Saturday, August 26, 2017

Replacement For Aging Wastewater Infrastructure Not Worth The Cost For Mobile Home Park Landlord; Opts To Close Premises Instead, Leaving 50+ Lot-Leasing Homeowners & Renters Facing The Boot

In Plattsburgh, New York, WPTZ-TV Channel 5 reports:
  • "I've called this place home since 1978," said John Woodcock, standing in front of his trailer at Country Sky Mobile Home Park in Plattsburgh.

    "I loved it here ever since I've moved in ...It's peaceful, it's quiet and we get a breeze," he said.

    Woodcock's neighbors love it here, too.

    "We're like one big, happy family. I mean most of the trailer park, you can ask them, they call me Ma," said Carolyn Roman, sitting outside her trailer of 19 years.

    But this community, Roman's extended family, won't be living at Country Sky much longer. Last week a letter from property owner Scott Tetreault delivered the news nobody wanted.

    "I don't even know how to explain it. You get that lump in your throat and your voice starts shaking," said Roman, trying to describe what the letter said.

    "If you lived here 40 years, wouldn't you feel that way?" asked Woodcock.

    Everyone in the park is being evicted.

    "They're voluntarily closing," said John Kanoza with the Clinton County Health Department.

    Kanoza has been working with the property owner for months.

    He said the situation boils down to the park's wastewater infrastructure. "We had some options to work with (Tetreault) on different variances for replacement sewage treatment systems, smaller ones, but it was definitely found to be cost-prohibitive for the owner," Kanoza said.

    NBC5's calls to Tetreault's attorney went unanswered Wednesday.

    Several tenants told NBC5 News they had to be out by either November, if they're renting, or February, if they own their mobile homes.

    Woodcock is one of the lucky ones. "I feel luckier than most. At least I can move my trailer," he said. He's moving it into the city. But for others, it isn't so easy.

    "We have no way to get (downtown) and I have a wheelchair," Roman said.

    She's stuck waiting, wishing and hoping to find a new place to call home before she and the more than 50 other families are forced out of Country Sky Mobile Home Park.
Source: 50+ North Country families being evicted (Country Sky Mobile Home Park is shutting down).

Crumbling Infrastructure Forces Shutdown Of 180-Lot, City-Owned Mobile Home Park, Leaves Many Lot-Leasing Homeowners Nearing Homelessness As Houses (Many With Existing Mortgages) Are Too Old To Either Be Safely Moved Or Accepted By Other Parks

In Calgary, Alberta, the Calgary Sun reports:
  • Debby Kok had tears in her eyes as she watched crews slowly lift her home from its foundations.

    Neatly clad in pink siding and a pleasingly coordinated grey shingle roof, her mobile home sat precariously atop wooden cribbing as workers bolted in place a double-axle set of temporary trailer wheels Wednesday afternoon [August 16].

    "This was our home for 13 years," sighed Kok — the latest resident of Midfield Mobile Home Park to pull up stakes ahead of next month's mandatory move-out date.

    "It was supposed to be our home forever. It was our retirement — our place to live until we died or had to go into an old folks' home."

    It was a little over two years ago when residents of the central Calgary trailer court were blindsided by notices that began appearing on doors: due to crumbling infrastructure, the 180-lot property was to be closed permanently — and everybody had until Sept. 30, 2017, to vacate.

    With a little under six weeks left to go, some residents are still finding it hard to move out.

    As Kok wipes her eyes, she talks of the work she and her husband lovingly put into their home over the years, including new windows, siding, a roof and extensive interior renovations.

    Unable to find space in any local parks, Kok was forced to sell.

    Motioning towards her home — now secured on the back of a transport truck — she takes some comfort knowing it'll be a safe and loving home for the family set to move in once it reaches its new destination.

    But for now, it's a bitter pill to swallow.

    "On the other hand, we're also very lucky because we were able to sell it," she said.

    "We were able to get out with being able to pay the mortgage off, but not everybody here is in that position — they have mortgages they can't pay off because the money the city's offering doesn't even come close."

