Saturday, June 17, 2017

Criminal Interference With Right To Fair Housing: Cincinnati Feds, Local Cops Bag Ex-Tenant For Hate Crime After He Allegedly Destroyed Rented Apartment, Spray-Painting Racist Messages On Walls Of Interracial Couple/Landlord's 2-Unit Home After Getting The Boot

From the Office of the U.S. Attorney (Cincinnati, Ohio):
  • A federal grand jury has charged Samuel Whitt, 41, of Cincinnati, with criminal interference with the right to fair housing and attempted arson.

    Benjamin C. Glassman, United States Attorney for the Southern District of Ohio, Angela L. Byers, Special Agent in Charge, Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), Cincinnati Field Office and Cincinnati Police Chief Eliot K. Isaac announced the indictment that was returned yesterday [May 23] and unsealed today [May 24].

    The indictment alleges that Whitt destroyed a rental home in Price Hill after being evicted from the property. Whitt and another individual had rented the lower unit of the house from an interracial couple.

    According to the indictment, over the Thanksgiving holiday, Whitt broke into the rental home and spray-painted the walls with messages including “die nigger,” “nigger,” and “white power,” as well as images of swastikas. Whitt also splattered paint on walls, stairs and appliances; made holes in the walls; broke banisters; tore carpet; poured quick-drying concrete into the bathroom drains and toilet; and stabbed a knife into the floor. Whitt also allegedly removed plumbing traps from the sinks and left the water running, causing extensive water damage to the ceilings and floors. Whitt turned on the gas stove in the upstairs kitchen, poured paint into the burners, and attempted to remove the smoke detector above the stove.

    Whitt is charged with one count of violating the Fair Housing Act through force by willfully intimidating the homeowners based on their race, color and familial status. This is a crime punishable by a potential maximum sentence of up to 10 years in prison. Whitt is also charged with attempted arson, which carries a mandatory minimum sentence of five years’ up to a possible 20 years’ imprisonment.

    Cincinnati Police officers arrested Whitt on December 9, 2016 on local breaking and entering and vandalism charges. Whitt was arrested this morning by FBI agents and Cincinnati Police officers on the federal charges.

    U.S. Attorney Glassman commended the investigation by the FBI and Cincinnati Police, as well as Assistant United States Attorneys Megan Gaffney and Kyle Healey who are prosecuting the case.

    An indictment merely contain allegations, and the defendant is presumed innocent unless proven guilty in a court of law.
Source: Grand Jury Indicts Cincinnati Man with Hate Crimes Charges (Defendant Allegedly Destroyed Price Hill Home after Being Evicted).

Lawsuit: Landlord Refuses To Allow Nonverbal, Developmentally Disabled Tenant In Need Of Full-Time Caretaker To Add Sister To Her Lease ($356/Month, 2-Bedroom Apt.); Serves Them Both With Eviction Papers Instead

In New York City, the New York Daily News reports:
  • A nonverbal, developmentally disabled woman faces eviction because the building's owner won't add her sister to her lease, a new lawsuit alleges.

    Blanca Martinez has lived in her East Harlem apartment, located on E. 107th St. and Lexington Ave., for 28 years. Martinez, 58, has cerebral palsy, and doctors have also diagnosed her with "moderate mental deficiency."

    "She is mostly nonverbal, and generally points or nods in response to questions," according to her Manhattan Federal Court lawsuit, filed on May 26th.

    Because of Martinez's condition, she needs a full-time caretaker to help her bathe, dress and use the restroom. Her parents took care of her for many years and held the lease on the apartment where she lives.

    But in July 2010, her father, Marcos, died and her mother, Maria, developed Alzheimer’s in 2014 — requiring her sister, Thelma, to care for both of them, court papers state.

    "Wherever I go, my sister comes with me," Thelma Martinez told the Daily News in an exclusive interview. "I never let her out of my sight."

    Following the Alzheimer’s diagnosis, Martinez, 57, asked the building's management, Manhattan North Management Co., to add her to the lease.

    Manhattan North said no because of a previous housing court judgment, the civil suit states.

    When their mother died in March 2016, the Martinez sisters stayed in the home and Thelma took care of Blanca.

    The building's management hit the siblings with an eviction notice in October, claiming Blanca let her younger sister live in the apartment without its consent.

    Thelma said she doesn't know where else they could go on their combined income — and find another two-bedroom for $356 per month. "It's hard for me because I don't work, (but) I wouldn't be able to go back to work — because I can't leave my sister alone," Thelma Martinez said.

    "I don't know much about shelters," she said. "It frightens me."

    Martinez, who is trying to get power of attorney over her sister and hopes the suit, filed by Aisha Elston-Wesley, a staff attorney with Manhattan Legal Services's Tenant Rights Coalition,(1) will allow them to stay.

    "This is the place where my sister feels calm, at peace, happy," Martinez said. "This is her home."

    Neither Manhattan North, which manages the property, nor L.A. Equities Corp., which owns the 108-unit building, responded to requests for comment.
Source: Harlem landlord threatens to evict disabled woman because she wants caretaker sister added on lease: lawsuit.
(1) Manhattan Legal Services is a part of Legal Services NYC, a non-profit organization providing legal services to low-income residents throughout New York City. fair housing

Refusal To Make American Sign Language Interpreter Services Available To Deaf Persons Raises Fair Housing Issues For Dozens Of Nursing Homes & Assisted Living Facilities In Metro NYC-Area

From a recent announcement by the New York City-based Fair Housing Justice Center:
  • [T]he Fair Housing Justice Center (FHJC) announced that several defendants have settled a lawsuit that was filed in the Eastern District of New York (EDNY) in November 2015. The lawsuit, which stemmed from an eight-month systemic testing investigation by the FHJC, alleges that the operators of dozens of nursing home and assisted living facilities refused to make American Sign Language (ASL) interpreter services available to Deaf persons.

    Though denying the allegations, the following defendants have entered into separate agreements to resolve the housing discrimination lawsuit, Crown Nursing Home Associates, Inc., Cliffside Nursing Home, Inc., Forest View Nursing Home, Inc., Ultimate Care Assisted Living Management, LLC, EBC White Plains, LLC, Hungry Harbor Care, LLC, Sayville Senior Care, LLC, and Armonk Senior Care, LLC.

    The settlements were so-ordered by the Hon. Judge Raymond J. Dearie in December 2016 and April 2017. The settlement agreements contain similar injunctive relief that apply to thirteen assisted living facilities and four nursing homes. Some of the provisions include:
  • Agreement not to refuse to provide a reasonable accommodation to obtain auxiliary services including ASL interpreters when appropriate for effective communication;
  • Adoption of policies and procedures that will ensure Deaf people have access to ASL interpreters or other auxiliary services as needed to provide effective communication when appropriate;
  • Training for key facility staff on the legal rights of Deaf persons under fair housing and other civil rights laws as well as sensitivity issues and best practices for working with Deaf and Hard-of-Hearing persons; and
  • Agreement to maintain and make available specific records over several years for review by the FHJC to document efforts made to comply with the terms of the settlements.
  • In addition, the settlements also provide for a monetary recovery totaling $242,500, including damages and attorney’s fees. Claims against other defendants are still pending.

    FHJC Executive Director Fred Freiberg stated, “These settlements help to ensure that Deaf and Hard of Hearing populations have greater access to assisted living and nursing care in the New York City region.” The FHJC has partnered with the National Association of the Deaf (NAD) to provide training to key personnel in the facilities named in these settlements as well as in settlements that were reached last year in a similar lawsuit filed in the Southern District of New York.

