of SCFS, and SCFS failed to take reasonable preventive or corrective measures. SCFS terminated the employment of Wesley and Pender after the department filed its lawsuit.

    The consent decree, which is subject to approval by the U.S. District Court, requires the defendants to pay $2,700,000 in monetary damages to victims of their discriminatory conduct, including fifteen victims who filed a private lawsuit and their attorneys, and any additional individuals who are identified by the United States through a process established in the consent decree. Individuals who believe they were subjected to sexual harassment by Wesley or Pender should contact the Justice Department at 1-800-896-7743, option 94, or e-mail the department at In addition, the defendants must pay $27,500 to the United States as a civil penalty.


    The department’s lawsuit began after Legal Aid of North Carolina Inc.’s Fair Housing Project brought the matter to the department’s attention. HUD also referred to the department a complaint against the defendants. The department then conducted an independent investigation and filed suit.

Civil Rights Feds Bring Lawsuit Alleging Male Housing Authority Hearing Officer Subjected Female Tenant, Public Housing Applicant To Unwanted Sexual Conduct As Condition For Favorable Hearing Decisions In Violation Of Fair Housing Act

From the U.S. Department of Justice (Washington, D.C.):
  • The Justice Department [] filed a lawsuit against the Kansas City, Kansas, Housing Authority (KCKHA) and its former hearing officer, Victor L. Hernandez. The lawsuit alleges that Hernandez sexually harassed a female public housing applicant and a female public housing tenant, in violation of the Fair Housing Act.

    The lawsuit, filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Kansas, alleges that Hernandez subjected these two women to unwanted sexual conduct as a condition for favorable hearing decisions, including asking them sexual questions, showing pornographic pictures and videos, making explicit sexual comments and exposing himself. The complaint alleges that Hernandez engaged in this conduct while exercising his authority as an employee of KCKHA.

    “No one, including those who seek public assistance for housing benefits, should be subjected to sexual harassment, particularly by the very people tasked with providing critical assistance,” said Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Vanita Gupta, head of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division. “The Justice Department will continue its vigorous enforcement of the Fair Housing Act against those who abuse their power and authority.”

    “The Fair Housing Act is about more than providing a shelter,” said U.S. Attorney Barry R. Grissom of the District of Kansas. “It’s about equal opportunity and equal justice as well. Sexual harassment cannot be tolerated.”

    The lawsuit arose from complaints filed by the two women about Hernandez’s conduct with the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). After HUD investigated the complaints, it issued a charge of discrimination and the matter was referred to the Justice Department.

    “Women have a hard enough time finding a decent affordable place to live without having their access to that housing conditioned upon submitting to unwanted sexual advances,” said Assistant Secretary Gustavo Velasquez of HUD’s Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity Office. “HUD applauds the action the Justice Department is taking in this matter and remains committed to working together to protect the housing rights of women when those rights are violated.”

    The suit seeks monetary damages to compensate victims and a court order barring future discrimination and requiring additional preventive measures.

    The complaint is an allegation of unlawful conduct. The allegations must still be proven in federal court.

    Individuals who believe they were victims of the defendants’ conduct or who may have other information related to this lawsuit should contact the Justice Department toll-free at 1-800-896-7743, mailbox 8, or e-mail the department at

NY Governor To Use Executive Order To Add Transgender Protections To State Anti-Discrimination Law Affecting Housing, Public Accommodations, Employment

In New York City, the New York Daily News reports:
  • Gov. Cuomo [] announced a plan to provide anti-discrimination protections to transgender people.

    A bill to ban discrimination in the areas of employment, housing or public accommodations based on gender identity or expression has repeatedly stalled in the state Senate.

    Cuomo told the Empire State Pride Agenda he plans to bypass the Legislature — as he did in raising the minimum wage for fast-food workers — by granting transgender people protections through a regulatory process he controls.

    “The scourge of harassment and discrimination against transgender individuals is well-known — and has also gone largely unanswered for too long,” Cuomo said in a statement. “We will not tolerate discrimination or harassment against transgender people anywhere in the state of New York — period.”

    “We will not tolerate discrimination or harassment against transgender people anywhere in the State of New York — period.”

    State law prohibits discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender, but does not include transgender protections. Eighteen states and some localities, including New York City, have enacted their own transgender protections.

    Assemblyman Richard Gottfried, a Manhattan Democrat and longtime sponsor of the Gender Expression Non-Discrimination Act, called Cuomo’s announcement “a great move” but said the Senate still needs to pass the bill because a future governor can undo the executive action.

    A Senate GOP spokeswoman had no immediate comment.

    State Conservative Party Chairman Michael Long criticized the governor for again going around the Legislature to unilaterally enact something he couldn’t get passed.

    “I think he’s starting to consider himself not the governor, he’s considering himself the czar of New York, which he is not,” Long said.
For more, see Gov. Cuomo announces plan to enact transgender anti-discrimination protections (Gov. Cuomo will use executive power to grant protections to transgender people. Some people are not pleased that he plans to bypass the Legislature again).

Friday, November 06, 2015

Harlem Street Hustler Gets 2 1/3 To 7 Years For Fleecing Victims Out Of Ten$ Of Thousand$ By Purporting To Offer Assistance In Obtaining Rental Apartments To Unwitting Immigrants Unfamiliar With Standard Real Estate Industry Business Practices

From the Office of the New York County District Attorney:
  • Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus R. Vance, Jr., [] announced the sentencing of KOUDEDJA DIAWARA, 55, to 2 1/3-to-7 years in state prison for stealing tens of thousands of dollars from the victims of a Harlem apartment scam. On October 8, 2015, the defendant pleaded guilty in New York State Supreme Court to Grand Larceny in the Third and Fourth Degrees, as well as Scheme to Defraud in the First Degree.

    “Scam artists choose their victims carefully,” said District Attorney Vance. “By taking advantage of a shared language, faith, or community, they are often able to earn their victims’ trust far before a crime is committed. In this case, the defendant specifically targeted West African immigrants whom she believed she could intimidate with threats. However, my Office’s Immigrant Affairs Unit was created expressly to help crime victims, regardless of immigration status. I strongly encourage anyone who believes that he or she may have been the victim of this scam or a similar one to call my Office’s hotline at 212-335-3600.”

    As admitted in the defendant’s guilty plea and according to documents filed in court, between 2012 and 2015, DIAWARA posed as a realtor and offered to help her victims find apartments in exchange for payments ranging from approximately $3,000 to more than $25,000. The defendant, who is originally from West Africa, knew many of her victims from a local place of worship, and in at least one instance, gained a victim’s trust because of a shared connection to the defendant’s hometown. However, instead of obtaining apartments for her victims, DIAWARA pocketed the money and, when confronted, made threats and refused to return the funds. As a result, many families were left homeless, including one with a sick infant.

Convicted Rent Scammer Gets Bagged Again, Frog-Marches To State Pen For 3-To-6 Year Stay For Ripping Off Five Low-Income Victims Out Of $16K By Posing As Public Housing Agency Rep Who Promised Section 8 Benefits

From the Office of the New York County District Attorney:
  • Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus R. Vance, Jr., [] announced the sentencing of ENRIQUE GUERRERO, 26, to 3-to-6 years in prison for stealing $16,000 from victims seeking affordable housing in Washington Heights and Westchester County. On July 14, 2015 GUERRERO pleaded guilty in New York State Supreme Court to Grand Larceny in the Third Degree and Scheme to Defraud in the First Degree.

    “Five families seeking housing last fall entrusted Enrique Guerrero with their money, only to have their savings depleted and their dream of an affordable home crushed,” said District Attorney Vance. “This isn’t the first time the defendant has taken advantage of hard-working New Yorkers – he has a prior conviction for a similar housing scam. Schemes like this deprive victims of the funds needed to secure their next place to live, and cause unnecessary hardship. If you or someone you know has been the victim of this type of housing fraud, I urge you to call my Office’s Financial Frauds Hotline at 212-335-8900.”

    According to his guilty plea and documents filed in court, from October 25, 2014, through November 18, 2014, GUERRERO stole $16,000 from five victims seeking affordable housing in Washington Heights and Westchester County through the Housing Choice Voucher program, also known as Section 8.

