Saturday, January 14, 2017

Attorney Suspected Of Embezzling $940K+ In Client Cash Among Four Lawyers Disciplined By Florida Supremes For Playing Fast & Loose w/ Their Clients' Funds &/Or Related Trust Account Records

The Florida Bar, the state’s guardian for the integrity of the legal profession, recently announced that the Florida Supreme Court has disciplined 21 attorneys – effectively giving seven lawyers the boot (four by disbarment & three by disciplinary revocation), suspending seven others, and giving seven more a public slap on the hand (via a public reprimand).

Of the 21, the following four (4) have either been booted or indefinitely suspended amidst allegations of playing fast and loose with their clients' cash(1) and/or the related trust account records:
  • James Lee Clark, Tampa, suspended until further order effective 30 days from a Nov. 7 court order. (Admitted to practice: 1992) According to a petition for emergency suspension, Clark appeared to be causing great public harm by misappropriating at least $946,764 of client funds. (Case No. SC16-1994)

    Christopher R. Harris, Louisville, Ky., disbarred effective immediately, following an Oct. 27 court order. (Admitted to practice: 2006) A compliance audit revealed that Harris continually had shortages in his trust account, commingled earned fees with client money, and paid personal expenses from his trust account. The audit further revealed that Harris did not maintain minimum trust accounting records and procedures. In at least two instances, despite promises, Harris failed and refused to refund money to clients. (Case No. SC16-348)

    Tonja J. Helton, Tampa. The Supreme Court granted Helton’s request for a disciplinary revocation, effective immediately, following an Oct. 27 court order, with leave to seek readmission after five years. (Admitted to practice: 2009) Disciplinary revocation is tantamount to disbarment. A disciplinary matter pending against Helton includes allegations of misappropriation of client funds. (Case No. SC16-1546)

    Dale Eugene Krout, Jr., Naples, suspended until further order, effective 30 days from a Nov. 9 court order. (Admitted to practice: 1981) Krout was found in contempt for failure to comply with a grievance committee subpoena to produce certain trust account records. (Case No. SC16-1628)
Source: Supreme Court Disciplines 21 Attorneys (Summaries of orders issued Oct. 13 – Nov. 28, 2016).

Editor's Note: Key discipline case files that are public record are posted to attorneys’ individual online Florida Bar profiles. To view discipline documents, follow these steps.
(1) The Clients' Security Fund was created by The Florida Bar to help (at least partially) compensate persons who have suffered a loss of money or property due to misappropriation or embezzlement by a Florida-licensed attorney.

For similar "attorney ripoff reimbursement funds" that sometimes help cover 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.

After 19-Month Probe, Attorney Gets Hit With Indictment Alleging He Stiffed Clients Out Of $70K+ Of Their Own Money Derived From Settlements Of Civil Lawsuits

In Asbury Park, New Jersey, the Asbury Park Press reports:
  • A county grand jury indicted a longtime Asbury Park lawyer [] on charges he stole $70,000 from clients on three separate occasions in 2013 and 2014, the prosecutor said.

    William Gallagher, 70, who worked at Klitzman & Gallagher, obtained his license to practice law in 1968, said Monmouth County Prosecutor Christopher Gramiccioni in an online statement. Gallagher was indicted after a 19-month investigation that examined his work with clients engaged in civil action suits.

    Gallagher, who obtained his law degree from Fordham University according to an online attorney profile, has been suspended from practicing law in New Jersey since January 2015, Gramiccioni said.

    Gallagher negotiated his clients' settlements, then reportedly wired money from his firm's attorney trust account to a personal account, Gramiccioni said.

    In total, Gramiccioni said Gallagher is charged with stealing $71,615.69.(1)

    "Gallagher took advantage of his position of trust by stealing from clients," Gramiccioni said.

    One of Gallagher's unnamed clients became suspicious of the attorney's activities when she didn't receive the $23,037.35 that was the result of a civil settlement related to a premises liability action, Gramiccioni said.

    Gallagher didn't provide the money to the client despite her multiple requests for it, Gramiccioni said.

    The grand jury charged Gallagher with one count of second-degree theft by failure to make required disposition and one count of third-degree misapplication of entrusted funds, Gramiccioni said.

    The second-degree theft charge could send Gallagher, if convicted, to prison for five to ten years, Gramiccioni said. He could face three to five years for the other charge.
Source: Asbury Park attorney indicted on theft charges.
(1) The New Jersey Lawyers' Fund for Client Protection was established to reimburse clients who have suffered a loss due to dishonest conduct of a member of the New Jersey Bar.

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.

Ohio Supremes Yank Attorney's Law License For Pilfering $150K+ In Client Funds; Investigator Unable To Determine True Financial Harm Suffered By Victims Because Lawyer's Crappy Trust Account Records Were In Shambles, Replete With False Statements

In Lisbon, Ohio, the Morning Journal News reports:
  • Former local attorney Virginia Barborak has been disbarred for misusing more than $150,000 in client funds and then trying to conceal it from her clients and the courts.

    The unanimous ruling issued [] by the Ohio Supreme Court comes six months after the court’s Board of Professional Conduct had recommended Barborak be suspended indefinitely from the practice of law. The court said its decision to take a tougher position was warranted given her “six-year pattern of dishonesty.”

    “Given Barborak’s lengthy and disturbing pattern of failing to maintain records of client funds entrusted to her, misappropriating client funds, and intentionally submitting false and fraudulent documents to the courts of this state — which are more serious and more pervasive than the cases cited in support of the recommended indefinite suspension — we conclude that permanent disbarment is the only appropriate sanction in this case,” the court said.

    According to the court, Barborak began misappropriating money from three estates and one education trust fund starting in 2009 and continuing into 2015, using the funds to “not only pay herself and her personal business expenses but also to make disbursements” to other clients and estates.

    Estate funds deposited into an attorney trust account can only be transferred or spent to settle that particular estate and pay related expenses. Barborak, who also once served as an assistant county prosecutor and Lisbon village solicitor, admitted that at one point her client trust fund had a balance of $11,709 when the actual balance should have been $171,481 because the money had been spent elsewhere other than its intended use.

    Barborak not only failed to maintain adequate records documenting these transactions or file them in a timely manner with probate court, “the few reports she actually filed were replete with false statements designed to mislead and misinform probate court” as to the true balance in the account, the Supreme Court said.