    The FHJC is represented by Eric Baum and Andrew Rozynski of Eisenberg & Baum, LLP.

    The mission of the FHJC, a nonprofit civil rights organization, is to eliminate housing discrimination; promote policies and programs that foster open, accessible, and inclusive communities; and strengthen fair housing enforcement in the New York City region.
Source: Nursing Home and Assisted Living Facility Operators Settle Fair Housing Claims Brought by the FHJC (Agreements Ensure Deaf & Hard Of Hearing Populations Can Access Auxiliary Aids & Services).

City's Application Of Zoning Regulations To Prevent Use Of 12-Unit Building As "Supportive Housing" For Disabled Homeless Veterans To Cost It Nearly $2 Million To Settle Fair Housing Lawsuits

In Jacksonville, Florida, WOKV-Radio 104.5 FM reports:
  • A multi-year dispute over a Springfield housing project has now come to a close- and it’s costing the City of Jacksonville close to $2 million and some changes to zoning code.

    This started when the nonprofit Ability Housing announced plans for a 12-unit apartment building in Springfield, which they would rework to serve as “supportive housing” for disabled homeless veterans. Through a lengthy proves, the project was denied the needed approval from the City, which claimed that the housing project violated the Springfield Zoning Overlay which restricted “special uses” including residential treatment facilities and similar groupings. Ability Housing maintained they would fit within the zoning code, because no on-site services would be provided, so the project would, in essence, be a multiple-family dwelling- which was allowed.

    In 2015, Ability Housing filed a lawsuit against the City of Jacksonville for a violation of the Fair Housing Act and the Americans with Disabilities Act. Disability Rights Florida also sued, and was later consolidated in to Ability Housing’s claim. The US Department of Justice further brought forward a claim against the City in 2016.

    WOKV was the first to tell you earlier this year that federal court records showed agreements had been reached to settle this pending litigation. Three bills were filed with the City Council- two of which contain the settlements of the two lawsuits, and the third dealing with changing the Springfield Zoning Overlay- which is a condition of the settlements. The bills were snagged at the Committee level for some time over the zoning provisions, but all three bills have now passed the full City Council.

    Under the settlement, Jacksonville commits to awarding a $1.5 million grant through a competitive grant process, with the money going to permanent supportive housing for persons with disabilities. Additionally, Jacksonville is paying Ability Housing $400,000 and Disability Rights Florida $25,000 in fees and expenses, as well as a $25,000 fine to the Justice Department.

    On the administrative side, there are some zoning changes, to include a statement of intent that the code be interpreted under civil rights law and that persons with disabilities can request and receive reasonable accommodations. City representatives involved in zoning, permitting, housing, and similar areas will also be retrained under the Fair Housing Act and Americans With Disabilities Act, and the City will designate a Fair Housing Compliance Officer.

City To Cough Up $185K, Agrees To Revise Zoning Code In Settlement Of Fair Housing Lawsuit Accusing It Of Using Unlawful Restrictions To Keep Group Homes For Those In Recovery From Alcohol/Substance Abuse Out Of Residential Neighborhoods

From the U.S. Department of Justice (Washington, D.C.):
  • The Justice Department today [May 31] announced a settlement with the City of Jackson, Mississippi to resolve allegations that the city violated the Fair Housing Act (FHA) and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) by preventing people in recovery from alcohol and substance abuse from living in group homes in most residential areas.

    The settlement, which must still be approved by the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Mississippi, resolves a lawsuit the department filed in September 2016.

    The United States alleged that the City of Jackson engaged in a pattern or practice of discrimination on the basis of disability by imposing unlawful zoning restrictions on group homes for persons in recovery. The city enforced those restrictions against a group home operated by Urban Rehab, Inc., resulting in an order requiring the home to close and the residents to relocate. Several other homes for persons in recovery were at risk of being closed by the city’s enforcement of its ordinance.

    As part of the settlement, the city agreed to revise its zoning code to permit persons in recovery to reside in all residential zones and to ease other restrictions on group homes for people with disabilities. The city has agreed to adopt a reasonable accommodation policy, train city employees on the requirements of the FHA and ADA, appoint a Fair Housing Compliance Officer, and report periodically to the Justice Department. The city will pay $100,000 to the owner of Urban Rehab, Inc., $35,000 to the department as a civil penalty, and $50,000 to a settlement fund that will compensate other victims.

Friday, June 16, 2017

North Dakota Woman Dodges Prison Time, Having Already Served 43 Days After Arrest & Offering Immediate Restitution For Allegedly Abusing POA To Fleece 90+ Year-Old, Dementia-Stricken Uncle Out Of Real Estate Deeds, Mineral Rights, Bank Account; Defendant To Repay $30K, Remainder Of Pilfered Assets Returned To Victim

In Watford City, North Dakota, the Williston Herald reports:
  • A woman who McKenzie County prosecutors say took all of her mentally impaired uncle’s assets in 2014 has been sentenced to serve two years of probation.

    Sandra Potter appeared in court in Watford City on Tuesday, where she entered an Alford plea to two counts of exploitation of a vulnerable adult. One of the charges was a Class A felony, and the other a misdemeanor.

    An Alford plea is a legal maneuver that allows a person to avoid admitting guilt while conceding that enough evidence exists for a conviction.

    Two additional charges of exploitation of a vulnerable adult, both Class B felonies, were dismissed as part of a plea agreement.

    Northwest District Judge Daniel El-Dweek sentenced Potter to one year in prison, with all but 43 days suspended. Potter was credited for the 43 days she spent in jail after her arrest, which means she will serve no prison time.

    Prosecutors say Potter convinced her uncle, Robert Gross, who is in his 90s, to sign over his bank account, mineral rights and deeds to property between 2013 and 2014.

    The sentence angered Gross’s niece, who accused Potter of planning to take advantage of the elderly man for years by isolating him from other family members and telling him that others were out to get his money.

    “I am happy that you are exposed for what you really are — a predator,” Lynette Wicorek said as she read a statement during the hearing. “Of all the crimes you have committed you are getting off extremely easy.”

    Potter, 70, also spoke, telling the judge that she had Gross’s best interests at heart and did not set out to take advantage of him.

    “I’ve known him since I was a child, and I’ve loved him since I was a child,” she said. “I did not take from him, if he was incompetent I did not know it.”

    Potter was ordered to pay $30,300 in restitution, an amount that McKenzie County Assistant State’s Attorney Todd Schwarz said was “unhappily” accepted by one of Gross’s co-guardians, and not accepted by another.

    Still, he said, he felt that the sum was the most he could legally demand, and pointed out that land, a will, mineral rights and other assets had been returned to Gross’s name.

    “This is a circumstance in which frankly everyone will walk out of here unhappy,” Schwarz said. “This is a family thing that has many many facets beyond the criminal issue… There are a lot of hard feelings, there’s a lot of hurt, there’s a lot of pain, there’s a lot of anger.”

    Deep-rooted emotions propelled the case into the criminal realm, defense attorney Tyrone Turner said, referring to it as a civil dispute.

    “It really has gone too far mainly because of this animosity,” he said.

    Potter was arrested in 2015 after an investigation into claims that she bilked Gross out of his entire estate was re-opened by the Bureau of Criminal Investigation.

    Authorities said Gross handed over assets worth nearly $200,000 including mineral rights, the deeds to his farm in Fairview and three other properties in Arizona. He also gave Potter power of attorney and left her everything in his will, court records say.