    In each case, GUERRERO posed as a representative of a government housing agency that could facilitate these requests, and claimed that he could help the victims in exchange for cash payments ranging from $3,000 to $4,500. GUERRERO signed notarized agreements with each victim in a Washington Heights office, promising them the lease and keys to an apartment within one month of receiving their payments. However, once GUERRERO received the payments, he stopped answering the victims’ phone calls, and never provided them with housing.
Source: DA Vance Enrique Guerrero Sentenced To State Prison For Stealing From Individuals Seeking Low-Income Housing (Enrique Guerrero Stole Thousands of Dollars from Victims Searching for Affordable Housing, Half of the Victims Did Not Speak English).

Tipped Off By Real Estate Agent, Cops Catch Rent Scammers In The Act; Pinch Two Who Allegedly Hijacked Possession Of Vacant Foreclosure & Used Craigslist To Reel In Unwitting Potential Tenants

In Vacaville, California, the Daily Republic reports:
  • Real estate broker Melody Kramer found out that one of the homes she was trying to sell was being exploited by rental scammers when told by one of the victims.

    Her first reaction? “I said, ‘Not again,’ ” Kramer said Thursday, “because it has happened so many times.”

    But this time, there was a silver lining to this scamming plague that is afflicting Realtors: The two scammers were still showing the house to their prospective victims.

    Vacaville police swooped in Wednesday morning on the house on Chelsea Court to arrest two suspects who had police said changed the locks on the bank-owned house, put the home for rent on and were meeting potential renters there.

    “This is unfortunately very common,” Vacaville police Detective Aaron Potter said.

    “It is more common than people think,” said Kramer, adding that’s the case even with a lot of red flags to warn people about the scam. The scam has been around for a long time, but has taken off since the foreclosure boom and is still going strong, Kramer said.

    When the real owners of the house show up, the renter gets evicted and is out of a home and the money they paid.

    “It makes our job a lot harder,” Kramer said. “We have to go through an eviction and they (the renters) are out on the street. They (the renters) are more of a victim than I am.”

    Kramer’s advice to potential renters is simple: Do your research. Find a local property manager or real estate agent to ask about the property. Search for the property online to determine if it is indeed for rent or sale, and verify if the person really owns the property.

Another Adverse Possession-Claiming Crackpot Gets Pinched After He Allegedly Hijacked Possession Of Vacant Homes By Replacing Door Locks, Then Rented Them Out To Unsuspecting Tenants

In San Antonio, Texas, KABB-TV Channel 29 reports:
  • San Antonio police arrested a man accused of renting out homes he didn't even home and there could be as many seven victims out there.

    Police say Samuel Charles Perkins, 46, filed court documents with false information on October 8 and tried to claim homes through a legal maneuver called adverse possession. However, investigators say what he was doing is a crime.

    "That's what they're charging me with, adverse possession. Because I'm staking a claim on that property to protect that property from the thieves that's coming up from California and Louisiana," Perkins said Tuesday morning as he was being lead to a police car in handcuffs.


    Garcia said Perkins broke off the locks on some homes and replaced them in order to rent out the properties.

    Police say at least one of his victims is elderly and the document filed with the county clerk's office lists two homes he attempted to claim on Bernadine St.

    Perkins said by claiming the properties, he's preventing them from being sold.


    According to the Bexar County District Attorney's Office, Perkins has been to prison twice for numerous charges including aggravated robbery and burglary and he has several pending cases that the Elder Fraud Unit is reviewing.

    He was charged in connection with two alleged victims on Tuesday and is facing a count of exploitation of the elderly and two counts of theft and aggravated perjury.

Thursday, November 05, 2015

Co-Conspirator Gets Five Years In Scam That Duped Foreclosure-Facing Hawaiian Homeowners Into Signing Over Their Deeds, Recorded Fraudulent Lien Satisfactions, Then Flipped Purported "Free & Clear' Homes Onto Unwitting Buyers, Pocketing Million$

In Honolulu, Hawaii, the Honolulu Star Advertiser reports:
  • A woman who became a fugitive after she failed to show up for a mandatory pretrial meeting with a court official was sentenced to five years in prison today for her role in a $3 million mortgage fraud scheme.

    Jennifer Ann McTigue, 48, was sentenced in U.S. District Court by visiting U.S. District Senior Judge Consuelo B. Marshall.

    “I have absolutely destroyed my life, I have destroyed my ex-husband’s name … and my children have a mother who is going to be in prison,” she said in court. “I’m extremely remorseful for the pain this has caused everyone.”

    McTigue pleaded guilty in July, the day her trial was supposed to start. She pleaded guilty to two counts of conspiracy and one count each of mail fraud, wire fraud and money laundering.

    McTigue said during her guilty plea that her co-defendant Marc Melton created bogus satisfaction-of-mortgage documents on properties that still had mortgages due, then sent the documents to her. She said she took the documents and recorded them at the Bureau of Conveyances.

    At a later date, McTigue said another co-defendant, Sakara Blackwell, “would sell the properties representing that they were free and clear of mortgages when they were not.”

    The government said the trio did that with seven properties in Kakaako, Waikiki and Kona in 2011 and 2012 and that the buyers did not know that there were outstanding mortgages on them.

Boston Feds Squeeze Guilty Plea Out Of Real Estate Attorney For Running Short Sale Racket; Admits To Duping Banksters Into Taking 'Haircuts' On Underwater Homes By Falsely Leading Them To Believe Proposed Transactions Were Arms-Length Deals Involving Unrelated Parties

From the Office of the U.S. Attorney (Boston, Massachusetts):
  • A real estate attorney pleaded guilty [] to participating in a far-reaching scheme to defraud banks and mortgage companies as part of a conspiracy involving sham “short” sales of numerous residential properties in the Merrimack Valley of Massachusetts.

    Hyacinth Bellerose, 50, of Dunstable, Mass., pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit bank fraud. U.S. District Court Judge Rya W. Zobel scheduled sentencing for Feb. 4, 2016.

    Bellerose colluded with others – including a Methuen loan officer and a Haverhill real estate agent who were not identified in the charging document – to defraud various banks through the use of bogus short sales of homes in Haverhill, Lawrence and Methuen. A short sale is a sale of real estate for less than the value of any mortgage debt on the property. Short sales are an alternative to foreclosure that typically occur only with the consent of the mortgage lender, and that generally result in the lender absorbing a loss on the loan and releasing the borrower from the unpaid balance.

    By nature, short sales are intended to be arms-length transactions in which the buyers and sellers are unrelated, and in which the sellers cede their control of the subject properties in exchange for the short-selling bank’s agreement to release them from their unpaid debt. In this case, Bellerose colluded with others to feign a short sale and thereby defraud banks of the full value of the mortgage.

    The conspiracy began in approximately August 2007 and continued through June 2010, a period that included the height of the financial crisis and its aftermath. Home values in Massachusetts and across the nation declined precipitously, and many homeowners found themselves suddenly “underwater,” with their homes worth less than the mortgage debt they owed. As part of the scheme, Bellerose and her co-conspirators submitted materially false and misleading documents to numerous banks in an effort to induce them to permit the short-sales – and thereby to release the purported sellers from their unpaid mortgage debts – while simultaneously inducing the purported buyers’ banks to provide financing for the deals. In fact, the purported sellers simply stayed in the homes with their debt substantially reduced while Bellerose and others made money from the transactions fees associated with the fake sales. In some cases, the conspirators then re-sold the properties in genuine arms-length transactions for a profit.

    As part of the conspiracy:

    The conspirators [among other things] falsely led banks to believe that the sales were arms-length transactions between unrelated parties, when in fact, the transactions were not arms-length, and the sellers retained control of (and frequently continued to live in) the properties after the sale. In some cases, the purported third-party buyers were actually the spouses, parents or children of the purported sellers. [...]

NYC Feds Bag Bill Collection Outfit For Allegedly Running Racket That Ripped Off $31M+ From Thousands Across U.S.

From the Office of the U.S. Attorney (New York City):
  • Preet Bharara, the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, announced [] the unsealing of an indictment charging TRAVELL THOMAS, the co-owner, chief executive officer, and president of a Buffalo, New York-based debt collection company (the “Company”), MAURICE SESSUM, a co-owner and chief operating officer of the Company, [and others] with wire fraud and conspiracy to commit wire fraud in connection with a nationwide debt collection scheme that took in more than $31 million from thousands of victims across the United States.

    As alleged, the defendants tried to trick and coerce victims into making payments to the Company by making false threats and telling a host of lies, including that the Company was a law office and that warrants would be issued for the victims’ arrests if they failed to repay debts. Each of the individual defendants was arrested this morning and will be presented later today in federal court in Buffalo.