    Although the Board of Professional Conduct stipulated that Barborak has made full restitution, the accountant used by the Columbiana County Bar Association — which received the initial complaint — was unable to determine if a “true balance” existed for any of the estates because the records were in such a shambles. Due to Barborak’s poor record keeping, the board was unable to determine whether any of her other clients or beneficiaries had been harmed by her conduct.

    The Supreme Court said it was rejecting the board’s recommendation of an indefinite suspension, which left the door open for Barborak to seek reinstatement of her law license, because of the totality of the evidence, which included the fact she had continued to practice law six months after telling the board she had “removed” herself from private practice.

Ex-Lawyer Gets Two Years Prison Time For Fleecing Clients Of Over $400K; Ordered To Make "Best Efforts" To Reimburse Clients' Security Fund For Cash It Forked Over To Screwed Over Victims

In New Haven, Connecticut, the New Haven Register reports:
  • Former New Haven attorney Terence Hawkins has been sentenced to serve two years in prison and repay more than $400,000 in restitution for funds he stole from his clients, officials said.

    In New Haven Superior Court [], Judge Philip A. Scarpellino sentenced Hawkins to 10 years in prison, execution suspended after 2 years served, and 5 years’ probation, according to a release from the Department of Justice.

    Hawkins, 60, of Court Street, New Haven, was ordered to make “best efforts” to pay $414,674 in restitution to the state’s Client Security Fund,(1) which has reimbursed some of the clients whose funds were embezzled. In addition, conditions of his probation include doing 100 hours of community service, according to the release.

    Hawkins, who previously surrendered his license to practice law, pleaded guilty to one count of first-degree larceny. He was arrested following an investigation by the Statewide Prosecution Bureau in the Office of the Chief State’s Attorney into a complaint by the Office of the Chief Disciplinary Counsel in the Judicial Branch.

    According to the arrest warrant affidavit, the investigation put the amount client funds misappropriated by Hawkins “in the range of approximately $450,000 to $500,000.”

    The Statewide Prosecution Bureau of the Chief State’s Attorney’s Office prosecuted the case.
Source: Former New Haven attorney gets 2 years for theft.
(1) The Client Security Fund was established by the Judges of the Connecticut Superior Court to provide reimbursement to individuals who have lost money or property as a result of the dishonest conduct of an attorney practicing law in the State of Connecticut, in the course of an attorney-client relationship. The fund provides a remedy for clients who are unable to obtain reimbursement from any other source.

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.

Feds Indict Two Lawyers For Allegedly Running Shakedown Racket That Used Deceptive Copyright Lawsuits To $queeze Victims Who Supposedly Downloaded Online Porn Movies; Indictment: Pair Used Threats Of Huge Financial Penalties & Public Embarrassment To Pocket Approx. $6 Million

From the U.S. Department of Justice (Washington, D.C.):
  • Two attorneys were charged [] in a federal indictment for their roles in a multimillion-dollar scheme to fraudulently obtain settlement agreements from individuals who supposedly downloaded pornographic movies from file-sharing websites.
    Paul R. Hansmeier, 35, of St. Paul, Minnesota, and John L. Steele, 45, of Florida, were charged in an 18-count indictment [] for conspiracy to commit wire fraud and mail fraud, substantive wire fraud and mail fraud, concealment money laundering and conspiracy to commit and suborn perjury. Hansmeier was suspended from the practice of law in the state of Minnesota on Sept. 12, 2016.

    “Abusing one’s position as a licensed attorney and using the courts and legal process to file false and abusive copyright claims that threaten individuals and encourage fraudulent settlements is wrong and will not be tolerated,” said Assistant Attorney General [Leslie R.] Caldwell.
    “The defendants in this case are charged with devising a scheme that casts doubt on the integrity of our profession,” said U.S. Attorney [Andrew M.] Luger. “The conduct of these defendants was outrageous – they used deceptive lawsuits and unsuspecting judges to extort millions from vulnerable defendants.
    “The charges announced [] describe a fraud scheme perpetrated by lawyers and officers of the court who abused their positions of trust for personal enrichment,” said Special Agent in Charge [Richard T.] Thornton. “The FBI remains committed to uncovering fraud such as this to protect the integrity of our civil justice system.”
    “The role of IRS Criminal Investigation becomes even more important in complex financial investigations involving money laundering because of the time it takes to unravel the criminal scheme,” said [IRS] Chief [Richard] Weber. “This case is an excellent example of the lengths to which individuals will go to defraud others in whatever way they can. We are committed to working these types of difficult financial investigations and following the criminal’s money, wherever it leads.”
    According to the indictment, between 2011 and 2014, Hansmeier and Steele, both practicing lawyers, executed a scheme to fraudulently obtain approximately $6 million by threatening copyright lawsuits against individuals who supposedly downloaded pornographic movies from file-sharing websites.

    Hansmeier and Steele allegedly created a series of sham entities to obtain copyrights to pornographic movies that they uploaded to file-sharing websites and filed bogus copyright infringement lawsuits in order to learn the subscriber information associated with the IP addresses used to download the pornographic movies. The indictment further alleges the defendants used extortionate letters and phone calls to threaten victims with enormous financial penalties and public embarrassment unless they agreed to pay a $4,000 settlement fee.
    In total, the defendants obtained approximately $6 million from the fraudulent copyright lawsuits, [according to the indictment].

Friday, January 13, 2017

Federal Lead Paint Police Squeeze Trio Of Construction Contractors For Approx. $31K In Civil Penalties For Violating Renovation Rules In Connection w/ Conversion Of Vacant Pre-1978-Built Commercial Building Into 200+ Unit Residential Apartment Complex

From the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (Lenexa, Kansas):
  • EPA Region 7 conducted a random inspection for lead-based paint renovation work practices at the Kansas City Power & Light (KCPL) building in Kansas City, Mo., in June 2015, as well as a records inspection for the project in July 2015, which revealed violations of the Renovation, Repair and Painting (RRP) Rule. As a part of a settlement, Construction & Abatement Services, Inc., of Lee’s Summit, Mo., has agreed to pay a civil penalty of $18,578.

    The agency announced Sept. 12, 2016, that it concluded two other administrative consent agreements and final orders related to construction work at the KCPL building. Jim Plunkett, Inc., of Kansas City, Mo., agreed to pay a civil penalty of $4,690, and B&R Insulation of Lenexa, Kan., agreed to pay a civil penalty of $7,900, both related to violations of the RRP Rule.

    Construction & Abatement Services performed the interior demolition in the KCPL building in downtown Kansas City, Mo. The structure, built in 1931, is a commercial building currently being converted to house more than 200 residential apartments.