    Kok's situation has eluded many of her neighbours, as their units were too old to either safely move or be accepted by other parks, who often put a maximum age on trailers they allow to be moved in.

    It's a familiar dilemma for 82-year-old Rudy Prediger, whose home faces the double whammy of being both too old and too big.

    "Nobody wants a double-wide," he said, sitting in his nostalgia-packed living room crammed full of memories from an eventful life.

    "Most parks won't take double-wides. They take up too much space."

    With only six more week before deciding to leave or demolish, many say neither are an option.

    "They gave us a list of where we can go — know what's on that list? The homeless shelter, the Mustard Seed … they think we're all homeless here," Prediger said.

    "We'll be homeless when they knock them all down."

    According to the city, the park's infrastructure has been a concern since the early 2000s.
    Doug Cassidy, Calgary's director of real estate and development services, said 118 of the park's 183 pads currently sit vacant.

    "Over 80 per cent have either vacated, or have communicated their plans to move," he said.

    "We can't speculate at this point of anybody that won't have vacated (by Sept. 30), but we're continuing to provide extensive support to connect them with appropriate resources."

    That includes financial compensation, he said, consisting of a $10,000 lump sum, $10,000 in available moving or demolition funds, and up to $500 to cover legal expenses.

    Kok said it's nowhere near that simple.

    "The $10,000 closure settlement depends on when the city checks your lot," she said.

    "If everything's cleaned up to their satisfaction, then you qualify for a maximum of $10,000."

    She also said the moving/demolition allowance depends on city approval of receipts before residents are reimbursed.

    "$10,000 against some of the mortgages here is nothing. What are you supposed to do if you have a $40,000 mortgage? You have no place to move your trailer to, you have no place to live. You're going to have it demolished, so now you're having to pay a mortgage for a home you don't even have?"

    Prediger said the settlement money from the city is insulting.

    "Before I take $10,000 from the city, I'll take nothing," Prediger said.

    "Because then, I'm saying it's alright. It's not alright."

    "Ten thousand dollars? What can you buy for $10,000? You can't even buy a Volkswagen. That's rent somewhere eight months, and then it's gone."

Boot May Be Near For Lot-Leasing Homeowners As Mobile Home Park Landlord Unloads Premises To Private Developer With Plans For 235-Unit Apartment Complex; Low Area Vacancy Rate May Make Relocating Trailers Tough For Residents

In Port Moody, British Columbia, the Tri-City News reports:
  • Residents of a Port Moody mobile home park face an uncertain future after it was sold to a developer.

    PC Urban said it intends to build a 235-unit rental apartment complex on the 1.7-acre site on Dewdney Trunk Road not far from the Inlet Centre SkyTrain station.

    PC Urban principal Brent Sawchyn said the company has been in contact with the seven tenants who still live in the park to advise them of its intentions for the site, but it has not been able to provide a timeline.

    “It’s still early days for the development of our future plans,” Sawchyn said in a statement. “In the meantime, we continue to operate the site as a mobile home park with the few remaining tenants in place.”

    The provincial Residential Tenancy Act mandates owners of mobile home parks provide a year’s notice to tenants if the park is to be redeveloped, along with financial compensation equivalent to 12 months rent after redevelopment is approved by a city.

    When it does come time for those tenants to vacate the property, they may have a hard time finding a new location for their mobile homes, said Al Kemp, the executive director of the Manufactured Home Park Owners Alliance of B.C. that represents about 375 of the 1000 mobile home parks in the province. He said the average vacancy rate in the province’s mobile home parks is about half a site.

    Port Moody mayor Mike Clay said there’s little the city can do for the park’s residents at this point.

    “It’s a private land deal,” Clay said. “What happens between them is really not much of the city’s business.”

    But as the project moves forward, the city may be able to leverage accommodation for those tenants as part of the site’s rezoning process.

    “That’s where we have an opportunity to negotiate and flex what power we have,” Clay said.

Friday, August 25, 2017

Newark Cop Admits To Role In Scheme To Dupe Housing Authority Out Of Approx. $74K In Section 8 Rent Subsidies

From the Office of the U.S. Attorney (Newark, New Jersey):
  • A Newark police officer [] admitted conspiring to fraudulently obtain payments under the federal public housing assistance program known as “Section 8,” Acting U.S. Attorney William E. Fitzpatrick announced.