    Also unsealed [] were the guilty pleas of four Company employees – MARK LAVIN JOHN SALATINO, JESSICA MANN, and JENNIFER SHERK – for their participation in the fraudulent scheme. LAVIN, SALATINO, MANN, and SHERK each pled guilty pursuant to an information before U.S. District Judge Katherine Polk Failla.


    According to the allegations contained in the Indictment unsealed [] in Manhattan federal court[1]:

    Between 2010 and February 2015, the defendants routinely attempted to trick and coerce thousands of victims throughout the United States into paying millions of dollars in consumer debts through a variety of false statements and false threats. The defendants, using a variety of aliases, falsely told victims, among other things, that: (1) the Company was affiliated with local government and law enforcement agencies, including the “county” and the district attorney’s office; (2) the consumers had committed criminal acts, such as “wire fraud” or “check fraud,” and if they did not pay the debt immediately, warrants or other process would be issued, at which point they would be arrested or haled into court; (3) the victims would have their driver’s licenses suspended if they did not pay their debts immediately; (4) the Company was a law firm or mediation firm and that the Company’s employees were working with lawyers, a law firm, mediators, or arbitrators; and (5) a civil lawsuit would be filed, or was pending, against the victims for failing to pay their debts.

    Employees of the Company at times prepared and sent correspondence to victims that made it falsely appear that the Company was affiliated with the government or courts. The defendants also routinely used legal-sounding terminology to invent legitimate-sounding but bogus explanations for the supposed criminal or legal action that had been or would be initiated against the victims for failure to repay purported debts, including that the victim had “breached a contractual agreement,” committed “theft of goods and services,” and engaged in “malicious intent to defraud a financial institution.” The defendants used these quasi-legal terms to frighten and coerce victims into paying actual or purported debts.

    As a further part of the scheme, the defendants lied to victims by falsely inflating the balances of the debts so that they could collect more money from the victims than the victims actually owed, a practice known within the Company as “juicing” balances.
For more, see Manhattan U.S. Attorney Charges Fifteen Defendants In $31 Million Fraudulent And Coercive Debt (Believed to Be the Largest Debt Collection Scheme Ever Prosecuted).

NC Businessman Gets 32 Months For Stiffing Gov't Out Of $7M+ In Taxes, Then Placing Phony Liens On His Own Properties, Using Bogus Financial Instruments, Nominee & Sham Trusts To Impede, Obstruct IRS Collection Efforts

From the U.S. Department of Justice (Washington, D.C.):
  • A Chapel Hill and Durham, North Carolina, millionaire businessman was sentenced to prison yesterday for his involvement in a decades-long scheme to evade paying his federal income taxes, announced Acting Assistant Attorney General Caroline D. Ciraolo of the Justice Department’s Tax Division and U.S. Attorney Ripley Rand of the Middle District of North Carolina.


    Thomas Tilley, 80, was sentenced [...] to serve 32 months in prison to be followed by one year of supervised release, and ordered to pay $7,676,757 in restitution to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). At the sentencing hearing, Judge Osteen found that Tilley obstructed justice by providing misleading information to probation and the court after pleading guilty and revoked his acceptance of responsibility credit based on this conduct. Tilley pleaded guilty on Nov. 21, 2014, to one count of corruptly endeavoring to impede and obstruct the administration of the Internal Revenue Code, which carries a statutory maximum sentence of 36 months in prison.


    According to court documents, beginning in 1993 and continuing through at least 2010, Tilley sent the IRS fraudulent financial instruments in an attempt to fraudulently discharge his tax debt; used nominee and sham trusts to purchase and sell real estate to conceal his assets; and placed false liens on properties to impede the IRS’ collection of his tax debt. Tilley also failed to file federal and state income tax returns for tax years 1994 through 2013, despite earning substantial income and, in 2009, claiming a net worth as high as $30 million and annual income of $822,000 on a financial statement.

Wednesday, November 04, 2015

Trial Of Woman Accused Of Abusing POA Over Her Now-Deceased Dementia-Stricken Grandmother's Affairs Results In 2nd Hung Jury; Suspect Accused Of Deeding Herself 57-Acre Farm & Draining Bank Accounts, Leaving 86-Year Old Victim Unable To Pay For Her Nursing Home Care, Dying A Ward Of The State

In Boyle County, Kentucky, The Advocate Messenger reports:
  • In a replay of a trial nearly two years ago, a Boyle County jury deadlocked again on the question of whether Anne Rush committed a crime by exploiting her elderly grandmother for her own financial gain.

    Circuit Judge Darren Peckler was forced to declare another mistrial Friday after jurors deliberated for three hours and came out hung, with nine in favor of acquittal and three voting for conviction. A unanimous verdict is required in criminal cases.

    Last week’s five-day trial mirrored the one in February 2014, with the same special prosecutor, Barbara Whaley of the attorney general’s office, and the same defense attorneys, Travis Lock and John Reynolds of Bowling Green, arguing over the same evidence and producing the same result.

    Whaley presented stacks of documents showing the financial records of Geraldine Waits, Rush’s grandmother who was diagnosed with early stage dementia in 2007 and whose condition worsened until Rush became her caretaker in 2010.

    Rush took advantage of Waits’ deteriorated mental state to drain her bank accounts and take possession of her property, altogether valued at about $200,000, Whaley told jurors in her lengthy closing argument Friday morning.

    After gaining power of attorney and placing Waits in a nursing home, Rush cashed in her grandmother’s certificates of deposit and bought a pickup truck, paid care for her horses and deeded herself Waits’ 57-acre farm on Scrubgrass Road, Whaley said, leaving Waits unable to pay for her nursing home care.

    Waits died last year, a ward of the state.

    “It’s not a robbery, it’s not an assault, it’s not a sexual offense, but it’s no less a crime,” Whaley said of the statute under which Rush was charged, exploitation of an adult more than $300. “It’s a crime what she did to an 86-year-old woman, her own grandmother.”

    And, just like in 2014, Rush’s attorneys argued that Waits granted Rush power of attorney over her affairs because her granddaughter had cared for her as her condition worsened. The power of attorney agreement that Waits signed gave Rush the authority to give gifts to herself and others.

    In his closing argument, Lock described the case as “a family squabble that ended up in criminal court.” He accused Whaley of using “smoke and mirrors” to manufacture her case against Rush.

    “The commonwealth wants you to believe Anne Rush forced her grandmother to give her power of attorney. That’s what granny wanted! Where is the evidence to the contrary? There is none,” Lock argued. “That power of attorney gave Anne Rush the legal authority to do what she did, even if you don’t like what she did.”

    It wasn’t immediately clear if Whaley intends to seek a third trial. Peckler set a status hearing on the case for Jan. 5.

Elderly Man's Lawsuit: My Dominatrix Took Advantage Of My Aging Infirmities To Get Me To Sign Over My Home To Her While She Drained $500K+ From My Bank, Credit Card Accounts!

In Central Florida, WJXT-TV Channel 4 reports:
  • On her website, Central Florida dominatrix "Goddess Jude" says she enjoys spanking, flogging, whipping and other fetish activities. The dominatrix also advertises "financial slavery" for clients who wish to "pamper" their mistress.

    But in a lawsuit filed in Seminole County Circuit Court, former client Alex Abrams, 68, claims Judith Gumbrecht took their sadomasochistic relationship too far, draining more than $500,000 from his bank and credit card accounts, as well as taking ownership of his 1,450 square-foot townhome in Casselberry.

    "Given his mental and physical condition, he was exploited," said Abrams' attorney Brian Mark, who claims his client was suffering from clinical depression, dementia and Alzheimer's disease when he added Gumbrecht’s name to his financial accounts.

    Mark claims Gumbrecht violated a Florida statute that makes it illegal to exploit an elderly person or disabled adult. An elderly person is defined as someone 60 years of age or older who is suffering from the infirmities of aging, according to Florida law.

    "Our client has not been served with the lawsuit, so we are not able to provide any comment on it," said Gumbrecht's attorney, Lawrence G. Walters.

    However, based on what he and his client know about Abrams, Walters said there is no merit to Abrams' legal claims.

    Abrams met Gumbrecht about four years ago after divorcing his wife of 32 years, Mark said. According to the lawsuit, Gumbrecht told Abrams "it was of the highest honor to be her financial slave," and convinced him that such servitude "would bring her the most pleasure."

    "Gumbrecht continued to reward Abrams with sexual favors," states the lawsuit, which adds that "Abrams would be punished" if he failed to adhere to the dominatrix's financial requirements.