    The 2015 inspections revealed that Construction & Abatement Services failed to:
  • Post signs that clearly define the work area
  • Have a certified renovator perform a visual inspection to determine whether dust, debris or residue was present after the renovation
  • Clean the work area until no dust, debris or residue remains
  • Seal all paint chips and debris in a heavy-duty bag
  • Retain records documenting lead-safe work practices
  • Retain records documenting compliance with job training
  • The RRP Rule requires that contractors who work on pre-1978 dwellings and child-occupied facilities are trained and certified to use lead-safe work practices. This ensures that common renovation and repair activities like sanding, cutting, and replacing windows minimize the creation and dispersion of dangerous lead dust. EPA finalized the RRP Rule in 2008 and the rule took effect on April 22, 2010.

S. California Contractor To Pay $11K+ To Settle EPA Accusations That It Failed To Comply w/ Federal Lead Paint Rules When Renovating Five Pre-1978-Built Homes

From the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (Los Angeles, California):
  • The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced a settlement with Powerstar Home Energy Solutions for failing to comply with federal lead-based paint rules at several residential properties in Southern California. The company will pay a civil penalty of $11,429.

    Powerstar has also agreed to spend about $34,000 to purchase equipment to test blood lead levels in children. Blood lead analyzers will be donated to ten community health clinics in San Bernardino and Orange counties. The analyzers measure lead in blood samples and give results in as little as three minutes, allowing immediate follow-up by health care providers. The clinics will receive enough kits to test 480 children.
    Powerstar Home Energy Solutions, a trade name of Smithlum & Friend, Inc., is headquartered in Anaheim and offers residential coatings and window replacements.

    In 2014, EPA found the company violated EPA’s Renovation, Repair and Painting rule by renovating five homes built before 1978 in the cities of Anaheim, Brea, Chino and Redlands without following practices required to reduce lead exposure. The company failed to:
  • Become certified by EPA to perform residential work;
  • Keep complete records documenting whether the work followed lead-safe practices.
  • Common renovation activities like sanding, cutting, and demolition can create hazardous lead dust and chips. When companies fail to follow lead-safe practices, the resulting lead dust and chips can contaminate home surfaces. Contractors who disturb painted surfaces in pre-1978 homes and child-occupied facilities must be trained and certified, provide educational materials to residents, and follow safe work practices. The U.S. banned lead-based paint from housing in 1978 but EPA estimates that more than 37 million older homes in the U.S. still have lead-based paint.
Source: U.S. EPA settles with Anaheim home improvement firm for failure to protect residents from lead-based paint (Company to provide blood lead testing equipment to clinics in Orange and San Bernardino Counties).

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Ripping Off Elderly, Hurricane Sandy-Victimized Homeowner Out Of $173K For Labor & Construction Materials Never Performed Or Delivered Among Allegations Facing Home Improvement Contractor

From the Office of the Ocean County, New Jersey Prosecutor's Office:
  • Ocean County Prosecutor Joseph D. Coronato [] announced that on Tuesday (12/20) the Ocean County Grand Jury indicted Ralph Triboletti III, 50 yoa, owner of Trimor Construction, L.L.C. for the commission of Sandy Fraud. Its alleged Triboletti took money from two homeowners in Borough of Tuckerton to do work on their homes that he never completed. Triboletti has been released on $20,000 bail set by Superior Court Judge James Blaney, J.S.C. to answer the charges on a future date.

    The two events outlined in the Indictment allege that one elderly victim was scammed out of approximately $173,000 for building materials on his new home that were never delivered and for labor that was never performed. It alleges further that Triboletti scammed another homeowner out of about $21,000 for a home elevation project that he never completed.

    The specific counts of the Indictment include one count of Theft by Failure to Make Required Disposition – Second Degree (more than $75,000), one count of Theft by Failure to Make Required Disposition – Third Degree (more $500 and less than $75,000) and one count of Unregistered Home Improvement Contracting – Fourth Degree.

    The investigation is ongoing and is being conducted in cooperation with the Tuckerton Borough Police Department and Ocean County Department of Consumer Affairs. Anyone who has not already reported a theft and believes that they have been defrauded by Ralph Triboletti III or Trimor Construction, LLC should contact Detective Lindsay Llauget of the Economic Crime Unit of Ocean County Prosecutor’s Office at (732) 929-2027 x 3462.

Prosecutor: Out-Of-State Home Improvement Scammer Moved To New Jersey Shortly After Superstorm Sandy, Then Began Ripping Of Over A Dozen Storm-Victimized Homeowners By Pocketing Contract Deposits Totaling $450K+ & Failing To Perform Agreed Upon Home Renovation Work

From the Office of the Ocean County, New Jersey Prosecutor's Office:
  • Ocean County Prosecutor Joseph D. Coronato [] announced that on Wednesday (12/14) the Ocean County Grand Jury indicted Jamie Lawson, 41, owner of Lawson Renovations, L.L.C., DBA, J & N Construction, for the commission of Sandy Fraud. Its alleged Lawson took money from fourteen homeowners in Toms River and Brick Townships and then did either no work or less than contracted services on their homes. He allegedly used the money for vehicles and personal expenses.

    Lawson moved to New Jersey shortly after Superstorm Sandy and made application to the New Jersey Division of Consumer Affairs to be licensed as a Home Improvement Contractor. The State licensed Lawson based upon his material misrepresentations on the application including his failure to disclose criminal convictions in North Carolina, South Carolina and Texas. Shortly thereafter, he began taking contracts to perform Sandy related renovations and demolition/new home construction.

    The specific counts of the Indictment include Financial Facilitation of Criminal Activity (Money Laundering) – Second Degree (more than $75,000), six counts of Theft by Failure to Make Required Disposition – Second Degree (more than $75,000), nine counts of Theft by Failure to Make Required Disposition – Third Degree (more than $500 and less than $75,000), Tampering with Public Records for submitting a fictitious Home Improvement Contractor Application Third Degree and one count of Unregistered Home Improvement Contracting – Fourth Degree. Superior Court Judge Patricia B. Roe, J.S.C. set bail on the Indictment Warrant at $150,000, restricted him from engaging in home improvement & building contracts and required him to surrender his passport.

    The investigation is ongoing and is being conducted in cooperation with the Brick Police Department, Toms River Police Department, Ocean County Department of Consumer Affairs and New Jersey Division of Consumer Affairs. Anyone who has not already reported a theft and believes that they have been defrauded by Lawson or J. & N. Construction should contact Sergeant Mark Malinowski of the Economic Crime Unit of Ocean County Prosecutor’s Office at (732) 929-2027 x 4032.