    Luis Cancel, 50, pleaded guilty before U.S. District Judge Jose L. Linares in Newark federal court to an information charging him with one count of agreeing with another individual to obtain Section 8 public housing benefits to which they were not entitled.

    According to documents filed in this case and statements made in court:

    The Section 8 Program is a federal public housing assistance program administered by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). It provides rent subsidies to qualified low-income individuals. HUD provided federal grant money to the Newark Housing Authority (NHA) for the Section 8 Program. Under the NHA’s Section 8 Program, a tenant’s rental assistance was based upon the tenant’s anticipated family gross income. Tenants receiving Section 8 assistance from the NHA had to inform the NHA of all members of the household and the annual household income.

    From January 2010 to May 2015, Cancel, then a Newark police officer, lived with another person (Individual 1) who was receiving Section 8 benefits. Cancel and the other individual agreed not to disclose to the NHA that they were living together or that Cancel was a Newark police officer, and, also, a security guard with the Robert Treat Hotel. Individual 1 submitted fraudulent documents to the NHA that failed to disclose these facts. Cancel also submitted letters to the NHA falsely indicating that he lived at a separate residence.

    Based upon their misrepresentations, Cancel and Individual 1 received approximately $74,000 in Section 8 subsidies to which they were not entitled.

Tenant Gets Pinched For Allegedly Lying About Income, Marital Status To Illegally Score Section 8 Rent Subsidies; Investigators: Suspect Pocketed $66K+ In Housing Benefits, Feared Hubby's Criminal Record, Income Would Have Kept Her From Qualifying For The Free Money

In Olney, Maryland, WJLA-TV Channel 7 reports:
  • She claimed to be a destitute single mother of four children, but police allege it was an illegal ruse used to collect tens of thousands of dollars in government handouts.

    Sharon Douglas, 40, of Olney, is now facing criminal charges of theft between $10,000 and $100,000, theft scheme between $10,000 and $100,000 and knowingly making a false statement to collect housing assistance.

    According to Montgomery County Police, Douglas knowingly submitted inaccurate paperwork to the Housing Opportunities Commission of Montgomery County in 2014.

    Based on that application, Douglas received a housing subsidy of $1727 per month between May of 2014 and May of 2017, totaling $66,439. All of the funds, investigators say, came directly from finite taxpayer coffers.

    However in all actuality, police allege Douglas was living with her husband of nearly 11 years. The two resided in a rental townhome located along the 18200 block of Vintage River Terrace in Olney. Neighbors in that community contacted police about "perceived drug dealing and alcohol abuse" occurring in Douglas' home, court records state.

    Those complaints prompted an undercover police investigation, which further determined Douglas' husband was gainfully employed. Investigators say he works at 'Triple A Locating Services', a company which spots and marks underground utility lines such as telecommunication, gas, water, fiber, electric and sewer.

    Investigators explain that Douglas "intentionally provided false information" to the Housing Opportunities Commission because she feared her husband's criminal record and income would have precluded her from qualifying for the free money.

    Court paperwork further indicates that Douglas is also collecting a steady paycheck, having worked as a part-time "nursing assistant" in Fairfax County for the last nine months. Her exact income was not listed. It is also immediately unclear if Douglas has children.

Thursday, August 24, 2017

I.D. Theft Racket Ringleader Gets 10 Years In Mortgage Fraud Ripoff That Used Forged Documents, Simulated Loan Closings To Score Over $930K In Refinancing Proceeds Secured By Unwitting Victims' Homes

From the Office of the New Jersey Attorney General:
  • Attorney General Christopher S. Porrino announced that a Union County man was sentenced to state prison today [August 11] for leading an elaborate identity theft and mortgage fraud scheme in which he and his co-defendants stole nearly $1 million from various lenders.