    On her website, Gumbrecht states she is a BDSM professional who "will NEVER perform illegal sexual acts."

    Mark acknowledged it is not illegal for a dominatrix to offer sadomasochistic and financial slavery services. However, the attorney claims Gumbrecht knew about Abrams' diminished mental state because she accompanied him to an appointment with a neuropsychologist and psychotherapist in 2013.

    "She went with him to the doctor when he was diagnosed," said Mark. "She was fully aware."

    In May 2014, Abrams signed a deed transferring his Casselberry townhome to Gumbrecht. The property has an assessed value of $101,537.

    In the lawsuit, Abrams accuses Gumbrecht of exploitation of an elderly person, theft, and unjust enrichment. He is seeking damages, interest and attorney fees.

    "When you're in that professional relationship with them, you cannot exploit them," Mark said. "You cannot take advantage of their physical or mental incapacities or diminished capacity to profit."

    Although Abrams alleges that Gumbrecht committed crimes, he has not filed a complaint with any law enforcement agency, according to his attorney.

    In February, News4Jax sister station Local 6 learned that Orlando Code Enforcement had received multiple complaints from at least one of Gumbrecht's neighbors claiming she was improperly running her dominatrix business out of a home in a residential area without a permit.

    Gumbrecht's website featured a photo of a home on Grant Street, which was described as a "dungeon."

    Gumbrecht, who also uses the name Judith DeLucenay, declined to comment those allegations at the time. Photos of the Orlando home have since been removed from the website, which now indicates Gumbrecht is operating her business out of a different location. Code enforcement officials have taken no further action on the complaints, records show.
Source: Dominatrix sued for elderly exploitation (Former 'slave' claims dominatrix took house, $500,000).

95-Year Old Grandma's Extreme Pain While Dying In Hospice Care Not Enough To Keep Grandson From Stealing Her Home By Conning Her Into Signing Over Deed: Prosecutor

In Hallandale Beach, Florida, the South Florida Sun Sentinel reports:
  • The grandson of a deceased Hallandale Beach woman is accused of getting her to sign over her property while she was on her deathbed.

    During a first-appearance court hearing on Wednesday, Thomas Glenn Epps was ordered held on a bond of $25,000.

    Epps, 50, of Plantation, was arrested [] and charged with exploitation of the elderly and filing false documents, according to the Hallandale Beach arrest report filed in the case.

    "What he's charged with is stealing a house from his grandmother who was 95 at the time [and] in hospice," assistant state attorney Richard Sherman said at the hearing. "His grandma was in extreme pain and would not even be capable of understanding what was going on."

    Mary Helen Hyatt died on Jan. 13, 2014, while in hospice care. Her health had been failing for years but it took a sharp drop in the months before her death, the report stated.

    Just 12 days before she passed away, Epps had his grandmother sign a warranty deed giving him possession of her $66,970 home in the 300 block of Southwest 10th Terrace in Hallandale Beach, Sherman said.(1)

    "She was on heavy medication at the time she signed the quit claim deed," he said. "We also have a sworn statement from the notary who says that he did not notarize the victim's signature."

    Epps also filed several documents claiming he was Hyatt's closest living relative when she had an adult son and daughter living in North Carolina, police said.

    A woman claiming to be Epps' girlfriend of 18 years told the judge Wednesday the house belonged to Epps' mother.

    "The house was in his mother's name, not his grandmother's name," said Denise Spivey.

    Broward Property Appraiser records show the house passed from Hyatt to Epps.

    The Hyatt's hospice nurse and social worker told investigators that she was heavily medicated and in no condition to make any kind of judgments or financial decisions. They doubted she even had the strength to hold a pen to sign any documents transferring her home, detectives said.
Source: Grandson duped dying Hallandale Beach woman, investigators say.

(1) The $66,970 value listed here is probably the value obtained from the local tax rolls. Highly unlikely that the fair market value of any house in Broward County, Florida could be that inexpensive.

Caretaker Who Fleeced Elderly Woman Out Of Her Home, Money & Other Stuff Dodges Long Prison Sentence, Getting Only 30 Months In Slammer After Agreeing To Give Victim Her Property Back

In New Port Richey, Florida, WFLA-TV Channel 8 reports:
  • A Pasco County woman who admits bilking an elderly lady out of thousands of dollars, even her home, is heading to Florida State Prison. Today, 56-year old Cecilia Dellavecchia pleaded guilty to the exploitation of the elderly charges. Judge Mary Handsel made sure Dellavecchia knew what she was doing.

    “At this time I’ll adjudicate you guilty, on the second ammended information.” said Judge Handsel. “I’ll sentence you to a concurrent 30-months in the department of corrections.”

    Dellavecchia and her daughter were supposed to be taking care of Arlene Calvin, who just turned 82. Instead, prosecutors planned to prove the duo were cashing her checks and even convinced her to sign over her home without her knowing. Deputies initially arrested the daughter as well, but charges against her were dropped.

    Andy Coviello represents Dellavecchia and says his client wanted to do the right thing. “She wanted to make good. My clients wanted to take care of Ms. Arlene Calvin,” said Coviello, as he stood outside Calvin’s home to return her keys. “The second I got involved, all the property was returned, items, bits and pieces, all types of things. ”

    Maria Maioulis represents Calvin and is relieved the case came to such a positive ending. She deals in many cases like this, and says resolutions like this are a rarity. “Unfortunately, elderly abuse and elderly fraud is so prevalent, especially in Pasco County,” said Maioulis. “And to actually have a case where a case is filed, the state attorney’s office files it and we get a conviction is huge. ”

    Calvin is just happy the entire ordeal is over. As she sat on the bed in her assisted living facility apartment, she says she still can’t understand why Dellavecchia targeted her. “Well, it was my house. It wasn’t hers.” said Calvin. “I don’t know. I guess she wanted to take it and sell it.”
Source: Pasco woman pleads guilty in scam of elderly woman (Cecilia Dellavecchia will serve 30-months in Florida State Prison).

Hubby/Wife Duo Face Elderly Exploitation Charges For Allegedly Abusing POA To Drain Victim's Bank, Credit Card Accounts, Attempting To Cash Checks Totaling $200K+ Representing Net Proceeds From Victim's Real Estate Sales

In Perry County, Missouri, KFVS-TV Channel 12 reports:
  • A Perryville couple has been arrested after allegedly exploiting an elderly person. Authorities say Terry and Wendy Farless are accused of financial exploitation of the elderly, and identity theft. Both are in jail on $15,000 cash bond.

    According to the probable cause statement, [...] two people from the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services, Division of Senior Disability Services, reported financial exploitation of an elderly/disabled person to the Perry County Sheriff's Office.

    They say the victim had given power of attorney to Wendy Farless on July 16, 2014 without allegedly having seen, heard from or had any contact with her for numerous years.

    The department employees said the victim moved to the Perry Oaks Nursing Home around Thursday, Oct. 2, 2014, and was discharged on Tuesday, Feb. 17, 2015. While in the nursing home, they say Farless was advised not to worry about taking care of the victim's financials due to him still being able to take care of them.

    However, they say while the victim was in the nursing home, Farless allegedly used credit cards in the victim's name to buy numerous items, which the victim did not benefit from, nor did he give Farless permission to charge to the credit cards.

    According to the probable cause statement, on Dec. 30, 2014, Wendy Farless withdrew $10,000 from the victim's financial account, which she allegedly did not have permission from the victim to do.

    The victim revoked the power of attorney for Wendy Farless on Feb. 6, 2015.

    The victim's attorney stated he contacted Wendy Farless by telephone on Feb. 7, 2015 and advised her to bring property back that belonged to the victim. On Feb. 10, Wendy Farless returned the requested property and was officially advised that her power of attorney over the victim had been revoked.

    After her power of attorney was revoked, Wendy Farless allegedly continued to use the victim's credit cards, checking account and savings account. Wendy and Terry Farless allegedly spent about $21,494.77 using the credit cards.


    The victim's wife is also in a nursing home, and according to court documents, has been for some time.

    According to the probable cause statement, the victim had completed a transaction for some property he sold and there were two checks from the sale of the property. Both checks were written out to the victim and his wife's joint revocable trust, which Wendy Farless did not have authority over.

    Wendy Farless allegedly signed the victim's name twice to both checks. One check was in the amount of $151,425 and the other was for $65,679.51.

    The probable cause states that Farless allegedly signed her name to the checks saying she had power of attorney. The checks were issued on Jan. 28, 2015.