Home Improvement Contractor Gets Bagged For Allegedly Pocketing $85K From Homeowner For Renovation Job, Then Splitting Before Work Was Finished; Arrest Comes On Heels Of Two Earlier Collars On Theft Accusations From Other Customers

In Long Beach, New Jesrey, the Asbury Park Press reports:
  • A building contractor turned himself into police [] on allegations that the worker accepted $85,000 for a home renovation job but split before he finished the work.

    Giuseppa Caira, 52, of Mullica Hill, who operates under Giuseppe and Son LLC, was accused of theft by failure to make required disposition of property and tampering with physical evidence, according to an online statement posted by the Long Beach Township Police Department.

    A victim who hired Caira signed a contract in October 2015 for renovations and forked over the $85,000, according to the statement.

    Caira reportedly only finished a portion of the work on the home, according to the victim, and the report was filed with police.

    Officers released Caira [] when he turned himself in, according to the statement.

    Similar incidents arose in Moorestown and Lumberton home in the summer, according to a sister publication, the Courier-Post.

    Another victim accused Caira of misappropriating funds from a home improvement loan in excess of $75,000.(1) Caira posted bail.

    Earlier on that week of August 26, Lumberton police charged Caira with theft relating to the contracting business.
Source: Long Beach PD: Contractor billed customer $85K, left job undone (Caira reportedly only finished a portion of the work on the home, according to the victim, and the report was filed with police).
(1) See Police: Contractor stole $75K from Burlco customer.

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

52 Cleveland-Area Tenants, Landlords Get Rolled By Joint Task Force For Allegedly Defrauding HUD Out Of $1.2+ Million In Section 8 Rent Subsidies

From the Cuyahoga County, Ohio Office of the Prosecutor:
  • Tenants and landlords who defrauded the Housing Choice Voucher Program (HCVP), for more than $1.2 million were indicted last [month], Cuyahoga County Prosecutor Timothy J. McGinty announced.

    On December 12 and December 15, the Grand Jury voted the charges of Fraud and Tampering with Records against 52 defendants in 32 cases.

    The Cuyahoga Metropolitan Housing Authority Police Investigative Unit, The Office of Inspector General for the US Department of Housing and Urban Development and the Cuyahoga County Prosecutor’s Office launched an investigation earlier this year and found the tenants lied on their applications and re-certifications, such as not reporting unauthorized occupancy or not disclosing a felony conviction.

    In other cases, the landlords committed fraud by covering up violations by their tenants or living in their own property that was subsidized by the program.

    “The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, Office of Inspector General, applauds its partnership with local law enforcement and the Cuyahoga County Prosecutor’s Office in its continued efforts to pursue those individuals who defraud our programs and jeopardize the benefits of those who are most needy,” Brad Geary, Special Agent in Charge of the Department of Housing Urban Development’s Office of Inspector General in Chicago, said after the indictments were issued.

    The HCVP, formerly known as Section 8, has strict qualifying guidelines that are very clear to both tenants and landlords.

Landlord Agrees To Pay $6K+ In Fines, Restitution, Etc., Gets 36 Months Probation To Settle Allegations Of Tenant Harassment, Rent Overcharge In 5-Unit West Hollywood Apartment Building Regulated By Local Rent Stabilization Law

In West Hollywood, California, reports:
  • Cheri Woods, the notorious landlord of a building where rocker Jim Morrison once lived, has pleaded no contest to a lawsuit by the City of West Hollywood alleging that she charged one of her tenants more than the legally allowable rent.

    In accepting her plea, L.A. Superior Court Judge Jane Godfrey ordered Woods to pay a fine of $500 plus $500 in additional court fees and pay restitution of $5,185 to one of her tenants, who the city alleged was charged more rent than legally allowed. Woods will be placed on probation for 36 months. If Woods had been convicted of violating the city’s rent laws, she would have faced up to six months in prison and a fine of as much as $1,000.

    West Hollywood filed a lawsuit against Woods in May, alleging that she harassed tenants of the five-unit building “in a manner that was likely to create a hostile living environment or to cause a reasonable tenant similarly situated to vacate the rental housing unit.” The city also alleged that Woods overcharged [a tenant] and failed to reregister a vacant apartment unit. All the units in Woods’ building are covering by the city’s rent stabilization law, which governs the amount a rent can be increased annually. As part of the settlement, the city dropped the harassment charges.
    Woods used the state’s Ellis Act to evict tenants from four of the five apartment units. Her daughter currently lives in one of the units.

Landlord Gets Pinched For Allegedly Hitting Up Tenants' Teen Daughters For Sex Under Threat Of Eviction; 2nd Alleged Victim Comes Forward After News Of Earlier Arrest Breaks

In Harahan, Louisiana, WWL-TV Channel 4 reports:
  • A landlord who has been arrested on first-degree rape charges for allegedly forcing the teen daughter of a tenant to have sex with him in order to prevent eviction is now facing more charges as a teen from another family has come forward.

    Landlord Kenneth Bryant, 46, not only threatened to throw the family of a 16-year-old girl out of their apartment if she didn't perform sex acts on him, but the girl’s parents say Bryant followed through with that threat after she reported the crime to police.

    “He threatened her with her job. Threatened to have her fired from her job. Threatened to have us evicted. Threatened to have my sons evicted if she didn't do these acts,” the girl’s father, who asked to remain anonymous, said.

    The father says his daughter was coerced and even forced to perform the sex acts.

    Bryant was first arrested by Jefferson Parish Sheriff’s deputies in early December, with another arrest by Kenner Police last week for carnal knowledge of a juvenile and molestation of a juvenile. They re-booked Bryant on a charge of first-degree rape after the victim told a child advocate Bryant forced her to lay down and perform oral sex on him, and that she was able to shove him off before he forced himself on her further.
    Harahan Police booked Bryant on an additional simple battery charge [] after another 17-year-old girl came forward after news of Bryant’s arrest broke.

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Unit Owners In Failed Florida Condominium Fight To Save Their Homes As Bulk-Apartment Investor Seeks To Legally Squeeze Them Out & Convert Complex Into A Rental Building

In Tampa, Florida, the Tampa Bay Times reports:
  • Built in what could become one of Tampa Bay's most dynamic neighborhoods, The Slade At Channelside condominiums boast an eclectic mix of unit owners.

    There's Brandon McArthur, a baseball scout for the Los Angeles Angels. And Anthony Arzola, a medical devices salesman. And Damon Mathis, a colonel in the U.S. Army.