    Artis Hunter, 50, of Union Township, N.J., the alleged ringleader, was sentenced today to 10 years in state prison, including 40 months of parole ineligibility, by Superior Court Judge Benjamin S. Bucca Jr., in Middlesex County. He pleaded guilty on May 8 to a charge of first-degree money laundering. Two co-defendants pleaded guilty previously and are awaiting sentencing. Laquan Jones, 43, of Newark, N.J., pleaded guilty on July 21 to second-degree money laundering and faces a recommended sentence of five years in prison, with a special condition of drug court. Melissa Phillip, 42, of West Orange, N.J., pleaded guilty on April 28 and faces a recommended sentence of 364 days in the county jail as a condition of a term of probation. Jones is scheduled for sentencing on Sept. 15, and Phillip, on Nov. 13.
    “These defendants used multiple stolen and fictitious identities to stage loan closings that were entirely illusory, with the exception of the very real money they stole from lenders, totaling nearly $1 million,” said Attorney General Porrino. “Through our joint investigation, we closed the curtain on their costly scheme.”
    The defendants and additional unidentified co-conspirators used stolen identities to steal more than $930,000 from lenders through at least eight fraudulent loan transactions, including four mortgage loans, three home equity lines of credit (HELOCs), and one car loan. The defendants used stolen or fictitious identities not only for the borrowers, but for numerous other persons and businesses connected to the transactions. They created all of the hallmarks of a legitimate residential loan transaction by using stolen and fictitious identities to fill all of the required roles: seller, attorneys, settlement agent, title agent, homeowner’s insurance company, notary and other parties.

    The loan applications contained many falsified documents, including closing documents, wire transfer documents and title insurance documents, all of which were purportedly witnessed, prepared or reviewed by parties and professionals who, in fact, either did not exist or had no knowledge of the transactions.
    The owners of the homes connected to the loans were never really parties to the transactions, and with respect to the mortgage loans, none of the homes were actually sold.
For more, see Man Sentenced to 10 Years in Prison for Leading Elaborate Scheme to Steal Nearly $1 Million Through Identity Theft and Mortgage Fraud (Three defendants have pled guilty in investigation by NJ Attorney General’s Office, ICE Homeland Security Investigations, U.S. Postal Inspection Service and Federal Housing Finance Agency OIG).

State Bar Strips Attorney Of Law License For Screwing Over Two Clients Seeking Bankruptcy Protection; Repeated, Reckless Failure To Mount Meaningful Defense Led To One Victim Losing Home To Foreclosure

In Los Angeles, California, the Northern California Record reports:
  • Los Angeles attorney Kenneth William Szalonek has been disbarred by the California State Bar over 12 counts of alleged business and professional conduct violations in two separate bankruptcy client matters, according to a recent decision.

    The state bar also recommended Szalonek be ordered to make restitution to his clients in both matters, according to the state bar’s nine-page decision and order of involuntary inactive enrollment, disbarring Szalonek. The state bar recommended the California Supreme Court order Szalonek to pay $1,790 plus interest to one client and $8,000 plus interest to a second client, from whose cases the 12 counts of allegations arose, according to the decision.

    The state bar handed down the decision July 11.

    The state bar filed its notice of disciplinary charges against Szalonek in October, according to the decision. Szalonek has been ineligible to practice law in California since January, the same month that an order of default was entered against him, according to information on his state bar profile.

    The state bar's decision is pending final action by the California Supreme Court, an appeal before the state bar's Review Department or expiration of time in which parties to may request further review within the State Bar Court.

    Szalonek was admitted to the bar in California on Dec. 2, 2003, according to his profile at the state bar website.

    Szalonek failed to participate in person or via counsel and state bar's decision and order for disbarment was entered by default.

    Szalonek is alleged to have filed a Chapter 7 rather than a Chapter 11 bankruptcy petition on behalf of one client, which caused that client's assets to be seized and put up for sale, according to the decision. In a separate client matter, Szalonek is alleged to have "repeatedly and recklessly" failed to take action to stop or delay foreclosure his clients' real property and to have made misrepresentations to them about a request to rescind the foreclosure sale of their real property, according to the decision.

    In both client matters, Szalonek is alleged to have not returned his clients' papers after they fired him and to have failed to respond to a state bar investigation.