    Gross, who now suffers from dementia, has been diagnosed with the mental capability of a 12-year-old.

    In January, El-Dweek rejected a plea deal that included many of the same elements of the agreement presented this week.

    He expressed continuing dissatisfaction with the resolution before accepting the new terms, but said the fact that Potter was prepared with immediate restitution payment factored heavily into his decision to accept them.

    “The law and the criminal justice system is insufficient to heal the harm that’s been done in this case,” El-Dweek said.
Source: Woman gets probation for exploiting uncle (Judge accepts plea deal, but expresses dissatisfaction). jail prison buyout

Cops: Elderly Disabled Mom Got The Boot From Home After Daughter Stole All Her Money

In Lawrenceville, Georgia, the Gwinnett Daily Post reports:
  • A Lawrenceville woman [...] is accused of stealing all her mother’s money in April, leading to the elderly woman’s eviction.

    Melissa Gibson, 30, was supposed to buy her mother money orders when she took her bank card on April 25 at around 2:30 p.m. Her mother said she was going to use the money orders to pay rent and her cell phone bill.

    But Gibson didn’t return to her mother’s Duluth home for a while and the elderly woman got “a feeling that she needed to call” her bank, according to a police report.

    “Once she spoke with (the bank), they informed her (that) her account was (at) negative $11,” responding Officer D.J. Fields wrote in the report.

    Gibson’s mother told police she got a check that day for $1,025, just like she did every third Wednesday of the month. She knew her account would have had at least that much in it when Gibson took her card.

    It might have had a little more.

    This likely wasn’t an isolated incident, according to the police report. The property manager where the elderly woman lived said she only saw Gibson on the third Wednesday of every month — when her mother got paid.

    The elderly woman’s mother told police a similar story.

    “She told how Melissa takes (her mother’s) money, leaves for a while and comes back to do it again when (her mother) gets paid,” according to the police report.

    Officials took out warrants for Gibson’s arrest on May 31, charging her with exploitation of a disabled adult, financial transaction card fraud and financial transaction card theft. But they didn’t catch back up with her until the early hours of Thursday morning.

Woman Admits Abusing POA To Drain Her Since-Deceased, Dementia-Suffering Mom's Life Savings, Leading To Victim's Forced Move Out Of Private Assisted Living Home

In Dover, New Hampshire, WCSH-TV Channel 6 reports:
  • A woman from West Newfield, who pleaded guilty in a case of elder financial exploitation, was back in court [May 24] for a hearing to determine how much money she stole from her mother.

    Donna Dell made nearly 600 transactions with her mother's money for her own personal use. Her mother, Geraldine Orser, had Alzheimer's disease and was unaware her life savings were being drained.

    Dell twice tried to delay the court proceedings in her case by asking for a new attorney, then a continuance. After the judge denied both motions, Dell admitted the money she had stolen from her mother totaled more than $91,000.

    "The fact that Ms. Orser had Alzheimer's makes this particularly egregious in my mind," said Asst. County Prosecutor Emily Conant. "She was a perfect victim, she had no idea this was going on."

    While Dell was spending her mother's money going shopping and at Mohegan sun and Foxwood casinos, her mother was being cared for at Watson Fields, a private assisted living facility. When Dell stopped the payments her mother was forced to move out to a public facility, where she died at the age of 81.

    "She provided herself with enough money to live the way that she wanted to live for the remainder of her life," Conant said, "and that was taken from her by her daughter and she was forced to live in a place she no longer called home."

    For people who help seniors try to prevent financial abuse, details of the case come as no surprise.

    "Financial exploitation is something that is insidious and can happen over a long period of time with no one knowing," said Katlyn Blackstone of the Southern Maine Area Agency on Aging.

    In this case, Donna Dell was given power of attorney over her mother's finances. Blackstone says it's a good idea to have a second person involved when you hand over that authority, even to a loved one.

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Real Estate Agent Cops Guilty Plea To Using False Representations To Purloin Over $750K From Prospective Buyers Of Vacant Foreclosures That He Had No Authority To Peddle

From the Office of the U.S. Attorney (Scranton, Pennsylvania):
  • The United States Attorney’s Office for the Middle District of Pennsylvania announced that Ignacio Beato, age 46, of Hazleton, Pennsylvania, pled guilty today [May 26] before United States District Judge James M. Munley to conspiracy to engage in monetary transactions through a financial institution, with funds that were the proceeds of wire fraud. Beato is scheduled to be sentenced on August 31, 2017.

    According to United States Attorney Bruce D. Brandler, Beato, who was a licensed realtor, falsely represented to potential purchasers that he was authorized to sell vacant conventional and Federal Housing Administration insured mortgaged properties in Hazleton, when in fact, he did not have such authority. Between December 2013 and March 2015, Beato accepted $751,082 from individuals who believed they were purchasing properties. Beato then fraudulently converted that money to his own personal use.

Loan Modification Scammer Pleads Guilty To Using False Promises To Hijack Over $2.2 Million In Mortgage Payments From 500+ Unwitting Homeowners Seeking House Payment Help

From the Office of the U.S. Attorney (Santa Ana, California):
  • An Orange County man pleaded guilty this morning [May 26] to federal charges relating to his operation of a fraud scheme that took $2.2 million from distressed homeowners through false promises that he could help them avoid foreclosure by obtaining modifications to their mortgages.

    Kevin Frank Rasher, 45, who has been in custody since his arrest at his Coto de Caza residence one year ago, pleaded guilty to 12 counts of mail fraud.
    In a plea agreement filed in federal court, Rasher admitted that, between 2011 and March 2016, he falsely told distressed homeowners that he was an employee of HUD and/or an attorney, and that the homeowners had been approved for a reduced mortgage payment or interest rate. Rasher then instructed the homeowners to mail their mortgage payments to one of his businesses, claiming that he would forward the money to the homeowners’ mortgage lenders. Instead of forwarding the money to the mortgage lenders, Rasher deposited the money into his bank accounts and used it for his own personal expenses.

    Rasher admitted that he fraudulently obtained approximately $2.24 million from more than 500 victims.

Defendant In Northern California Foreclosure Sale Bid-Rigging Conspiracy Gets 12 Months Prison Time After Jury Conviction

From the U.S. Department of Justice (Washington, D.C.):
  • After being convicted at trial, a Lafayette, California, man was sentenced to 12 months and one day in prison for his role in a conspiracy to rig bids at public real estate foreclosure auctions in Northern California, the Department of Justice announced.

    Thomas Joyce was charged on Dec. 3, 2014, in an indictment returned by a federal grand jury in the Northern District of California. Joyce was convicted on Feb. 6, 2017, of conspiring to rig bids at real-estate foreclosure auctions in Contra Costa County. In addition to his term of imprisonment, Joyce was sentenced to serve three years of supervised release and ordered to complete 100 hours of community service.

    Between June 2008 and January 2011, Joyce and other bidders at the auctions conspired not to bid against one another for selected properties, instead designating a winning bidder to win the property at the auction. The members of the conspiracy then held second, private auctions, known as “rounds,” to award the properties to members of the conspiracy and determine payoffs for other conspirators who had agreed not to bid against each other at the public auctions. The private auctions often took place at or near the courthouse steps where the public auctions were held. When real estate properties are sold at public auctions, the proceeds are used to pay off the mortgage and other debt attached to the property, with the remaining proceeds, if any, paid to the homeowner.