    According to court documents, when Wendy Farless presented the checks to be cashed, U.S. Bank and the Bank of Missouri denied the checks due to the checks not being properly endorsed. After a request, the victim was reissued new checks.

Tuesday, November 03, 2015

Vegas Man Cops Plea In Racket Where He Allegedly Recorded Phony Liens & Dirty Deeds To Hijack Title To Homes, Then Rented Them Out To Low-Income Section 8 Tenants, Ripping Off Public Housing Agency In The Process

From the Office of the Nevada Attorney General:
  • Nevada Attorney General Adam Paul Laxalt announced that Rodney Taylor, 51, of Las Vegas, pleaded guilty to two counts of false representation concerning title, a category “C” felony. Taylor participated in a scheme to claim liens on real estate in Las Vegas by filing false documents. The fraudulent acts were committed between March and September 2012.

    In addition to claiming non-existent liens on property, Taylor was also accused of filing false claims of ownership for real estate with the county recorder’s office. After filing these claims, Taylor applied for and received public funds from the Southern Nevada Housing Authority in exchange for renting to Section 8 tenants. The state is seeking restitution of over $45,000 for victimized individuals and state agencies.

    “Fraudulent real estate claims have a devastating impact on Nevada families and their homes,” said Laxalt. “Prosecutors in my office will continue to ensure that those who attempt to defraud the public receive justice.”

    False representation concerning title is punishable by up to five years of imprisonment and a fine of no more than $10,000. The sentencing hearing for Taylor is scheduled for February 11, 2016, in the Eighth Judicial District Court.

    The investigation of this case was a collaborative effort between the Attorney General’s Fraud Unit, the City of North Las Vegas and the Department of Housing and Urban Development. Deputy Attorney General Daniel Westmeyer prosecuted this case.

Nevada AG Squeezes Guilty Pleas From Trio For Running Mortgage Relief Racket, Falsely Promising To Eliminate Liens & Obtain Free & Clear Homes By Using Fraudulent Forensic Audits, Filing Phony Paperwork Falsely Granting Homeowners POAs On Behalf Of Their Lenders, Transferring Deeds To Fictitious Charitable Trust

From the Office of the Nevada Attorney General:
  • Nevada Attorney General Adam Paul Laxalt announced that Lynda Finch-Estrada, 56, of Las Vegas, William Chrissikopoulos, 44, of Henderson and Alan Dornhuber, 65, of Las Vegas, entered guilty pleas for their involvement in a complex mortgage fraud scam. Finch-Estrada and Chrissikopoulos each pleaded guilty to multiple transactions of fraud and deceit in the course of an enterprise or occupation, a category “B” felony, while Dornhuber pleaded guilty to theft by material misrepresentation, a category “C” felony. The crimes were committed between spring 2011 and spring 2013.

    The defendants formed an elaborate mortgage assistance scheme, costing each of their victims between $6,000 and $13,000 by operating the fraudulent businesses of U.S. Foreclosure Prevention, Home Defense Fund, Home Defense Foundation, Home Defense Group, American Mortgage Rescue and American Home Rescue.


    The defendants operated three different schemes to defraud several Nevada homeowners, falsely promising to eliminate their mortgages and obtain their homes free and clear of liens. Among other things, the defendants falsely claimed to use a “forensic audit” and improperly cited admiralty law to promise their victims that they could eliminate their mortgages simply by notarizing and signing thick packages of papers with various colored inks and red thumbprint stamps. Finally, they scammed their victims by charging large sums of money to prepare false documents appointing the homeowners with powers of attorney for their lenders.

    The defendants claimed these documents would satisfy their mortgages, and encouraged the victims to deed their homes to a fictitious charitable trust in order to avoid their mortgage obligations. Ultimately, all three scams failed to assist victims with their homeownership.

Foreclosure Rescue Scammer Gets 77 Months For Doing It All: Phony Forensic Audits & Loan Mods, "Skeleton" Bankruptcy Filings, Rent-To-Own Rackets, Sham Short Sale "Ghost" Offers, Used 'Religious' Radio To Target Financially Strapped Victims w/ Limited English Proficiency

From the Office of the U.S. Attorney (Sacramento, California):
  • Martin Wayne Flanders, 51, formerly of Roseville, was sentenced [] by United States District Judge Troy L. Nunley to six years and five months in prison for a scheme that targeted distressed homeowners, United States Attorney Benjamin B. Wagner announced.

    In February 2015, Flanders and his wife Ligia Sandoval Spafford (Sandoval), 48, of Roseville, pleaded guilty to mail fraud for their participation in the fraud scheme.

    According to court documents, between 2008 and 2010, Flanders charged clients advance fees in exchange for a number of financial services, including loan modifications, mortgage loan audits, credit repair, debt relief, bankruptcy filings, and a program to sell homes to “investors” with a rent-to-own option.

    Flanders and Sandoval marketed these services to economically distressed homeowners with particular emphasis on those who were Spanish speakers. During a radio program aired twice weekly by a Bay Area Spanish‑language Christian radio station, Radio Luz, Sandoval promoted the services she and Flanders offered. Flanders also advertised on a Spanish-language television station, Univision, and in Spanish-language magazines. About 98 percent of the defendants’ clients were of Hispanic descent, some of whom spoke little to no English. Sandoval speaks Spanish, Flanders does not.

    Flanders and Sandoval made numerous false statements to investors as to the success of the programs being offered or refunds that would be available if the programs were not successful. “Ghost offers” – i.e., fictitious offers to purchase the victim’s property through short sale – and “skeleton bankruptcies” – i.e., sham bankruptcy petitions that were quickly dismissed by the bankruptcy court – were also used by Flanders or Sandoval to try to stall the foreclosure process. At least 25 to 30 individuals paid for services and did not receive them or did not receive refunds when the programs failed to deliver as promised.

    The total loss to the victims is at least $125,000. Some homeowners who were not able to obtain relief were foreclosed upon by their lenders.

    “By targeting people in financial distress with limited English proficiency, Flanders sought to enrich himself on the backs of those who could least afford it,” said United States Attorney Wagner. “We are gratified by the sentence imposed by the Court, and we will continue to focus our efforts on the prosecution of such predatory fraud schemes.”

Bid-Rigging Real Estate Operators Continue Going Down In Ongoing Probe By Antitrust, Atlanta Feds

From the U.S. Department of Justice (Washington, D.C.):
  • A Georgia real estate investor pleaded guilty [] for his role in conspiracies to rig bids and commit mail fraud at public real estate foreclosure auctions in Georgia.

    Trent Gaines admitted that he and others conspired not to bid against one another at public real estate foreclosure auctions from October 2008 to November 2010 in Fulton County, Georgia, and from September 2006 to February 2011 in DeKalb County, Georgia. Gaines also admitted to conspiring with others to use the mail to carry out a scheme to fraudulently acquire title to selected Fulton and DeKalb properties sold at public auctions, to make and receive payoffs and to divert money to co-conspirators that should have gone to mortgage holders and others. The selected properties were then awarded to the conspirators who submitted the highest bids in private side auctions open only to Gaines and his co-conspirators.


    According to documents filed with the court, the purpose of the conspiracies was to suppress and restrain competition and divert money to the conspirators that otherwise would have gone to pay off the mortgage and other holders of debt secured by the properties, and, in some cases, the defaulting homeowner.

    “This case again illustrates not only the problems regarding bid rigging at real estate auctions in Georgia but also the federal efforts involved in shutting this type of criminal activity down,” said Special Agent in Charge J. Britt Johnson of the FBI’s Atlanta Division. “The FBI reminds the public that such activity as seen in this case is a violation of federal law and, as such, the FBI will continue to work with the U.S. Department of Justice’s Antitrust Division in identifying, investigating and presenting for federal prosecution, those involved.”

    Including Gaines, 10 cases have been filed as a result of the ongoing investigation being conducted by the Antitrust Division’s Washington Criminal II Section, the FBI’s Atlanta Division and the U.S. Attorney’s Office of the Northern District of Georgia.