    Szalonek had no previous discipline before the state bar, according to his profile.

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Southern California Man Faces Felony Charges For Allegedly Using Forged Documents To Illegally Stall Foreclosure For Seven Years While Pocketing $2,500/Month In Tenant's Rent

In Newport Beach, California, The Orange County Register reports:
  • A 65-year-old man faces charges of fraudulently stonewalling a financial institution for years in its efforts to foreclose on his properties in Dana Point and Los Alamitos, a prosecutor said Thursday.

    Reynaldo Francisco Marques is charged with multiple felony charges, including grand theft and attempt to file false/forged instruments with sentencing enhancement allegations of property damage exceeding $200,000 and aggravated white-collar crime exceeding $500,000.

    The properties involved in the alleged fraud are at 33962 Malaga Drive in Dana Point and 11791 Montecito in Los Alamitos, according to Senior Deputy District Attorney George McFetridge.

    According to a motion to increase Marques’ bail, the defendant is accused of attempting to illegally stymie foreclosure of one of his homes by J.P. Morgan Chase beginning in 2011 and continued through October 2016.

    “Despite losing several legal proceedings on mortgage payments,” he would record several fraudulent documents at the Orange County Clerk-Recorder’s Office to keep Chase from foreclosing on the home for seven years, according to the motion.

    In some instances, he allegedly purported to be an agent of Chase, according to the motion.

    Throughout the alleged fraud, he continued charging renters $2,500 a month for the home, according to the motion. When the tenants moved out he moved in, according to prosecutors.

    Marques was also accused of taking down “no trespassing” signs from Chase and he “changed the locks” after the bank took control of the property, according to prosecutors.

    The loss on the property was estimated to be $796,000, according to prosecutors.

Central Florida Judge Voids Foreclosure Sale, Calling Attorney's Masquerade As Foreclosing Lender An Unscrupulous, Conniving Scheme To Trick Bidder Out Of $458K At Foreclosure Auction

In Clearwater, Florida, the Tampa Bay Times reports:
  • Pinellas County Circuit Judge Jack St. Arnold on Monday threw out the $458,100 sale of a gulf-front condo because of what he called an "unscrupulous" and "conniving" scheme to trick bidders at a foreclosure auction.

    His ruling means that the owners of Orlando Realty Group will get back the money they bid on what turned out to be a second mortgage held by a company connected to Clearwater attorney Roy Skelton. Only later did the bidders discover that a different lender had a superior first mortgage and could soon foreclose, leaving them with no condo and out nearly a half million dollars.

    While he rapped Orlando Realty for not doing sufficient due diligence before bidding, St. Arnold had especially harsh words for Skelton.

    "Clearly you set a trap for unwary buyers," the judge said.

    Skelton said after the hearing that he would either sell the unit in the Ram-Sea Condominiums on North Redington Beach or try to pay off the first mortgage.

    "While I respectfully disagreed with the judge's decision, I will respect it and will not file an appeal," Skelton said.

    Two years ago, Skelton's Outbidya, Inc. paid $157,8000 for the condo at a homeowners association foreclosure auction. Last year, shortly after Wells Fargo began foreclosing on the first mortgage, Skelton created Deutsche Residential Mortgage — no relation to the giant German bank — and took back a second mortgage from Outbidya.

    In February, while Wells Fargo's case dragged along, Skelton's Deutsche obtained a final judgement of foreclosure on its second mortgage and set the stage for the contested June auction.

    The sole witness at Monday's hearing — which was held on an emergency motion to set aside the sale — was John Houde, who owns Orlando Realty Group with his wife.

    Houde testified that he thought the auction involved a first mortgage because the only lis pendens — initial notice of foreclosure — he saw was filed by Wells Fargo. Before bidding, he said, he reviewed public records including the docket in the bank's case.

    "I've done quite a number of these," Houde said, referring to online foreclosure auctions. "This (review) is to make sure which mortgage is foreclosing."

    But under questioning from Skelton, Houde acknowledged that he had not read the entire final judgment, which showed that Deutsche Residential held the mortgage being foreclosed. Skelton also accused Houde of committing fraud by indicating in the online auction process that he had thoroughly read all documents in the case even though he had not.