    The sentence is a result of the division’s ongoing investigation into bid rigging at public real estate foreclosure auctions in California’s San Francisco, San Mateo, Alameda and Contra Costa counties. These investigations are being conducted by the Antitrust Division’s San Francisco Office and the FBI’s San Francisco Office.

    Anyone with information concerning bid rigging or fraud related to public real estate foreclosure auctions should contact the Antitrust Division’s San Francisco Office at 415-934-5300 or call the FBI tip line at 415-553-7400.

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Detroit-Area Man Points Finger Of Blame At Probate Racket For Attempt To Cause His Dead Mother's Former Home To Be Sold Out From Under Him, Then Snatch Nearly $70K In Surplus Sale Proceeds; Victim: “They Messed With The Wrong Family This Time!”

In southeast Michigan, WXYZ-TV Channel 7 reports:
  • The 7 Investigators have been exposing a disturbing pattern of some public officials and real estate brokers taking over estates after someone dies, leaving the rightful heirs with very little.

    Here’s what’s been happening: Real Estate Broker Ralph Roberts has teamed up with some Attorney General-appointed lawyers called Public Administrators. The Public Administrators and Roberts’ company, Probate Asset Recovery, bill the estates for thousands of dollars, plus Roberts gets real estate commissions when they sell the homes that are at stake in the estates after someone dies. The Public Administrators then take legal fees from the estate.

    “I find properties. I believe there’s a benefit, so I then tell a public administrator, here’s the benefit there,” Roberts told 7 Investigator Heather Catallo in November 2016.

    Cecil St. Pierre was one of those Attorney General-appointed Public Administrators. He’s also the Warren City Council President.

    They messed with the wrong family this time,” said Petar Georgievski. When Georgievski’s mother passed away last August, she used a Quit Claim Deed to give her Warren house to her son. Georgievski says he later found out that money was owed for a small loan on the home, and his lawyer tried to address it with the bank. But without warning, Georgievski says the house was sold at Sheriff’s Sale.

    “No notice to myself, no notice to this home, no notice to my current residence, no noticed to my brother, no notice to my attorney that this foreclosure was happening on April 7,” said Georgievski.

    Luckily, Georgievski says he had a friend in attendance at that Sheriff’s auction who witnessed Ralph Roberts attempting to purchase that house, but he lost the bidding war.

    “So my understanding is that he was furious that he didn't win the bid,” said Georgievski.

    That bidding war resulted in a surplus of $70,000 from the sheriff’s sale. That surplus should go to Petar Georgievski, as the original owner of the home. But Georgievski says St. Pierre and Roberts tried to take that cash.

    “That same exact day, Cecil opens a probate case. [He] doesn't even wait 24 hours-- that day, within that hour that that auction closed,” said Georgievski.

    In St. Pierre’s petition to take over the probate estate for Georgievski’s mother , he only asset he lists: that $70,000 surplus. And Ralph Robert’s company called Probate Asset Recovery, LLC paid the fees to open the estate.

    “That's ridiculous. none of that is their money,” Georgievski told Catallo. “It's sickening to think that there's people out there like that and he's got to be stopped. He's got to be stopped!”

    After our investigations aired, the Michigan Attorney General suspended Cecil St. Pierre as a Public Administrator, and Attorney General Bill Schuette later suspended the entire practice of opening estates where houses are in foreclosure.

    Ultimately, Georgievski got the surplus, paid off the debts, and sold the home; although he still had to go to court to get Cecil St. Pierre removed from his mother’s probate case. But St. Pierre did not show up.

    “He has failed to appear at this court this morning. I am going to set this matter for a show cause so that Mr. St. Pierre can explain why he failed to appear in court this morning,” said Macomb County Probate Judge Sandra Harrison-Suratt.

    That means on Monday June 12, Mr. St. Pierre will have to show the judge why he should not be held in contempt of court. The same day that the judge issued that Show Cause order, St. Pierre resigned as a Public Administrator because of a “barrage of false allegations.” He told the Attorney General that he was grateful he could help so many people over the years, but there are just too many distractions for him to continue to serve as Public Administrator.

HOA's Bookkeeping Screw-Up, $25 Late Fee, Attorney Fee 'Pile-Up' Leaves Homeowner Facing Foreclosure On $340K Townhome; Some Unit Owners & Ex-Property Managers Describe Condo President As Dictatorial, Vindictive, Prone To Bullying Leading To "Dysfunctional" Operations, "Combative Culture" On Perceived "Sinking Ship"

In West Palm Beach, Florida, the Palm Beach Post reports:
  • David Silva’s $340,000 condo faces foreclosure because of a $25 late fee.

    Silva, a resident at Ventura Greens at Emerald Dunes since 2007, was having his bank make automatic payments of the monthly maintenance fee for his three-bedroom, 2½-bath townhouse on the outskirts of West Palm Beach just west of Florida’s Turnpike. But the 70-unit development changed property managers in 2014 without advance notice and his payment was never rerouted to the condo association, he said.

    By the time he learned of the problem and sent a payment to the new property manager, the association had charged him a $25 late fee. While he disputed the fee, which he insisted was the association’s fault, the association tacked on late fees, attorney fees and interest charges — and in 2015, the association filed a foreclosure suit that threatens to take away his home.

    Neither association President Vic Bally, nor Cory Kravit, the association’s Boca Raton collections lawyer who filed the foreclosure suit, would comment for this story. The association vice president, Geoffrey Bourne, called Silva “unbelievably difficult” and said association rules must be enforced.

    Bourne defended Bally’s hard line on community rules. “If you drive into Ventura Greens, it’s beautiful,” Bourne said. “If you’re president of it, you keep the rules or the place falls apart.”

    “The whole thing has built up into just monstrous folly, absolute folly,” Bourne said. “I just wish David Silva had been a little more mature,” he said, adding that Silva should have paid his fine and ended the matter years ago.

    Silva, 52, a retired New York state trooper, countered that Bourne doesn’t know the facts, only what Bally tells him.

    “It’s not a matter of $25,” Silva said. “I spent more money fighting this than the $25. They should have said, ‘You know what? This is ridiculous. This is our fault.’ But they want to pursue it because they want to maliciously and intentionally take my home. There’s no other way of looking at it.”

    Silva and five other current and former Ventura Greens homeowners, and some former property management companies — there have been at least eight in the development’s 11 years of existence — say enforcement there is dictatorial. They lay the blame on Bally, describing him as a vindictive man who “rules with an iron fist,” tows resident cars from visitor parking spaces while board members park unpunished in the same spaces, files liens and slaps big fines on residents for alleged infractions they seldom have the will to fight.

    One of the development’s former property managers, Bristol Management, notified the Ventura Greens board in September 2013 that it was quitting, writing that “Protecting our employees from constant harassment by Vic Bally … is our priority.”

    “Vic (Bally), who hired Bristol and then quickly resigned when he did not get his way from the rest of the elected board, has caused an inordinate amount of contention, …” wrote Bristol’s Steve Inglis. “Mr. Bally is attempting to reassert his dictatorial control over Ventura Greens. This makes for a combative culture under which it is impossible to achieve the board’s goals. There is constant bullying from one person who demands to be the captain of what we perceive to be a sinking ship.”

    Just seven months later, when Bally had returned to the board as vice president, another management company, Banyan Property Management, quit, calling the board “dysfunctional.”