    They and many others bought in The Slade — paying more than $200,000 for their units — because they liked its sleek look, its wide range of amenities and its location in a prime area poised for massive redevelopment.

    But they are fighting what could be a losing battle to keep their homes.

    A St. Petersburg-based company, Slade Owner LLC, has acquired more than 85 percent of the units and wants to make The Slade rental only. It already is leasing out the units it owns and needs to acquire only a few more to achieve its goal.

    To that end, the holdouts charge, Slade Owner is trying to bully them into selling. They say the company arbitrarily reassigned long-held parking spots and has slapped them with assessments, demanding quick payment in full. And they say it has threatened them with the possibility of more assessments unless they accept what they call "ridiculously'' low offers to sell.
    In 2011, a South Florida company bought more than 200 units at a foreclosure auction, rented them out, then sold them last year to Slade Owner LLC for $40 million, records show.

    Slade Owner has continued to buy individually owned units, including two in November. It easily meets the 80 percent ownership requirement but [those] who don't want to sell still make up more than 10 percent of the ownership — enough to block termination of the condominium association though just barely.
    In response to the unintended effects of [a] 2007 law, the Legislature passed another law last year that increased protections for condo owners facing the forced sale of their units. Among them: Homesteaded owners who bought from the developer must be reimbursed for the price they originally paid, while owners who bought later must be paid the fair market value of their units.

    In a case involving a South Florida condominium, though, Florida's Third District Court of Appeal issued a ruling in November that could embolden some bulk owners to ignore the new law's protections for owners who don't want to sell. That worries The Slade holdouts, who have hired an attorney and plan to keep on fighting.

Lead Poisoning Of Young Children An Issue In Connection With Aging, Dilapidated Foreclosed Homes Being Bought & Peddled By Institutional Real Estate Operators Using Contract For Deed, Rent-To-Own Rackets; 'Hush Money' Clauses In $ettlements Keep Lawsuit-Filing Victims From Telling Media About Being Screwed Over

In Baltimore, Maryland, The New York Times reports:
  • A year after Tiffany Bennett moved into a two-story red brick house at 524 Loudon Avenue here, she received alarming news.

    Two children, both younger than 6, for whom Ms. Bennett was guardian, were found to have dangerous levels of lead in their blood. Lead paint throughout the nearly 100-year-old home had poisoned them.

    Who was responsible for the dangerous conditions in the home?

    Baltimore health officials say it was an out-of-state investment company that entered into a rent-to-own lease with the unemployed Ms. Bennett to take the home in 2014 “as is” — chipping, peeling lead paint and all.

    Ms. Bennett, 46, and the children moved out, but they should never have been in the house at all. City officials had declared the house “unfit for human habitation” in 2013.

    Throughout the country, tens of thousands of rundown homes have been scooped up by investment companies that have offered high-interest financing or rent-to-own deals largely to poor people. Many of these homes were foreclosed on during the housing crisis.

    These investors, however, often put no money toward renovation, or for fixing lead paint problems. The low-income buyers and renters are forced to make all repairs. When there are serious problems with the homes, victims can be required to sign confidentiality agreements to keep them quiet in a settlement after they have been compensated, as happened in Ms. Bennett’s case.

    As a result, seller-financed housing contracts have aggravated a persistent problem of lead poisoning among young children in this country.
    Ms. Bennett entered into a rent-to-own contract with Vision Property Management of Columbia, S.C., one of the biggest players in this fast-growing market.

    Vision failed to register the property with Baltimore housing officials after buying it in 2014 from Fannie Mae, the government-controlled mortgage finance firm. It then ignored the city’s previous building code violation, according to public records reviewed by The New York Times.

    The details of Ms. Bennett’s situation were pieced together through interviews with public officials, court records and documents provided through public records requests to various city and state agencies. Some of the documents were redacted to protect the privacy of the children.

    In many cases, families who had been affected by lead poisoning declined to comment when reached, citing concerns about reprisals.
    Poor families that buy or rent one of these rundown homes often find themselves with another problem: Because they do not technically own their house, they are ineligible for any state or local grants to help defray the cost of removing lead paint.
    In New York State, some grants provided to residents in rural communities to eliminate “critical health and safety threats” from homes, including lead paint, specifically exclude anyone buying a home with a contract for deed.

    A lead-safe program in Columbus, Ohio, is open only to property owners — again shutting out people buying homes through a contract for deed or a signing a rent-to-own lease.

    Katarina Karac, an assistant city attorney for Columbus, recently helped one woman who bought a home with a contract for deed get the seller to apply for a lead paint removal grant. Ms. Karac said the woman, who has three young children, had applied at least twice to the lead-safe program and was rejected because she did not legally own the home.

    “She was lucky enough the property owner was willing to work with her,” she said. “I can’t imagine someone in her position ordering a lead test, and if lead is found, asserting a claim against the owner.”

    In Michigan last month, a special lead-poisoning task force set up by the governor after the water crisis in Flint recommended a one-time lead inspection, the results of which property owners must disclose to buyers and renters. The proposal stipulated that the requirement could not be “waived in the event of a sale through land contract.”

    In Ms. Bennett’s case, Baltimore’s health department sued a limited liability company tied to Vision in December 2015 for failing to promptly comply with an order to eliminate the lead paint condition in the home.

    Many of Vision’s homes were bought cheaply from Fannie Mae and had been empty for years. Vision bought the house at 524 Loudon Avenue from Fannie for about $5,000.

    Ms. Bennett, who paid a monthly rent of $440, sued Vision after learning the children were poisoned by lead. She declined to talk about her situation, citing a confidentiality provision in the settlement of her lawsuit. She left the house in November 2015 as part of a settlement with Vision.

Member Of Chicago Quartet That Claimed 'Sovereign Citizen' Immunity While Running Foreclosed Home Hijacking Racket Gets 4 Years Prison Time; Two Others Await Sentencing While One Earlier-Convicted Scammer Is Currently Doing 45 Months

In Chicago, Illinois, the Beverly Patch reports:
  • The last of four men charged with running an alleged criminal enterprise involving foreclosed homes they did not legally own was convicted [in December].

    Raymond Trimble, 54, pled guilty to one count of theft, a class one felony. He was sentenced to four years in the Illinois Department of Corrections. Trimble is the fourth and final defendant convicted in a plot to illegally occupy and rent foreclosed homes in the Beverly and Morgan Park communities.

    Trimble also pled guilty to one count of aggravated fleeing and eluding, and one count of escape on an unrelated incident.