    Anyone with information concerning bid rigging or fraud related to public real estate foreclosure auctions in Georgia should contact the Antitrust Division’s Washington Criminal II Section at 202-598-4000, call the Antitrust Division’s Citizen Complaint Center at 1-888-647-3258 or visit

Monday, November 02, 2015

Lowlife Lawyer Disbarred For Allegedly Ripping Off $4.4M From Vulnerable Clients In Real Estate Transactions Finally Gets Pinched By Manhattan DA On Six Grand Larceny Charges

From the Office of the New York County District Attorney:
  • Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus R. Vance, Jr., announced the indictment of LUIGI ROSABIANCA, 40, an attorney, for stealing more than $4.4 million from six of his clients’ real estate proceeds. ROSABIANCA is charged in a New York State Supreme Court indictment with one count of Grand Larceny in the First Degree, as well as five counts of Grand Larceny in the Second Degree.[1]

    “Instead of faithfully representing his clients, this attorney is accused of stealing millions from the proceeds of their real estate transactions,” said District Attorney Vance. “Though the massive theft alleged here sets this case apart from other recent prosecutions of attorneys, the victims’ stories are quite familiar: a now-widower caring for his terminally ill wife, a woman without the capacity to consent to the use of her estate’s funds, and many more. Even after being suspended from practicing law, this defendant portrayed himself as a lawyer in good standing and allegedly continued to steal from his clients. I encourage anyone who believes that he or she may have been the victim of this type of fraud to call my Office’s Financial Frauds Bureau hotline at 212-335-8900.”

    According to the indictment and documents filed in court, ROSABIANCA, owner of Rosabianca & Associates, a former downtown boutique law firm, allegedly stole more than $4.4 million in proceeds from his clients’ real estate transactions by withdrawing and misappropriating funds held in his attorney escrow account beginning in June 2013. ROSABIANCA misappropriated funds resulting from the sale of real property in which he represented either the buyer or the seller of the property, and used the money for personal expenses or to pay back money stolen from previous victims.(1)

    In one instance, ROSABIANCA stole more than $630,000 in proceeds from the sale of a client’s apartment. That client had been unable to attend the closing of the real estate transaction due to his wife’s failing health.

    To cover his fraud, ROSABIANCA paid that client approximately $455,000 by stealing from an estate whose sole heir was a woman suffering from schizophrenia and unable to care for herself. ROSABIANCA served as the attorney for the estate and sold the family’s home after petitioning for the schizophrenic woman to be named the administrator of her late father’s estate, representing to the Queens Surrogates Court that that she had the capacity to serve as administrator. He subsequently exhausted the estate account of nearly all of its assets for his own business and personal use, including to repay the first client.

    In another alleged theft in January and February of 2015, ROSABIANCA stole more than $1.75 million owed to a couple upon the sale of their apartment, and used more than $1 million of those funds to complete a separate real estate transaction. That couple is currently owed more than $1.49 million.

    On March 12, 2015, ROSABIANCA was suspended from the practice of law by the Departmental Disciplinary Committee, First Judicial Department, following complaints from his clients, and then disbarred in July 2015. Though he was suspended, ROSABIANCA engaged in two separate real-estate transactions while claiming to be a licensed real-estate attorney. ROSABIANCA stole from the proceeds of each of those transactions, including more than $300,000 from an Italian woman who sold her apartment to relieve financial pressures in Italy.
Source: DA Vance: Attorney Indicted for Stealing More Than $4.4 Million from Six Clients' Real Estate Proceeds.

(1) Clients found to have been victimized by any alleged trust fund theft may be able to seek some reimbursement for being screwed over by turning to the The Lawyers’ Fund For Client Protection Of the State of New York, which manages and distribute money collected from annual dues paid by members of the state bar to members of the public who have sustained a financial loss caused by the dishonest conduct of a member of the bar acting as an attorney or a fiduciary.

See generally:
  • N.Y. fund for cheated clients wants thieving lawyers disbarred, a July, 2015 Associated Press story on this Fund reporting that the Fund's executive director, among other things, is calling for prompt referral to the local district attorney when the disciplinary committee has uncontested evidence of theft by a lawyer injuring a client or an admission of culpability;

    Thieving Lawyers Draining Client Security Funds, a December, 1991 New York Times story that gives some-real life examples of how client security funds deal with claims and the pressures the administrators of those funds may feel when left insufficiently financed as a result of the misconduct of a handful of lawyer/scoundrels.
For similar "attorney ripoff reimbursement funds" that attempt to clean up the financial mess created by the dishonest conduct of lawyers licensed in other states and Canada, see:
Maps available courtesy of The National Client Protection Organization, Inc.

Another Sleazy Lawyer Gets Shipped Out To State Slammer; Will Do 4-To-12 Years For Ripping Off Dozens Of Clients Out Of $1.9M In Trust Funds; Attorney Ripoff Reimbursement Fund Steps In, Shells Out Victim Compensation

From the Office of the New York County District Attorney:
  • Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus R. Vance, Jr., [] announced the sentencing of personal injury attorney STEPHEN R. KRAWITZ, 63, to 4-to-12 years in state prison for stealing more than $1.9 million from settlements obtained for the benefit of at least 57 of his firm’s clients. On July 29, 2015, KRAWITZ pleaded guilty in New York State Supreme Court to Grand Larceny in the Second Degree and Scheme to Defraud in the First Degree.

    “The tragedy in this case is that many of Stephen Krawitz’s personal injury clients were unnecessarily forced to suffer further as a result of their own attorney stealing from them,” said District Attorney Vance. “Since the defendant was indicted in December, the investigation by my Office’s Financial Frauds Bureau uncovered nearly 40 other clients who have been victimized by this attorney. Taking advantage of their vulnerability, he pocketed nearly $2 million in misbegotten funds, including from one client who died of cancer without ever receiving the settlement money rightfully owed to him.”

    “The theft of law client money is not only a crime but a violation of the trust placed in lawyers. On behalf of the 297,000 members of New York’s legal profession, the Lawyers’ Fund strives to restore that trust by reimbursing the financial harm caused by this one former member of our profession,” said Timothy O’Sullivan, Executive Director & Counsel for the New York State Lawyers’ Fund for Client Protection. “The Fund’s Trustees wish to express their gratitude to District Attorney Vance and to Assistant District Attorney Jaime Hickey-Mendoza for the successful prosecution of Mr. Krawitz and for the extraordinary support to the Lawyers’ Fund which has enabled our Fund to provide prompt reimbursement to Mr. Krawitz’s victims.”(1)

    According to his guilty plea and documents filed in court, KRAWITZ owned Stephen R. Krawitz, LLC, a personal-injury law practice at 271 Madison Avenue in Manhattan. KRAWITZ handled many personal injury and medical malpractice cases, which often resulted in a settlement owed to his client. Between November 2008 and March 2014, KRAWITZ stole approximately $1,913,155 from more than 50 clients by depositing their settlement checks into his Interest on Lawyer Accounts (“IOLA”) and using the money for his own personal benefit. During the course of the fraud, the defendant withheld all settlement money from a majority of the more than 50 clients, and others received far less than what they were owed. When questioned by his clients, KRAWITZ lied about the receipt of the settlement funds, and also underreported the size of the settlement agreements. Additionally, KRAWITZ settled multiple cases in Florida, New Jersey, and Connecticut without a license to practice in those states.
Source: DA Vance: Former Attorney Sentenced To 4-To-12 Years In State Prison For Stealing Nearly $2 Million From More Than 50 Personal Injury Clients (District Attorney Vance Offers Tips to Avoid Fraud and Misconduct When Hiring an Attorney).

(1) For similar "attorney ripoff reimbursement funds" that attempt to clean up the financial mess created by the dishonest conduct of lawyers licensed in other states and Canada, see:
Maps available courtesy of The National Client Protection Organization, Inc.

See generally:
  • N.Y. fund for cheated clients wants thieving lawyers disbarred, a July, 2015 Associated Press story on this Fund reporting that the Fund's executive director, among other things, is calling for prompt referral to the local district attorney when the disciplinary committee has uncontested evidence of theft by a lawyer injuring a client or an admission of culpability;

    Thieving Lawyers Draining Client Security Funds, a December, 1991 New York Times story that gives some-real life examples of how client security funds deal with claims and the pressures the administrators of those funds may feel when left insufficiently financed as a result of the misconduct of a handful of lawyer/scoundrels.

Elderly Washed-Up Pennsylvania Lawyer Disgracefully Ends Career By Leaving State Bar's Attorney Ripoff Reimbursement Fund On The Hook For $3.25 Million In Indemnification Payments To Nearly 50 Fleeced Former Clients Victimized In Escrow Account Embezzlement

The Pennsylvania Record reports:
  • Nearly 50 people who claim to have been bilked out of millions of dollars by a Luzerne County lawyer will receive $3.25 million from a fund established by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court that is supported by attorney registration fees, the Administrative Office of Pennsylvania Courts announced Wednesday.