    Yet another former manager, who asked not to be identified, echoed those sentiments. “The guy is out of control,” the manager said. “There were constant allegations of biased treatment, unfair application of rules. That’s why we didn’t get along with him very well. I run things in a fair manner. … He runs the place with an iron fist.”

    Asked why the association has run through so many property managers, Bourne said it’s because the board has been trying to hire better companies.

    Silva hasn’t been the only target of the association’s rule enforcers.

    Nasaire Fontia said he got a $400 fine for allegedly “driving my car over a piece of grass,” an allegation he questioned and for which the association had no proof, he said.

    Others, he said, had to pay hundreds of dollars for towing from visitor spots, even though board and committee members frequently park in the same places. One resident got a $2,000 fine for failing to trim a bougainvillea prior to the association painting the buildings, Fontia said.

    Resident Jeff Lanaghan said he was facing a $1,000 fine in 2014 for failing to remove a satellite dish he had permission to install in 2008. The association had changed its rules. Lanaghan took the case to the state Division of Condominiums and won.


Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Chicago-Area Man Using 'Sovereign Citizen' Pretext In Scheme To Snatch & Rent Dozens Of Vacant Foreclosures Gets 14 Years Prison Time After Jury Trial; Two Other Co-Conspirators Cop Guilty Pleas, Get Approx. 4 Years Each; One Defendant Still Awaits Sentencing

In Chicago, Illinois, DNAinfo (Chicago) reports:
  • One of the ringleaders behind a plot to illegally rent houses they did not own in Beverly and Morgan Park was sentenced Monday [May 22] to 14 years in prison, according to court records.

    Cook County Judge Alfredo Maldonado handed down the sentence to David Farr, 47, of Englewood. He was found guilty Sept. 30 of theft, financial institution fraud and continuing a financial crimes enterprise.

    Farr — who also goes by Fahim Ali, Jalani Ali and Sekou Ali — must serve at least seven years before he becomes eligible for parole. He was credited with serving nearly two years in Cook County Jail while awaiting trial, court records show.

    "This sentence sends a strong message to those who would seek to commit crimes in our community," Ald. Matt O'Shea (19th) said Tuesday afternoon in an email to constituents.

    Farr was found guilty of a scheme that dates to 2012 involving dozens of homes on the Far Southwest Side. Others involved in the plot include Torrez Moore, Raymond Trimble and Trimble's son, Arshad Thomas.

    Moore, 57, was convicted in Oct. 22 of theft, financial institution fraud and continuing a financial crimes enterprise. He has not yet been sentenced, and his next court date is June 26, court records show.

    Trimble pleaded guilty to theft in December and received a four-year prison sentence. He was credited with serving more than a year in Cook County Jail while awaiting trial and his expected parole date is Dec. 5.

    His son, Arshad Thomas, 27, took a plea deal in March 15 and was sentenced to 45 months in prison. He is expected to be released on parole June 16, according to state records.

    Prosecutors during the trial said that Moore and Farr consider themselves Sovereigns or Moors and thus do not recognize the U.S. government. As a part of this belief, they also think banks should not be allowed to own homes.

    Armed with this theory, Farr filed paperwork with the Cook County Recorder of Deeds Office. Those involved in the plot would then break into the homes, change the locks and post "No Trespassing" signs.

    Other squatters then moved into the homes, and some paid rent to the men behind the scheme. A few of the illegal tenants even went as far as planting flowers outside the homes they were illegally occupying and signing up for utilities, O'Shea said.

    "We should not be arrested, or even put in jail, for beautifying vacant properties across the city," Farr told a judge on July 22, 2015.

    Then-Cook County State's Attorney Anita Alvarez said during the trial most of the renters knew they were living in these homes illegally. And many refused to leave when police asked them to, prosecutors said.

    O'Shea said the investigation was prompted by complaints from area residents who noticed suspicious activities in the houses, many of which were unoccupied after going into foreclosure.

    "I'd like to thank the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Cook County State's Attorney's Office and the Chicago Police Department's Financial Crimes Unit for their ongoing efforts on this case. Working together, we can keep our community strong and safe for the future," O'Shea said.

Cops Act On Information From Local Media Consumer Troubleshooter Report To Bag Phony Real Estate Agent For Allegedly Pocketing Prospective Tenants' Rental Deposits, Then Vanishing With The Cash

In Memphis, Tennessee, WMC-TV Channel 5 reports:
  • Shelby County Sheriff's deputies arrested a Midtown man with a three-year track record of posing as a leasing agent to steal rental deposits.

    Sheriff fugitive squad officers arrested John Ferguson, 46, on two counts each of criminal simulation and theft of property $1,000-2,500. Ferguson is accused of misleading property management companies into believing he is a licensed leasing agent. In actuality, he has never held a real estate license. He deceived the companies into hiring him to recruit renters so that he could collect their deposits, then vanish with the money, according to investigators and to property management officials assisting an on-going WMC Action News 5 investigation.

    "The fact that [WMC Action News 5] actually dug it up and followed up on it was enough for us to get warrants and go after him," Shelby County Sheriff's Office spokesperson Earle Farrell.

    Deputies arrested Ferguson three weeks after Andy Wise's original investigation, in which Wise confronted Ferguson on camera with a state administrative judge's order. The order levied $5,000 in fines against Ferguson for five separate civil violations since 2014. Each violation accuses Ferguson of acting as a real estate leasing broker for property owners, collecting rental deposits, then disappearing with the money when he "...was not licensed to perform such actions."

    "What he's doing is illegal," said Kevin Walters, communications director for the Tennessee Department of Commerce & Insurance and the Tennessee Real Estate Commission.

    "Yeah, I'm not interested. I'm not talking to you, OK?" Ferguson said to Wise before going back inside his apartment at 224 Hawthorne Street after a confrontation on May 1.

    Chris Hogan, a prospective renter who paid Ferguson a nearly $1,300 rental deposit only to discover he was a fake, was happy to hear about his arrest.

    "It's not right for someone to be out here manipulating and taking advantage of people, so that's a good thing, and I'm happy about that," Hogan said. The property management company who had hired Ferguson under false pretenses reimbursed Hogan.

Cops Run Undercover Sting, Bag Phony Landlord For Allegedly Offering Rental Housing In Exchange For Money & Sex

In San Rafael, California, the Marin Independent Journal reports:
  • A suspect posing as a landlord offering housing in exchange for sex acts was arrested [] in the Canal area, San Rafael police said.

    Police received information from Fair Housing Advocates of Northern California that someone was preying on the immigrant population of San Rafael. He posted his advertisements in local laundromats in the Canal neighborhood under the fictitious name of “Roberto Mendez” believing the immigrant community would not report his crimes to the police department.

    The San Rafael Special Operations Unit, in cooperation with Fair Housing Advocates, conducted an undercover operation [] and answered one of the suspect’s advertisements. A man responded to the undercover phone call, and during the conversation, said that he wanted $2,000 a month and sex to rent the apartment. He offered to pay money for sex acts [] and said he would provide the apartment key the next morning.

    He arranged to meet the undercover officer in the Canal area where he was arrested. During an interview, he admitted to police that he was not affiliated with any real estate management company and he did not have any access to apartments or other housing. He admitted to posting his advertisement numerous times over the past couple of months.

    Tifano Ariel Rodas Maldonado, 38, of San Rafael, was arrested on felony fraud and prostitution charges and booked into the Marin County Jail.

    The San Rafael Police Department said that anyone, regardless of their immigration status, should report crimes to police without fear of deportation. The police department asked that anyone who has been the victim of similar crimes should call them at 415-485-3000.