    "He comes with unclean hands," Skelton said.

    Skelton and Matthew Weidner, one of Houde's lawyers, traded sometimes dense legal and technical arguments in the 90-minute hearing — which included a brief recess to watch the eclipse. But another of Houde's attorneys, Jon McGraw, was more straightforward in his remarks.

    "It's a very cunning plan by Mr. Skelton and his group," McGraw said and one in which Orlando Realty "stands to lose a substantial amount of money."

    Before ruling, St. Arnold said Houde's company had failed to do its due diligence "in a competent manner," and added that he had little sympathy for bidders at foreclosure auctions who "pick on the bones" of people who lost their homes.

    But, calling it a case of "complicit versus conniving," the judge said in effect that he found Skelton's actions much more egregious. The mortgage company Skelton set up "was not a legitimate lender," St. Arnold said, and its sole purpose was to further a scheme to reap "an unconscionable profit."

    Skelton, who conceded that his Deutsche Residential never made a single loan, is involved in a similar case in which a person thought he was bidding on a first mortgage on a Largo townhome owned by another of Skelton's companies. That buyer forfeited a $5,000 deposit rather than go through with the $112,000 purchase.

    Despite the judge's criticism of him, Houde was relieved to be getting his money back.

    "You shouldn't be allowed to create a scheme to defraud buyers," he said.

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Bankster To Avoid Paying Full Amount Of $46 Million Damages Award As Confidential Settlement Reached With Screwed Over Homeowner-Couple In Connection With Loan Modification Jerk-Around That Led To Mistaken Foreclosure

In Sacramento, California, Fox Business reports:
  • Bank of America Corp. has agreed to pay more than $6 million to a California couple whom a federal judge said had been harassed and illegally foreclosed upon by the bank's mortgage unit, ending an eight-year-long dispute.

    The proposed settlement between the bank and Erik and Renee Sundquist would enable them "to end a long personal and legal nightmare that has impacted every facet of their and their sons' lives," according to court papers the couple filed to request that their 2014 lawsuit against the bank be dropped.

    The deal calls for Bank of America to pay a fraction of the fine of more than $46 million ordered by Judge Christopher Klein in March. In his ruling, the judge said the bank's mortgage modification process and mistaken foreclosure on the Sundquists' home in Lincoln, Calif., left them in "a state of battle-fatigued demoralization."

    The exact amount that the bank will pay the Sundquists is confidential, according to documents filed Tuesday [August 15] in U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Sacramento. The earlier order called for the bank to pay the couple nearly $6.1 million in damages.

    The couple had stopped making mortgage payments in March 2009 after Bank of America officials said they wouldn't consider loan modifications for customers who were current on payments. In the following years, their roughly 20 loan-modification requests were "routinely either lost or declared insufficient, or incomplete or stale or in need of resubmission or denied without comprehensible explanation," the judge's ruling said.

    The couple filed for bankruptcy in June 2010. Filings halt foreclosure sales, but the judge said the bank still improperly took over the home and gave them a three-day eviction notice. The couple moved out, and Ms. Sundquist was hospitalized with stress-related symptoms of a heart attack several weeks later.

    Bank of America officials eventually reversed the sale. The couple moved back in several months later and received a $20,000 fine from their homeowner association for dead landscaping, the ruling said.

    The 107-page court opinion included excerpts from Renee Sundquist's journal that documented harassing visits from bank-related officials and Mr. Sundquist's suicide attempt after the couple discussed their frustrations over the house.

    The request this week to drop the lawsuit still needs approval from Judge Klein, who agreed to discuss the settlement at a Sept. 12 hearing.

    "Their physical and emotional health deteriorates each day they are forced to endure the uncertainty of an outcome that will enable them to repair their lives and the lives of their children," their lawyer wrote in the request. "They do not have the ability to participate in further litigation and appeals without grave costs to their health and quality of life."