    The other three individuals, David Farr/Fahim Ali, Torrez Moore and Arshad Thomas have also been convicted for their roles. Ali and Moore were arrested in an early-morning raid July 2015; father and son, Trimble and Thomas, were arrested in December of that year.

    Thomas was handed a 45-month sentence in March after he pled guilty to one felony count of burglary.

    David Farr, also known as Fahim Ali, was convicted in the fall by a jury of various felonies, including theft, financial institution fraud and continuing a financial crimes enterprise. Farr acted as his own attorney and the jury deliberated for less than 40 minutes.

    Authorities said the four associates were tied together, but kept their unlawful business dealings separate. The four men identify themselves as Sovereign Moors, an anti-government group that rejects government and law enforcement from having any authority over them.

    Farr/Ali and Moore are still awaiting sentencing.
Source: Last of Alleged Squatters Cops Guilty Plea, Handed 4-Year Sentence (Raymond Trimble pleads guilty to felony theft for his alleged role in the illegal takeover of foreclosed homes n Beverly and Morgan Park).

Monday, January 09, 2017

Aging, Landlord-Owned Mobile Home Parks Leave Lot-Leasing Homeowners Set Up For Failure

National Public Radio has recently published a two-part report on conditions at mobile home parks throughout the United States.

Part 1 focuses on what happens when mobile home park owners/landlords fail to take care of their communities. Part 2 looks at what happens when residents are able to take ownership over their community.

An excerpt from Part 1:
  • Tachell and Bonsall say living in Syringa has been a blessing — but over the years, it has also become a curse. Since the 1980s, this community of roughly 100 houses has been plagued repeatedly by drinking water problems — including periods with contaminated water or no water at all.(1)

    Rivers of raw sewage have occasionally gushed out of the ground and formed stinky ponds around homes. One resident has filled a cardboard box with videocassettes that he shot to document some of the incidents. Conditions in the neighborhood have become so bad that some people have abandoned their houses and moved out.
    Residents say there's one main reason why they have had problems for so many years: Syringa is a mobile home park.

    The federal government estimates there are more than 8 million "manufactured houses" (which is what the government has called mobile homes built since 1976). Housing specialists say they play an important role in "boosting affordable home ownership opportunities," according to a Ford Foundation report.

    But the decades-old saga of Syringa Mobile Home Park and other evidence suggest that the legal and financial ways in which manufactured housing communities are set up often turn the residents into victims.

    Carolyn Carter, an attorney and deputy director of the National Consumer Law Center based in Boston, says the heart of the problem with manufactured home communities "is that the residents don't own or control the land beneath their homes."

    When you buy a home in a manufactured housing community, you own only the home's structure — the walls, roof and floor. But a private company or investor owns all the land.

    Homeowners pay rent to hook up the house there. Typically, the community owner, not the local government, is also responsible for its roads and utilities. The less money the community owner spends maintaining them, the more profit their business can make.

    The owner is the "lord of the manor," Carter says, "and basically doesn't have to pay much attention to the folks who are living there."

    Of course, there can be water and sewage problems in traditional neighborhoods, too. "But you elect the public officials who oversee them, and so you can hold those officials accountable," Carter says.

    The chronic problems at Syringa echo what has been happening at manufactured housing communities across the country.
For more, see Mobile Home Park Owners Can Spoil An Affordable American Dream.

For Part 2, see When Residents Take Ownership, A Mobile Home Community Thrives.
(1) Water & sewer problems are a major issue for lot-leasing homeowners in aging mobile home parks. For another example, see Water quality issues in Livingston: 'Infrequent' but real:
  • Five small drinking water systems at three residential [mobile home park] communities and two businesses in Livingston County have had violations related to lead testing since 2010, according to Environmental Protection Agency data compiled by USA Today. [...] In one of those cases, issues with arsenic in the water supply has landlords involved in an ongoing Michigan Department of Environmental Quality enforcement case.

Resident-Owned & Operated Mobile Home Park Cooperatives: A Way To Preserve Affordable Living While Dodging An Eventual Boot

National Public Radio has recently published a two-part report on conditions at mobile home parks throughout the United States.

Part 1 focuses on what happens when mobile home park owners/landlords fail to take care of their communities. Part 2 looks at what happens when residents are able to take ownership over their community.

An excerpt from Part 2:
  • Park Plaza is a mobile home park, or what industry calls a manufactured housing community. Five years ago, the residents banded together, formed a nonprofit co-op and bought their entire neighborhood from the company that owned it. Today, these residents exert democratic control over almost 9 acres of prime suburbs, with 80 manufactured houses sited on them.
    [T]he residents were stunned one day almost seven years ago when a letter showed up in their mailboxes from the park's owner, saying that he was considering selling Park Plaza. [...R]esidents say they had never seen the owner. Now he was about to turn their world upside down.

    That letter spotlights the main legal and financial drawback to living in most manufactured housing communities. When you buy a home there, you own the walls, roof and floor, but a private company or investor owns all the land under and around the house. Homeowners pay rent to keep their homes there. The company can sell the land and kick out the residents and their houses whenever it wants, except in a few states that have given residents legal rights to resist.

    Typically, the companies that own mobile home parks also own the infrastructure, and the less money they spend maintaining it, the more profit they can make. Housing specialists say that's one of the main reasons why many manufactured home parks look worn down and scruffy — like Park Plaza did before they formed a co-op.
    Then one week later, the residents received another letter inviting them to a meeting to learn how they could save their community. About 70 residents attended, sitting nervously in a room with thin carpets and bright fluorescent lights at the Fridley public library.

    Kevin Walker, a community development specialist from the Northcountry Cooperative Foundation, stood up front and gave them surprising news: If they wanted, his organization would help them buy Park Plaza and run it democratically, for the good of the residents.

    The foundation, based in Minneapolis, collaborates with ROC USA, a national network of development specialists.(1) Since the late 1980s, ROC has led a legal and financial campaign to help residents take over almost 200 mobile home parks across the nation. As the meeting unfolded, Walker displayed a series of posters showing how the residents of Park Plaza could pull it off.
    Walker told the residents that his foundation and ROC USA could likely help them get the huge loan they would need. After all, the federal government requires banks to invest in low-income housing.
For more, see When Residents Take Ownership, A Mobile Home Community Thrives.