Monday, June 12, 2017

Wisconsin AG Belts Nationwide 'Rent-To-Own' Racket Operator With Civil Suit Seeking Consumer Refunds, Penalties, Shutdown; Outfit Accused Of Using Business Model That "Purposely & Systematically" Targets Unsophisticated, Low-Income Homebuyers w/ Crappy Credit To Peddle Dilapidated Foreclosed Money Pits Under Terms & Conditions Designed To Fail

In Milwaukee, Wisconsin, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports:
  • The state Department of Justice is asking that a South Carolina property company be banned from operating its controversial rent-to-own operation in Wisconsin and be ordered to refund money collected through the "illegal rental, leasing and sale" of its properties, according to a suit filed Monday [June 5].

    The target of the action filed in Milwaukee County Circuit Court is Vision Property Management LLC, which has been the subject of lawsuits, criticism by politicians — including U.S. Rep. Elijah Cummings — and media reports examining its practices. Founded in 2004, the company owns about 5,700 properties in 40 states, according to a December letter to DOJ from attorneys representing Vision Property.

    "Companies in Wisconsin whose business model relies on deceiving consumers have no place in our state,” Attorney General Brad Schimel said in a statement issued after the suit was filed.

    A Vision Property statement said the firm will "vigorously" contest the suit and that the claims of "harm' will surprise the many new Vision homeowners."

    The company has purchased about 200 properties throughout Wisconsin, the lawsuit states. At issue is Vision's practice of offering consumers rent-to-own deals on homes, without disclosing the decrepit conditions of some of the properties or telling the renters that they are responsible for making the repairs and paying back taxes and other bills, the state charged in the suit.

    If the tenant fails to do any of these things during the time allowed, Vision Property "evicts the tenant and repeats the cycle by renting the uninhabitable property to yet another Wisconsin consumer," according to the Department of Justice statement.

    The suit charges Vision Property, its affiliates and Alex Szkaradek — the company's chief executive officer and a key owner — of violating Wisconsin rental and other laws through a "false, misleading and (a) deceptive business scheme to induce Wisconsin consumers to lease, rent or purchase uninhabitable properties."

    The suit alleged that Vision's "scheme includes the leasing, renting and selling of properties with mold, sewage in the basement, without electricity and running water, to name but a few examples. Defendants purposely and systematically target low-income consumers and consumers with compromised credit, who lack the means to secure housing from more conventional routes."

    Some of the company's business practices were highlighted in Journal Sentinel stories about how a firm linked to Vision attempted to evict a man from a property it did not own. The Vision affiliate ultimately backed off and paid the legal fees of the man it tried to evict.

    The man, Jesse White, had been paying rent, maintaining and fixing up the house since March 2015. That's when he entered into an agreement to pay $570 a month rent, with about $41 of that going toward the $40,000 purchase price for the house, which had been bought by the property owner at a sheriff's sale for about $8,000.

    White told Milwaukee aldermen this year that he spent about $20,000 of his own money repairing the house on N. 26th St.

    Just last month Fannie Mae, the government-controlled mortgage finance agency, stopped selling properties to Vision, The New York Times reported.

    A spokeswoman for the Department of Justice did not provide an estimate of how much money the state is seeking be refunded to customers of Vision Property affiliates. The suit also is asking that the company be fined between $50 and $10,000 for each violation of state law.

For more, see State DOJ asking court to shut down Vision Property's controversial rent-to-own operation.

For the lawsuit, see State of Wisconsin v. Vision Property Management LLC, et al.

For links to other relevant court documents, go here or go here.   land contract for deed

State Investigators Say Ex-HOA Board Members Misspent Over $1 Million Of Association's Money On Themselves; Prosecutors Ponder Criminal Charges

In West Palm Beach, Florida, the Palm Beach Post reports:
  • State regulators say former board members of the 20-building Whitehall condos on Village Boulevard misspent more than $1 million of their association’s money on themselves and shifted hundreds of thousands of dollars from reserves to cover budget shortfalls without authorization from unit owners, violations so serious that investigators forwarded evidence to state prosecutors.

    Lead Investigator Harry Hague of the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation’s Bureau of Compliance wrote the current board of Whitehall Condominiums of the Villages of Palm Beach Lakes Association on Jan. 26 that the former board committed a series of “major” civil violations of state condo law.

    The Florida Department of Law Enforcement also investigated and is awaiting word on whether the Office of Statewide Prosecution will bring criminal charges based on its findings, an FDLE official confirmed Thursday.

    “They’re reviewing it,” Eric Jester, special agent supervisor in the FDLE’s West Palm Beach field office, said, declining to comment further on the open case.

    Though prosecutors say they can’t talk about an ongoing investigation, the regulatory agency’s warning letter detailed 10 violations of state condominium law that occurred from 2010 through 2015. The association could be fined $5,000 per violation if the association doesn’t respond to the letter or if violations recur.

    Among the violations cited by Hague at the 480-unit complex:
  • The former board improperly paid directors Vincent Rossi, Charles Keeling and Michael Weadock more than $242,400. State condo law requires that officers serve without compensation unless the condo governing documents allow otherwise. Rossi and Weadock were paid as property managers and Keeling, a retired police officer, was paid for security services.
  • The association spent an estimated $357,200 “for expenses unrelated to condominium operations.” A more precise accounting was impossible because records weren’t kept. However, Hague wrote, evidence shows “Association funds were routinely expended for the exclusive personal benefit of a member or members of the board of directors and that these expenses were insufficiently or inaccurately reported and accounted for, or went unreported.”
  • The association “diverted” $455,000 from reserves into the operating fund without condo owner approval, and with no plans to refund the depleted accounts.
  • It was current board members, starting in 2014, before they were elected, who fired the first salvo against the former board, by filing a civil suit, seeking to remove them for alleged misuse of association money. They got the state agency to oust President Rossi from the board for failing to pay his maintenance dues for more than 90 days.

    Shortly thereafter, Keeling became president but neither he, Rossi nor Weadock are on the board anymore.
    Cary Collins, a plaintiff in the 2014 suit who has since become board president, says the records — or the lack thereof — indicate vast sums are missing, maybe three or four times what investigator Hague documented. The association has a $1 million insurance policy to cover such losses but can’t collect unless criminal charges are brought, he said.

    Meanwhile, unit owners are paying higher maintenance fees, because the new board is obligated to replenish the depleted accounts as aggressively as it can, Collins said. Unit owners now paying an average of $420 a month probably would be paying as much as $100 less, $1,200 a year less, if not for the missing money, not to mention that the higher assessments depress their property values, he said.

Ex-HOA Treasurer Gets 10 Months Jail Time For $50K Theft From Condo Association Bank Account; Avoids Stiffer Sentence By Agreeing To Cough Up $30K In Upfront Restitution With $300/Month Payment Plan Until Pilfered Loot Is Repaid

In Boynton Beach, Florida, the Palm Beach Post reports:
  • A former treasurer of a Boynton Beach homeowner’s association admitted Tuesday [June 6] that he embezzled over $50,000 from the HOA, court records show.

    Norman Glavas, 70, of Boynton Beach, pleaded guilty to one charge of grand theft over $20,000 and will serve 10 months in jail, 70 months of probation and repay $48,179.26 in restitution to the Quail Run Homeowner Association. Glavas committed the crime from 2012 to 2014.