    The 47 claimants, who were clients and investors allegedly taken advantage of by Wilkes-Barre, Pa. attorney Anthony J. Lupas, will receive the money from the Pennsylvania Lawyers Fund for Client Security, which was created by the Supreme Court in 1982 to reimburse clients who suffered losses as a result of misappropriations of funds by the Pennsylvania-based attorneys.(1)

    The fund receives its financial resources from lawyers’ annual registration fees.

    Lupas had told clients he would establish trusts on their behalf and act as the trustee with the promise they could either receive interest distributions from the principal or add the interest to the principal to grow their trusts, according to the AOPC.

    To date, there is no evidence to support that any trusts were actually created, the AOPC stated.

    The Citizens Voice newspaper in northeastern Pennsylvania reported in the spring of 2012 that the federal government had charged Lupas, who is in his late 70s, with mail fraud in connection with the scheme to swindle the clients of their life savings.

    Prosecutors said that Lupas promised tax-free annual returns of 7 percent, but in reality he pocketed the clients’ money and recruited new victims to fund monthly interest payments to investors.

    Lupas’ son, David W. Lupas, is a Luzerne County Common Pleas Court judge.

    In May of last year, the Citizens Voice reported that an attorney representing Lupas in the Ponzi scheme case argued that his client was not competent to understand the charges against him. The lawyer then pleaded not guilty on his client’s behalf. The competency issue arose from supposed neurological injuries Lupas sustained after suffering a fail.

    The Lupas matter is one of the most egregious cases of attorney theft of clients’ escrow funds that I have seen in the 20 years that I have been on the Supreme Court,” Chief Justice Ronald Castille said in a statement. “Unfortunately, it appears that the client security fund will not be able to recoup the funds from attorney Lupas himself.

    “Fortunately, the security fund, which is funded through Pennsylvania’s attorney registration fees, has sufficient reserves to cover claims up to $100,000 per claimant,” Castille continued. “Most of Lupas’ clients will receive coverage of the loss of their principal, but others will still feel the sting of Lupas’ criminal conduct.”

    The AOPC reported that through this August, the Pennsylvania Lawyers Fund for Client Security had approved awards against Lupas totaling $2,235,626.73.

    Many of those awards have already been paid.

    The board, during its September meeting, concluded that an additional 13 claims against Lupas worth more than $1 million were compensable.
Source: Forty-seven swindled by lawyer to get $3.25 million from Pa. fund.

(1) For similar "attorney ripoff reimbursement funds" that attempt to clean up the financial mess created by the dishonest conduct of lawyers licensed in other states and Canada, see:
Maps available courtesy of The National Client Protection Organization, Inc.

See generally:
  • N.Y. fund for cheated clients wants thieving lawyers disbarred, a July, 2015 Associated Press story on this Fund reporting that the Fund's executive director, among other things, is calling for prompt referral to the local district attorney when the disciplinary committee has uncontested evidence of theft by a lawyer injuring a client or an admission of culpability;

    Thieving Lawyers Draining Client Security Funds, a December, 1991 New York Times story that gives some-real life examples of how client security funds deal with claims and the pressures the administrators of those funds may feel when left insufficiently financed as a result of the misconduct of a handful of lawyer/scoundrels.

Florida Supremes Slam Six Lawyers For Playing Fast & Loose With Client Cash In Their Attorney Trust Accounts; Another Gets Tagged For Screwing Over Two Homeowners In Foreclosure

The Florida Bar, the self-proclaimed self-described state's guardian for the integrity of the legal profession, recently announced that the Florida Supreme Court in recent court orders disciplined 26 attorneys – disbarring four, revoking the license of one, suspending 19 and publicly reprimanding two. One attorney was also placed on probation; another was ordered to pay restitution.

Among those taken for a trip to the woodshed were the following six of the attorneys for playing fast and loose with client's trust account money:
  • Charles Jeffrey Broida, 5401 Twin Knolls Road, Suite 7, Columbia, Md., suspended until further order, following a Sept. 2 court order. (Admitted to practice: 1973) Broida is also a member of the Maryland State Bar Association. This is a reciprocal discipline action. According to a petition for emergency suspension order, Broida caused great public harm by misappropriating funds from an estate and fabricated account statements to conceal the misappropriation in Maryland. (Case No. SC15-1596)

    Steven M. Chamberlain, 752 E. Silver Springs Blvd., Ocala, suspended for 45 days, effective 30 days from an Aug. 28 court order. Further, Chamberlain is directed to attend ethics school and a professionalism workshop. (Admitted to practice: 1978) In the handling of several cases, Chamberlain did not provide clients with competent representation. In some instances he failed to adequately communicate. In another case, his representation presented a conflict of interest. A Bar audit found that Chamberlain’s trust account was not maintained in substantial minimum compliance with Bar rules. Chamberlain was also the subject of a contempt order involving his first divorce. (Case No. SC15-71)

    James Franklin Lowy, 14375 Myerlake Circle, Clearwater, suspended until further order, effective 30 days from a Sept. 28 court order. (Admitted to practice: 1996) According to a petition for emergency suspension order, Lowy appeared to be causing great public harm. A Florida Bar audit found trust account shortages in excess of $60,000. Also, Lowy had not maintained a cash receipts and disbursements journal or individual client ledgers, nor had he performed monthly bank reconciliations. (Case No. SC15-1741)

    Joshua Daniel Medvin, 1801 Coral Way, Suite 303, Miami. The Supreme Court granted Medvin’s request for a disciplinary revocation, effective 30 days from a Sept. 4 court order, with leave to seek readmission after five years. (Admitted to practice: 1984) Disciplinary revocation is equivalent to disbarment. Cases pending at grievance committee included allegations of misappropriation and mishandling of client funds, failure to comply with court orders, a lack of candor to the tribunal and failure to communicate with clients. (Case No. SC15-1202)

    Alex Jay Pearlberg, 4317 Reflections Blvd., Apt. 201, Sunrise, suspended until further order, effective 30 days from a Sept. 28 court order. (Admitted to practice: 1992) According to a petition for emergency suspension order, Pearlberg appeared to be causing great public harm. A Bar investigation indicated Pearlberg misappropriated at least $11,007 from his trust account. (Case No. SC15-1743)

    Nicholas Theodore Steffens, 6810 N. State Road 7, 2nd floor, Coconut Creek, suspended until further order, effective 30 days from a Sept. 18 court order. (Admitted to practice: 2005) According to a petition for emergency suspension order, Steffens appeared to be causing great public harm by misappropriating at least $189,000 from his trust account. A Bar investigation indicated Steffens transferred the funds to his operating account and used the money for purposes unrelated to the matter for which it was intended. (Case No. SC15-1696)
Also, in one additional case, an attorney was spanked for pocketing fees from people seeking foreclosure/loan modification help, and then stiffing them by doing little or no work (other than possibly cashing their retainer fee checks):
  • John Christopher Getzinger, 1440 Coral Ridge Drive, Suite 190, Coral Springs, suspended for 91 days, effective 30 days from a Sept. 11 court order. Further, Getzinger shall pay restitution of $4,800 to two clients. (Admitted to practice: 2009) Getzinger failed to competently represent clients in two states in which he was not licensed to practice law. In one instance, Getzinger was retained in a foreclosure action against a home in New Hampshire. Getzinger failed to take any significant action in the case, so the home subsequently went into foreclosure and the client was made aware of it after receiving an eviction notice. Getzinger never met or spoke with the clients. They communicated instead with his non-lawyer employees. The scenario was similar in a case in which Getzinger was hired to represent a woman attempting to obtain a mortgage modification for a home in Washington state. (Case No. SC14-1712)
For the entire gossip/scandal sheet, see Supreme Court Disciplines 26 Attorneys.

Editor's Note: According to The Florida Bar, key discipline case files that are public record are posted to attorneys’ individual online Florida Bar profiles. To view discipline documents, follow these steps. Additional information on the discipline system and how to file a complaint are available at

Sunday, November 01, 2015

Portion Of Home Purchased At Foreclosure Sale Sits On Adjacent, 'Unforeclosed' Lot, Forcing Buyer To Demolish One Bedroom Of 4-Bedroom Home

In McAllen, Texas, KRGV-TV Channel 5 reports:
  • A four bedroom home is now reduced to three. A McAllen homebuyer was forced into a drastic demolition project. A surprising detail was discovered after he signed the papers to buy his home. Construction workers had to demolish a guest room at home on 49th Street.