For Part 1, see Mobile Home Park Owners Can Spoil An Affordable American Dream.
(1) ROC USA, LLC helps resident corporations buy their manufactured home communities or “mobile home parks” from private community owners. ROC USA is a non-profit organization with a mission of making quality resident ownership possible nationwide. lot-leasing homeowners

Lot-Leasing Homeowners In Aging, Decaying 133-Unit NYS Trailer Park Save Their Homes From Eventual Wrecking Ball; Score $4 Million Loan To Buy Out Landlord, Make Essential Infrastructure Improvements, Obtain Long Term Security, Protection Against Possible Boot From Low-Cost Neighborhood By Hungry Condo Developers

In Milton, New York, the Albany Times Union reports:
  • For the last decade or so, life was grim for the residents at Creek and Pines Mobile Home Community in Milton.

    The water infrastructure was leaky, causing low pressure or no water at all. There has been trouble with the septic and electric systems. And its last manager, Harold Wolcott, was arrested for allegedly choking a tenant for playing his music too loud.

    "It's been quite an ordeal for us," said Danielle Marshall, a six-year resident of the community. "But now I feel like we won the lottery."

    Her change in attitude came in the form of a $4 million loan that has allowed the mobile home owners to form a cooperative and buy the 33 acres of land that 133 units sit on. The community was renamed Kayadeross Acres.

    The fixed-rate loan, mostly from the state, also will go for upgrades to the water system, septic, storm sewage and electric. It will repave the roads, remove dozens of dangerous trees and rebuild the dilapidated playground.

    In addition to the improvements, Marshall, the president of the newly formed co-op board, said the loan also buys security.

    "Before, the owner of the park could have sold the land to a condo developer and kicked all of us out or jack up the rent," she said. "There is nothing we could have done. Now, we pay the co-op a monthly fee and the money we spend will go back into the community."

    The financing for the new venture comes from the state's Homes and Community Renewal (HCR), an agency devoted to preserving affordable housing, and ROC USA, a New Hampshire nonprofit that helps mobile home park residents form cooperatives to buy the land under their mobile homes.

    "We do this because it allows the homeowners to gain security and affordability over time," ROC USA President Paul Bradley said. "In my 32 years of doing this, we have never seen a co-op go bankrupt or go into foreclosure. Sustained ownership supports a community and creates success over time."

    The transition to a co-op is seamless for the mobile home owners. They currently pay $447.43 per month to rent the lot. A homeowner who chooses to be in the co-op buys a share for $200. Payment plans allow owners to pay off the share for as little as $5 a month. The new monthly fee, previously sent to the former owners, Park Advisors in Minneapolis, will be $450. For those who are not in the co-op, rent will increase to $525.

    Tim Connor, who has lived at Lot 76 for 30 years, said it's a good deal.

    "We were all fed up with paying our lot rent to some outfit that goes to lining someone else's pocket and not improving the park," Connor said. "This gives us a long-term solution."

    HCR and ROC USA already support co-ops at the Woodlands Community in Hornell, Steuben County, and Lakeville Estates in Geneseo, Livingston County. HCR Commissioner James Rubin said it's all part of Gov. Andrew Cuomo's plan to preserve affordable housing of all kinds.

    "Manufactured homes are an invaluable, relatively low-cost affordable housing resource and, like other affordable homes, they are largely irreplaceable," Rubin said. "Kayadeross Acres residents are in control ... and now have the power to make cooperative decisions and changes that will ensure that those homes are kept sustainable, viable and affordable."

    For Marshall, it's about having a voice in her neighborhood.

    "Basically, each person has a say and the right to vote on what they want to see happen here," she said. "Everyone sees the possibilities. Even the kids are involved in deciding how the playground will be with twisting slides and a castle. It's been an amazing adventure."
Source: Milton mobile home park cashes in with $4 million loan (State program to form co-op supports affordable housing).

See also, NYS Homes and Community Renewal, Roc USA® and Pathstone Help Ballston Spa Residents Buy Their Manufactured Home Park (Purchase Preserves 133 Capital Region Homes as Affordable Housing; Residents Proclaim “We Own It!”; $4 Million State Investment Buys Cooperative Ownership and Essential Infrastructure Improvements at Kayadeross Acres Manufactured Home Park).

Sunday, January 08, 2017

Owner Of Boston's North End Nursing Home Responds To Community Protests, Scraps Plans To Close Facility & Boot Elderly Residents; Announces Sale Of Aging Building To Another Operator To Pour At Least $4 Million In Staged Renovations, Keeping Everyone In Place

In Boston, Massachusetts, The Boston Globe reports:
  • A nursing home in Boston’s North End won’t close after all.

    Spaulding Rehabilitation Network, which was planning to close the facility and relocate services to a location in Brighton, said Friday that it will instead be sold to Marquis Health Services, a subsidiary of Brick, N.J.-based Tryko Partners LLC. Marquis plans to renovate the aging building and maintain skilled nursing services there.

    The nursing home opened in 1983 and has been run by Spaulding for the past 16 years. When Spaulding said last year that it wanted to close the facility, community members protested. Public officials, including Mayor Martin J. Walsh, joined an effort to keep a nursing home in the neighborhood.

    “We weren’t sure, quite frankly, whether there would be someone wanting to operate a nursing home in the North End, but at the urging of Mayor Walsh and the other elected officials we agreed to spend some time just looking to nursing home operators that might be interested,” Spaulding president David Storto said. “We heard the community’s concerns, we took the time to see if we could find a solution to meet their expectations. . . . We were able to do that.”
    North End residents, who had feared the nursing home would be replaced by high-end condos or other development, were relieved by the announcement.

    “I am glad it will stay on for all our seniors in the neighborhood and throughout downtown Boston,” said Philip Frattaroli, 34, whose grandfather lived in the North End nursing home for eight months until his death in October. “A lot of people here don’t have cars here. . . . If it had moved, it would have involved taking a bus and a train for us. It is important for all of downtown to have this facility so close.”

    Immediately after Spaulding announced its plans last year, residents objected. They brought their concerns to legislators and the mayor.
    Marquis operates 16 nursing facilities, including nine in Massachusetts. It plans to spend at least $4 million to renovate the North End facility, staging the work so that long-term residents are not disrupted.

Another Group Of Poor Tenants Face Mass Eviction Over Landlord's Failure To Pay $50K+ In Overdue Water & Sewer Bills; City To Hold Off On Utilities Shutoff While Local Non-Profits Step In To Assist In Relocating Residents

In Flint, Michigan, WNEM-TV Channel 8 reports:
  • While the temperatures outside might be a bit on the warm side, some Mid-Michigan residents feel like they have been left out in the cold.