    According to his plea agreement, Glavas will return $31,000 to the association immediately in a lump sum payment through a trust controlled by his attorney. He will make $300 payments monthly to pay back the remaining amount after completing his jail sentence, and must remain employed until the entirety of the restitution is paid.

    He also is required to serve 250 hours of community service and pay $250 in court fees.

    Glavas was first arrested in May 2016 on charges of organized fraud, money laundering and grand theft. An arrest report shows that as treasurer of the homeowner association, Glavas made checks out to himself from the association’s funds.

Sunday, June 11, 2017

Long Island Lawyer Gets 1 To 3 Years For Pilfering Nearly $500K From Three Victims In Unrelated Transactions; Among Bad Acts: Pocketing Buyer's $171K Held In Escrow For Home Purchase, Using Forged Documents To Score $300K Refinance Proceeds On Ex-Mother-In-Law's Commercial Property

From the Office of the Nassau County, New York District Attorney:
  • Nassau County District Attorney Madeline Singas announced that an attorney from Great Neck has been sentenced to one to three years in prison for stealing nearly half a million dollars by embezzling a down payment from a couple selling their home and by fraudulently securing a mortgage loan in the name of a corporation owned by his former mother-in-law.(1)

    Daniel Spitalnic, 39, pleaded guilty before Acting Supreme Court Justice Meryl Berkowitz on March 28 to three counts of Grand Larceny in the 2nd Degree (a C felony).

    The defendant was also ordered to pay restitution in the amount of $496,602.39.

    “Attorneys are barred from comingling client funds with their own, but this defendant flagrantly violated his ethical obligations and our criminal laws when he stole hundreds of thousands of dollars from clients and his former mother-in-law,” DA Singas said. “When an attorney abuses their clients’ trust and steals from those whose interests they are retained to protect, my office will hold them accountable and seek restitution for their victims, just as we are doing here.”

    DA Singas said that Spitalnic applied for and obtained a $300,000 loan in March 2015 by falsely representing himself as the part owner and officer of a corporation solely owned by his former mother-in-law. The loan was secured by a mortgage on a commercial property in Great Neck, and the defendant used the money on personal items such as rent, travel, entertainment, food and other miscellaneous expenses.

    Spitalnic’s former mother-in-law became aware of suspicious activity in May 2015 when she went to pay real estate taxes and learned that the taxes were already paid by a title company. She confronted the defendant, who said he took out the mortgage because he owed money and told her that he would paid it back. Spitalnic then gave his former mother-in-law a Satisfaction of Mortgage document that claimed that the loan had been satisfied. The document, however, which was filed with the Nassau County Clerk’s Office in May, was a forgery.

    In the second case, the defendant represented a family that was selling a home in Manhasset. A purchaser paid a down payment by check in June of 2015 in the amount of $171,500 which was to be held in escrow by Spitalnic pending the closing. The closing on the property was held in September 2015, but the escrow money – minus $7,460 due to a title insurance company – was never received by the sellers. The check issued by Spitalnic to the title insurance company in the amount of $7,460 did not clear due to insufficient funds in the escrow account.

    At the time of the plea, the defendant also admitted to the theft of approximately $25,000 from another client which was included as part of the overall restitution by civil judgment ordered by the court.
Source: Attorney Sentenced for Stealing Nearly $500,000 in Multiple Thefts (Daniel Spitalnic defrauded a real estate client and fraudulently secured a loan on a property he did not own).
(1) For "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.  ripoff reimbursement

Nassau County DA Pinches Attorney For Allegedly Ripping Off Nearly $230K From One Client; Funds Intended For Use In Settling Three Lawsuits

From the Office of the Nassau County, New York District Attorney:
  • Nassau County District Attorney Madeline Singas announced the arrest today [May 24] of a Manhasset attorney who allegedly stole $229,990 from a client.(1)

    Alfred DiGirolomo, Jr., 61, was arraigned today before Judge Paul Meli and charged with Grand Larceny in the 2nd Degree (a C felony) and five counts of Criminal Possession of a Forged Instrument in the 2nd Degree (a D felony). The defendant was released on his own recognizance and is due back in court on July 6. If convicted, the defendant faces five to 15 years in prison.

    “These thefts are particularly egregious because the defendant allegedly used the money he stole from his client for extravagant purchases – like country club dues and car payments,” DA Singas said. “Lawyers who betray their clients’ trust by stealing their money will be aggressively prosecuted by my office and if this defendant is convicted, we will seek restitution for this victim.”

    DA Singas said from January 1, 2014, to May 5, 2016, DiGirolomo represented a client, a restaurateur, in three different lawsuits and the attorney received $229,900 to fund settlements resulting from the three lawsuits. In each of the suits, the defendant allegedly sent a forged stipulation of settlement or satisfaction of judgement to his client to say the matter had been resolved, when in fact they had not. The client then asked a new attorney that represents him to check whether there were satisfactions of judgement filed with the courts.

    When the new attorney discovered that no satisfaction of judgment was filed with the court, he then contacted the NCDA and a case was opened in January 2017.

    Instead of using the money to fund the lawsuits, the defendant allegedly used it to pay for expenses related to credit cards, utilities, gasoline, automobiles, insurance, department stores, a civic association, a figure skating club, a cigar club, and a country club – all of which were unrelated to his client.
Source: Manhasset Attorney Arrested for Stealing Nearly $230,000 from Client.
(1) For "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.  ripoff reimbursement

Complaint Filed By State Bar, Subsequent Probe By Police Economic Crime Unit Lead To Various Theft Charges Against Attorney For Allegedly Purloining Over $400K From Nine Clients; Others Who May Have Also Been Victimized Urged To Come Forward

In Media, Pennsylvania, The Delaware County Daily Times reports:
  • A Delaware County personal injury attorney has been busted for allegedly pocketing more than $400,000 in settlement funds that were supposed to go to his clients.(1)

    Gregory G. Stagliano, 61, of Radnor, is facing felony charges for allegedly stealing settlement funds for his own personal use and “lavish lifestyle” from nine different victims who he was representing in personal injury cases, according to a press release issued by District Attorney Jack Whelan.

    Stagliano, of the 500 block of Chaumont Drive, is charged with theft by unlawful taking, theft of services, theft by deception, and receiving stolen property, all felonies of the third degree in addition to being charged with the unauthorized practice of law.

    An investigation into the theft began on July 30, 2016, led by Detective Michele Deery of the Delaware County Criminal Investigation (CID) Division Economic Crime Unit, when information was received from the Disciplinary Board of the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania that Stagliano, a personal injury attorney, was allegedly stealing settlement money owed to his clients.

    In one of the nine cases, Stagliano was hired to represent an individual who was in a car accident that occurred in February 2014. As a result of the settlement in the case, Stagliano received two checks, totaling $65,000, both which were made payable to the victim of the car accident and Stagliano. The first check was received on Nov. 6, 2016, in the amount of $50,000 from Allstate Insurance and the second check from Nationwide Insurance was dated Dec. 19, 2014, for $15,000.

    According to bank records, both checks were deposited into Stagliano’s Interest on Lawyers Trust Account (IOLTA) account. After receiving only $7,500 in partial distribution of the funds, the victim attempted to contact Stagliano more than 30 times in regards to the whereabouts of the money she was owed, according to the D.A.’s press release. She received various excuses from Stagliano and at one point, he responded to her, “I wish you to cease your continued harassing communications in this regard and if you do not, we will go about it in a different way.”