    The settlement would enable the bank to avoid paying a court-ordered $40 million donation to five law schools associated with the University of California system and two consumer advocacy nonprofits, the National Consumer Law Center and the National Consumer Bankruptcy Rights Center. It's not clear whether the groups will receive any money from the confidential settlement.

    A Bank of America spokesman declined to comment Thursday. Lawyers who represented the law schools and the nonprofits in the case did not respond to requests for comment.

    At the time of the ruling, legal experts praised Judge Klein's mandatory donation, saying it could help other judges who struggle with how to issue a damages award large enough to make a corporate giant stop bad behavior but not to overcompensate plaintiffs. Outsize legal awards can often trigger an appeal for excessive damages.

    In the ruling, Judge Klein said the fine was meant to be large enough that it wouldn't "be laughed off in the boardroom as petty cash or 'chump change.'"

    In Tuesday's request, the Sundquists said they "support the court's message to the bank" but worried about what could happen to the damages amount during the appeals process.

    "They also recognize that the court's intentions could backfire if an appellate court reduced the financial cost of the bank's stay violations, " their lawyer said in court papers.

Cops: Scammer Fleeced $75K+ From NJ Couple With False Home Mortgage Refinancing Promises

In New Brinswick, New Jersey, reports:
  • A Florida man is facing theft by deception and money laundering charges in connection with allegedly stealing more than $75,000 from a Sayreville couple.

    Robert Perniola, 58, a former Manalapan resident who now lives in Pompano Beach, Florida, turned himself in to authorities around 1:30 p.m. Wednesday [August 16] at the Middlesex County Court House, according to Middlesex County Prosecutor Andrew C. Carey.

    Perniola was charged following an investigation by Middlesex County Prosecutor's Office Detective Kevin Schroeck.

    According to officials, between Jan. 13, 2012 and Feb. 28, 2014, Perniola allegedly obtained funds of more than $75,000 from a Sayreville couple by falsely offering to help them refinance their mortgage. Perniola allegedly moved around the money sent to him to different accounts or used it to make personal purchases.

Monday, August 21, 2017

Federal Jury To Snoozing County Public Administrator: Your Negligence In Connection With Auction Of Dead Person's Home Screwed Estate Beneficiary Out Of $114K, So Pay Up!

In Nashville, Tennessee, the Nashville Post reports:
  • A federal jury on Wednesday [August 16] found in favor of the beneficiary of an estate overseen by the Davidson County Public Administrator.

    The beneficiary, Joan Wildasin, argued the public administrator, Peggy Mathes, was negligent in her handling of the auction of the estate’s main asset, a home on Old Charlotte Pike in Pegram, Tennessee. The trial was held in U.S. District Court in Nashville.

    The jury awarded Wildasin $114,167, approximately the amount of damages the plaintiff’s team claimed she had suffered when the administrator failed to correct an inaccurate description of the property prior to its 2014 sale at auction.

    According to the plaintiff, the home was advertised as 2,500 square feet ahead of the auction when it was actually more than 3,500 square feet.

    “Ms. Wildasin is very gratified that the jury sent such a strong message that public officials who owe a fiduciary duty to beneficiaries of estates must exercise diligence and caution discharging their duties, and will be held accountable when they fail to do so,” the plaintiff’s attorney, Gino Bulso, of Leader, Bulso & Nolan, said in a statement. “Mathes, despite having records in her file that accurately showed the square footage of the home, admitted during the trial that she provided no information to the auction company about the home (other than the address), that she never reviewed any of the advertisements for the auction sale of the sale, that she did nothing to ensure that the advertisements were accurate, and that — even after having been advised of the discrepancy prior to commencement of the auction — allowed the home to be sold anyway.”

    The house sold for $315,000 at auction, while the plaintiff cited appraisals putting the value of the home closer to $500,000.

    Mathes’ attorney, John Kitch of Cornelius & Collins, said they were still processing the verdict and declined to comment further.

    The defense had argued that Mathes was immune from the suit because of her role as Davidson County Public Administrator.

    Metro Legal Director Jon Cooper said he was not familiar with the case and could not comment.

    Additionally, Mathes claimed, it was the responsibility of the auction company, not her, to make sure the listing was accurate. Wildasin and the auction company, Colson Auctions, reached a confidential settlement prior to the trial.