    Several families at Lakeside Apartments in Flint were given eviction notices last week, but said their rent is paid up. The apartment complex owes the city of Flint thousands of dollars in outstanding water bills.

    The residents there are being told they have two weeks to get out.

    "He's taking our money and he's not paying the bills. We were told utilities were included with rent. Well, what are you going with the rent," said Linda Mills, tenant.

    Mike Kelvin's name is listed as the owner on eviction notices that went out at the complex. Residents said they have not seen his face and he will not return their phone calls.

    "I've been paying my rent on time like it's supposed to been paid, but now that everything has been going down like it has left and right, I stopped my rent in September. It's just pitiful," said Brittany King, tenant.

    Mills and King are two of several tenants left at the complex after their landlord racked up more than $50,000 worth of past due water and sewer bills. The city said it will cut off water services at the complex after all of the tenants have been relocated.

    Community organizations like the United Way and the Red Cross have worked to relocate many of the residents already.

    Mills and King plan to ride it out until the last day, which was supposed to be this week. However, it has been pushed back to Jan. 8.

    "I'm still not sure where I'm going to go, where I have to go because I do have two children and I have to make sure they have a roof over their head," King said.

    Lisia Williams is a community advocate who has been working to place tenants in temporary housing.

    "He really took advantage of the situation and to falsely put out this eviction notice on these tenants to put more fear and threaten them when they're barely surviving as it is. And he hasn't even stepped forth to come out here," Williams said.

    Residents said the situation prevented them from celebrating Christmas this year and they just want their landlord to be held accountable for what they are going through.

Dozens Of Residents Get Abrupt Boot Three Days Before Xmas As City Code Enforcement Officials Condemn Apartment Building Over Unsafe Living Conditions; Landlord: I'm Innocent!

In Belle Glade, Florida, WPTV-TV Channel 5 reports:
  • Dozens of people have been forced out of their homes after Belle Glade city leaders condemned their apartment building due to unsafe conditions.

    Tenants got the unexpected news Thursday [12/22/16] morning. It's a sad sight to see on Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd in Belle Glade.

    Derrick Kirksey and dozens of others spent the day packing. "Came in at 8am and ordered us all out," says Kirksey. City leaders put red signs around the apartment complex telling tenants to be out by 6pm. "I'm very angry because it puts you in a bad situation," he says.

    City leaders say they gave the property owner plenty of warnings to fix the place up.

    "Electrical, plumbing, one side has light, one side does not," says Glorida Akins who is helping tenants move out.

    We reached out to the property owner who is currently out of state. He says he fixed all the problems and the city did not give him enough warning before Thursday.

    Meanwhile the city is putting tenants up at several hotels.

Low-Income Residents In 39-Unit NYC Apartment Building Threatened w/ Homelessness As Local Faith-Based Non-Profit Landlord Seeks To Give Them All The Boot To (Purportedly) Convert Premises Into ... A Homeless Shelter???

In Astoria, Queens, the New York Daily News reports:
  • A faith-based Queens nonprofit is trying to boot low-income renters into the street in the midst of the holiday season — in the hopes of converting their building into a homeless shelter, residents told the Daily News.

    The New York School of Urban Ministries in Astoria wants tenants out of the 46th St. building as soon as possible and has been using underhanded methods to speed up the process, residents say.

    Pastor Peter DeArruda, the executive vice president of the ministry, sent notices out last month informing tenants they must vacate the building by Dec. 31.

    “I will never understand how a Christian group can dump longstanding and faithful residents in the middle of the winter and during the holidays,” said 39-year-old actress Amy Burgmaier, who has lived at the address on and off for two years.

    The misleading letters, some of which threaten legal action, would only be the first step of eviction and residents don’t have to leave until all legal proceedings have taken place.

    But tenants were told the three-story, 39-unit brick building that serves as a dormitory as well as housing for missionaries and others was slated to be used as a homeless shelter as soon as January.

    Three tenants have already moved out.

    It makes no sense that they are moving in a homeless shelter but they are causing other people to be homeless,” Burgmaier said.

Dropping Occupancy Levels, Very Low Medicare/Medicaid Reimbursements Trigger Closure Of Another Nursing Home, Forcing Over Two Dozen Elderly/Poor Patients To Pack Their Bags, Find Another Care Facility By Next Month

In River Falls, Wisconsin, the Pierce County Herald reports:
  • The numbers were off for a year, then they got even worse. Licensed for 50 beds, The Lutheran Home's (in River Falls) occupancy averaged barely 40 nursing home residents from January through May. Then it dropped to the mid-30s.

    By the time of last week's closing announcement, only 29 beds were filled at the local nursing home.

    “That is what determines how healthy your facility is,” said Lutheran Home Executive Director Spencer Beard. “Our numbers have been going down.”

    A news release from parent company The Lutheran Home Association in Belle Plaine, Minn., gave this reason for the Lutheran home's closing:

    “The decision was made after a thorough analysis of the changing marketplace in the River Falls and Hudson area. Trends indicate seniors have a strong desire to remain independent as long as possible, and the demand for skilled nursing care has decreased in this region.”

    According to a letter from Beth Wadsley, Lutheran Home Association human resources director, the closing process in River Falls began Tuesday, Dec. 6. It will end with a total closure Feb. 23.

    The three-story nursing home at 640 N. Main St. employs 62 people — from housekeepers and nursing assistants to registered nurses and dietary aides. Almost all will lose their jobs.
    Beard said that the Tuesday, Dec. 6, closing announcement to staff, residents and their family members was emotional — one that produced shock, sadness and tears.

    “It seemed that our staff members were more upset for the residents than for themselves and losing their positions,” Beard said. “I think that says a lot about the great quality of care that is given in this facility. We have wonderful caretakers, and that never went unnoticed.”

    While the announcement at The Lutheran Home was dramatic, Beard said there was a sense among people that the status quo couldn't go on.

    “With the building census struggles, the writing was on the wall,” he said.

    Beard said the current Lutheran Home building “will eventually be torn down.” He added that it's possible that the Lutheran Home Association will build something else there — some facility that provides a service to the elderly.

    Beard said three factors in particular worked against The Lutheran Home:
  • A trend for older people to try to live on their own longer while using home-health care services to do so.
  • Very low Medicare and Medicaid reimbursements from Wisconsin for services nursing homes render, including for medical rehabilitation.
  • No. 2 contributes to staff shortages because nursing homes can't pay competitive wages.
  • Beard said nursing home closures in Wisconsin have been on the rise — “almost as if they're being phased out.” At the same time, he added, more older people are opting for assisted-living facilities.