    Following an investigation by the Disciplinary Board, Stagliano represented in his fiduciary statement that he owed $40,000 to the victim. Further investigation of his bank records by Det. Deery revealed that the settlement funds had been spent by Stagliano, with an actual balance of only $133.77 in his account.

    As a result of an investigation into the eight other theft cases, all of which show a similar pattern of theft, it was determined that on nine separate occasions Stagliano deposited funds into his own Santander Interest on Lawyers Trust Account (IOLTA), ranging in $3,000 to $50,000, keeping his clients money for his own personal use. the D.A. alleged. Further investigation into bank records show that he spent the money including using the funds in the account to pay taxes on properties he owns in Delaware County.

    “As prosecutors, we find the violation of his sworn fiduciary responsibly especially disturbing and Mr. Stagliano used this position in order to fund his own lavish lifestyle and pay his own personal debts with his clients’ money,” said Jack Whelan. “Individuals should be able to trust their attorneys and abusing that trust is both unethical and in this case criminal. Today’s arrest of Mr. Stagliano should send a clear message that no one is above the law. All licensed attorneys in Pennsylvania are registered on the Disciplinary Board of the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania. If residents have any questions or concerns regarding an attorney, they are encouraged to look up that attorney by accessing the website at”

    If anyone believes they also have been victimized by Stagliano, they are urged to contact CID Det. Michele Deery at 610-891-8745.
Source: Delco attorney charged with pocketing $400,000 in settlements for clients.

(1) For "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.  ripoff reimbursement.

Florida Supremes Stay Busy Disciplining Sticky-Fingered Lawyers, Suspending Three & Booting Two Others For Allegedly Glomming Hundred$ Of Thousand$ Of Unwitting Victims' Cash

The Florida Bar, the state’s guardian for the integrity of the legal profession, announced that the Florida Supreme Court recently disciplined 21 attorneys – disbarring two, revoking the licenses of five, suspending 11, and publicly reprimanding three. Four attorneys received more than one form of discipline; one was placed on probation and three were ordered to pay restitution.

Of those disciplined:
  • one of the following lawyers was accused of pocketing thousands in legal fees while providing no meaningful services,
  • three others were accused of using client trust accounts as their personal piggy banks, each allegedly fleecing at least $200,000 of their clients' cash, and
  • one was accused of attempting to rip off $100,000 from a non-client home seller in a real estate transaction in which he was a party as a buyer.
  • Christopher Lee Buttermore, 8202 Wiles Road, No. 53, Coral Springs, suspended for six months, effective immediately, following a March 23 court order. (Admitted to practice: 1988) Further, Buttermore shall pay restitution of $16,169.80 to one client. In that case, Buttermore accepted more than $15,000 in legal fees but provided no meaningful services. He subsequently abandoned the case and provided no documentation to the Bar that any legal work was undertaken on the client’s behalf. In another matter, Buttermore made misrepresentations in sworn testimony regarding legal services he provided to a client and the amount of money he was paid. He continued to accept money from the client without doing any work on her case. He also failed to respond to the Bar regarding the matter. (Case No. SC16-2022)

    James M. Corrigan, 700 S. Palafox St., Suite 220, Pensacola, suspended until further order, following an April 7 court order. (Admitted to practice: 1996) According to a petition for emergency suspension, Corrigan appeared to be causing great public harm by misappropriating client trust funds. (ie. accused of having a $282,000+ shortage in his client trust account, and using incoming client trust money to cover earlier shortages, 'Ponzi' style)  (Case No. SC17-594)

    Henry C. Hunter, 215 E. Virginia St., Tallahassee, to receive a disciplinary revocation, without leave to seek readmission, effective 30 days from an April 6 court order. (Admitted to practice: 1976) Disciplinary revocation is tantamount to disbarment. A disciplinary matter pending against Hunter involved the misappropriation of funds from his trust account in the amount of more than $350,000. (Case No. SC16-2222)

    Peter William Martin, 4705 26th St. W., Bradenton, to receive a disciplinary revocation, without leave to seek readmission, effective 30 days from an April 13 court order. (Admitted to practice: 1973) Disciplinary revocation is tantamount to disbarment. A disciplinary matter pending against Martin involved the misappropriation of funds from his trust account in the amount of at least $200,000. (Case No. SC17-145)

    Michael Kevin Rathel, 545 Delaney Ave., Suite 4, Orlando, suspended for one year, effective 30 days from a March 23 court order. (Admitted to practice: 2000) Rathel bought a house after persuading the seller to hold a second mortgage for $100,000 needed by Rathel to pay the purchase price. Rathel promised to repay the seller and pledged his current home as security for the mortgage. Rathel sold his current home without telling the seller or repaying the seller’s second mortgage. Commencing in or about 2010, Rathel failed to file and pay his personal federal and corporate tax returns in a timely manner. In another matter, Rathel failed to timely respond to an inquiry about a Bar complaint. (Case No. SC16-1024)
Source: Supreme Court Disciplines 21 Attorneys (Summaries of orders issued March 16 – April 20, 2017).

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. Additional information on the discipline system and how to file a complaint are available at

For "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.  ripoff reimbursement

State Bar's Emergency Petition Leads To Indefinite Suspension For Central Florida Lawyer With Checkered Disciplinary Past; Currently Suspected Of Pilfering Approx. $200K From Three Clients; Target Allegedly Refused To Cooperate With Officials In Audit Of His Trust Account

In Tallahassee, Florida, the Florida Record reports:
  • Following a petition for emergency suspension filed with the Florida Supreme Court, Sarasota attorney William Robert Cohen will be suspended from the practice of law for an indefinite period of time.

    The Supreme Court ordered the suspension at the request of the Florida Bar while it investigates several complaints made against the attorney, including his alleged misappropriation of nearly $100,000 in client funds.(1)

    The petition details four counts of misconduct against Cohen, the first of which began in February 2012. The attorney was hired to represent a man in a personal injury matter stemming from an automobile accident. The client and Cohen agreed the attorney would receive $15,000 for his services which would be taken from the settlement checks of $100,000 and $25,000 received on Sept. 14, 2012, and Sept. 24, 2012. Rather than release the remaining $110,000 to his client, Cohen allegedly transferred the funds from his client trust to one of his many accounts at Bank of America. The attorney later misappropriated nearly all of the client funds, court records state.

    In May 2013, the attorney received a personal loan of $80,000, which he deposited into his client trust account, a violation of the Rules Regulating the Florida Bar, according to court documents. The deposit was allegedly made to cover a check issued by the attorney for $50,000 made prior to the personal loan wire transfer. However, the client he issued the $50,000 check to was entitled to an additional $60,000, which was not paid to her.

    On Feb. 28, 2014, Cohen received a check for $75,000 on behalf of his client as settlement for a civil suit against an electric company. The attorney allegedly did not disperse the funds to his client, claiming that the legal fees incurred in the suit ranged between $37,000 and $40,000. The attorney then made several online transfers from the client trust account to his other Bank of America accounts and did not give the client the $35,000 owed to him, according to court documents.

    The final count stems from the attorney’s alleged failure to cooperate with the Florida Bar’s audit of his accounts as a result of the complaints.

    Cohen has practiced in Michigan and California and has been disciplined for separate issues in both states. The attorney is was admitted to the Florida Bar in 1997 and is a graduate of the Nova Southeastern University Shepard Broad Law Center. In Florida, Cohen had two prior instances of discipline: a suspension in August 2016 and an admonishment in October 2010.
Source: Sarasota attorney suspended for misappropriating client funds.

(1) For "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.  ripoff reimbursement