    “This has to go because of the laws,” said Edmond Roohinian.

    Roohinian is a real estate investor from California. About three years ago, he paid cash for a 4 bedroom house in McAllen. He won the property through an online foreclosure auction.

    Instead of a 4 bedroom house, now I have a 3 bedroom house,” Roohinian said.

    Shortly after he signed the papers, Roohinian discovered the previous owner had built the home on two adjacent lots, Lot 53 and Lot 54. The foreclosure sale was only for Lot 54. The guest bedroom sat right on the property line.

    Roohinian’s neighbor, the previous owner, defaulted on the bank loan for Lot 54. The previous owner still owns Lot 53, so he got a court order and forced Roohinian to remove the bedroom off of the property line.


    This case highlights the potential risks that investors may run into with foreclosed properties. In many cases, foreclosed homes are sold at auctions and require instant payment. This gives inexperienced buyers very little time to check for problems or extra costs that go with the property.

    Roohinian said he had to cut his losses on the home. He is working with the city of McAllen to get his neighbor to comply with code enforcement issues.
For the story, see Homeowner Forced to Destroy Bedroom (Guest bedroom sat on separate property).

Homeowner Loses His Attached Garage In Tax Foreclosure Auction Despite Never Missing Any Payments; Property Purchase Seven Years Earlier Failed To Include Staked Survey w/ Title Insurance, Which Would Have Revealed That Home, Garage Sat On Separate Lots & That He Never Actually Bought The Garage In The First Place

In Westland, Michigan, WJBK-TV Channel 2 reports:
  • It's one of the strangest foreclosure cases you will ever see. A homeowner in Westland, Mich. discovers his attached garage is not considered his property. In fact, the garage was just sold to someone else at an auction.

    A three bedroom, two bath, house with an attached garage - Aaron Dehetre looked at this place and said, sold. "I loved it, I was like 21 years old, it was the first house I bought," he says.

    But seven years after he closed on the house Aaron got a strange phone call from his neighbor.

    "My neighbor called me and said there was a foreclosure notice on my door," Dehetre says. "I had a foreclosure notice on the garage door. I started calling my bank, the city, the county."

    Aaron never missed a mortgage payment; taxes were included. But what he didn't know? He didn't buy the attached garage seven years earlier because someone else owned it - as well as half the breezeway.

    "I would have to go to the county if I lose the garage," he says. "Somehow get a building permit to rip a hole between the two buildings to separate [the garage and the house]."

    Aaron's garage sold this week at the county auction for $1,500. Dehetre learned his property line runs through his front lawn between the window and the door of the breezeway and that property line runs right through the back yard.

    So what happened? Well, two things. The house was built in 1942 and neighbors remember a dying family member and survivors chose to split the garage off.

    But another key when he bought the house, he did not order a staked survey with engineers to stake out and survey the property lines.

    All Wayne County knew was they had a Westland garage owner not paying taxes.

    "I have an attached garage right here," says David Szymanski, Wayne County treasurer. "But my attached garage sits on one parcel of land. Sometimes an attached garage will sit on two parcels of land and that is where you get down to the statement buyer beware. Do your due diligence. Trust but verify.

    "When you purchase something, know what you are purchasing. In this situation he didn't get a staked survey done to tell him exactly what he is getting." The Wayne County Treasurer's office says they will review this property and the garage sale.

    Aaron called the title company he used when he bought the house. "They said they are only responsible for the lot number they were given," Dehetre says. "The one under the house. And I didn't request a staked survey but at 21 I didn't know to ask for a staked survey."

Disabled 79-Year Old Homeowner Faces Foreclosure Despite Never Missing Any House Payments; Sloppy Loan Servicer Refused To Look Into Possible Bookkeeping Screw-ups, Then Changes Tune When Local Media Consumer Troubleshooter Intervenes, Shines Spotlight

In Kansas City, Missouri, WDAF-TV Channel 4 reports:
  • James Roberson has lived in this home on Tracy Avenue in Kansas City for 30 years, but now he worries he could lose it.

    In October, he received a foreclosure warning notice from his mortgage company. PHH Mortgage has accused Mr. Roberson of missing his last six payments.

    "I pay every month," said Mr. Roberson, who depends on a breathing machine to allow him to do even simple tasks around his home.

    And you don't have to take Mr. Roberson's word that he's been faithfully paying his mortgage, just ask his banker Judy Cardoza, the president of Crossroads Credit Union".

    Mr. Roberson comes in and purchases a check once a month for his mortgage payment," Cardoza told Fox 4 Problem Solvers. In fact, it's the Credit Union that sends those checks directly to PHH Mortgage.

    So when Ms. Cardoza heard about Mr. Roberson's plight, she immediately asked for a copy of all his mortgage checks.

    "All the checks had been cashed by PHH Mortgage," Ms. Cardoza said (with the exception of September's check which was mailed back to Mr. Roberson by PHH.)

    But PHH insisted in a letter that it doesn't have the money.

    "If they are not crediting his mortgage account where is the money going to?" Ms. Cardoza asked.

    In fact, she even tried to find out, but no one at PHH Mortgage would talk to her since she isn't on Mr. Roberson's account. And Mr. Roberson, whose mind and health are starting to fail, needs an advocate.

    "I just felt like we needed to try and help him," Cardoza said. "It seemed like someone was trying to take advantage of him."

    That's why Ms. Cardoza called Fox 4 Problem Solvers. We did a little digging. What we learned about the New-Jersey-based company was a little disturbing.

    This summer, PHH was ordered to pay $109 million to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau for taking kickbacks from mortgage insurers and overcharging for loans. PHH is appealing that decision.

    Two years ago, PHH agreed to pay $6.3 million to the New Jersey Attorney General's office after being accused of illegally foreclosing on homes.

    As far as Mr. Roberson's situation, a PHH spokesman told us he had a team working on the problem. The encouraging news is that once PHH finishes investigating Mr. Roberson's case, it plans to meet with both Mr. Roberson and his banker to explain what happened.

    For now, Mr. Roberson's foreclosure is on hold, allowing this widowed 79-year-old to focus on his health instead of worrying about losing his home.

After Stiffing Homeowners Out Of Indemnification Damages For Their Burnt-Out Home, Embarrassed Insurance Company Changes Tune, Quickly Coughs Up The Cash After Local Media Consumer Troubleshooter Report Goes Viral

In Salt Lake City, Utah, KUTV-TV Channel 2 reports:
  • Don and Paola Johnson's home is finally coming together. Way back in January 2014, a fire erupted that burnt out their home. They and their two daughters have spent nearly two years living on the couches of friends and relatives. Now they are one week away from being able to move back in.

    "We're very excited," Paola said. "We're very happy to have life back."

    They are especially happy because, as Get Gephardt reported in July, it seemed they would be forced to abandon their home. The rebuild had been halted because their insurance company had decided they were done paying.

    Farmers Insurance determined Don and Paola had violated their insurance contract by refusing to give "key information" about how the fire started, a Farmers spokesperson said.

    Both Don and his lawyer told Farmers Insurance that no one was home when the fire broke out so they did not know what ignited the blaze. They suggested Farmers should look at the fire marshal report which determined the fire started due to furnace failure. Specifically, the marshal determined there were no human factors contributing to the fire.

    Get Gephardt reported on Farmers' decision to halt the claim as well as the insurance giant's refusal to budge even with Don and Paola begging that they be allowed to answer questions and provide and any so-called "key information" that they could.

    That story went viral.

    Get Gephardt heard from a number of Farmers agents who complained the report was hurting their business. Get Gephardt also heard from a number of insurance customers who said they were outraged -- several of whom said they would be cancelling their insurance policies with Farmers.

    And, a few days later, Don says he heard from Farmers. "I was really caught off guard," he said.

    Don says Farmers asked him some more questions and, this time, the insurance giant was satisfied with his answers. Farmers reopened his and Paola's claim. The call came just in time. Don says they only had enough money left to make one more mortgage payment after which they assumed they would lose the home to foreclosure.

    "It was the biggest relief on both our shoulders," he said. "We worked, you know, 10 years paying for this house and we were this close to losing it. Then we realized we were finally going to get our lives back." "We're very grateful that we had a positive turnout and we're grateful to [Get Gephardt] as well," Paola said.

    But through their relief and gratitude, Don and Paola say they are still frustrated that it took a news story and public outcry to get their insurance company to pay attention.

    A Farmers spokesperson said Farmers was, "pleased to be able to work with our customer to resolve this matter."