    At-large Metro Councilmember Jim Shulman, who chairs the Rules, Confirmations and Public Elections Committee that recommended Mathes for reappointment in 2015, said he hasn’t heard of other issues with the public administrator in the last few years.

    “If there’d been a series of cases, I think we’d immediately call her in and figure out what was going on,” he said. “But if this is the first case like this, if this is the first official judgment on her for an act of negligence, we might want to know about it, but I’m not sure if the council will take a full review fit or not.”
Source: Jury awards $114K in botched estate sale (Davidson County Public Administrator had claimed immunity from suit).

82-Year Old Widow Has Bully Timeshare Developer Over A Barrel; Outfit Needs Her Signature To Obtain Demolition Permit, Certificate Of Occupancy To Begin Operating $24 Million Complex, But She Refuses To Give It

In Orlando, Florida, The Associated Press reports:
  • There's a new twist in a standoff between an 82-year-old widow in Florida who refused to sell her townhome and the giant developer that constructed a timeshare resort around her vacant, two-story building anyway.

    In order to get a county permit for tenants to move into the new timeshare units, the company needs the widow, Julieta Corredor's, signature - and she's not giving it.

    That prompted the parent company of Westgate Resorts to sue Orange County, Florida, this month, demanding that the county issue the occupancy permit anyway.

    The timeshare giant's lawsuit is the latest development in the ongoing fight between Corredor and Westgate Resorts.

    Corredor was the last owner in her condominium development, and refused to sell to Westgate so it could build the new timeshare complex in the heart of Orlando's tourist district.

    The company tweaked its plans, but moved forward, building a seven-story, multimillion-dollar edifice within feet of the Corredor townhome.

    The 82-year-old woman's townhome was damaged when a contractor for the timeshare company was clearing the site for the construction of Westgate's timeshare complex.

    No one now lives in the property, which was used as a vacation home by the South Florida-based Corredor family. The home, which Westgate said the family has not used in more than a decade, has now been deemed uninhabitable because of the damage.

    Orange County officials have told Westgate their contractor needs a demolition permit for the unpermitted work done on Corredor's building before it will grant the occupancy permit for one building and a building permit for the second building in the timeshare complex.

    That requires the signature of Corredor, who has so far steadfastly refused all of the company's offers to buy out her unit.

    'The fact that Westgate apparently undertook demolition without proper permitting from Orange County, substantially damaging Mrs. Corredor's condominium in the process and rendering it uninhabitable, is one of the big reasons that we're in this mess,' said Corredor's attorney, Brent Siegel.

    County spokeswoman Doreen Overstreet said the county wouldn't comment due to the pending litigation. Corredor and her sons weren't named as defendants in the lawsuit, although their fight with Westgate looms large over the complaint.

    In emails filed with the court, a lawyer for Westgate complained that the county's decision not to issue the occupancy permit is costing Westgate 'tens of thousands of dollars every day.'

    The lawsuit said the company has passed all final inspections and that the county has 'a clear legal ministerial duty' to issue the occupancy permit.

    The county also told Westgate it needs to make repairs to the Corredor home in order to get the permit, and that also requires Corredor's signature.

    That's something she is willing to sign off on, provided she gets all the details on the proposed repairs, her attorney said.

    Officials at the timeshare company said they've offered to rebuild the Corredors' unit at the same or a new location and provide $50,000 in furnishings.

    They've presented an offer of a $150,000 cash buy-out, and they've said they're willing to offer a comparable, newly-renovated unit in a different building. The Corredors have repeatedly said 'no.'

    That amount is far more than the $69,000 her neighbors were given for their condos on average, but also a bit less than the $154,000 she paid for the property when she purchased it back in the early 1980s.

    The Corredors have said that their case is a matter of principle on property rights and that they feel bullied by Westgate. The complex being built is a $24 million development.

    Westgate is owned by David Siegel who has been named in the suits as well.

    The Corredors have two lawsuits pending against Westgate. There have been no steps toward settlement talks since the beginning of the year, Siegel said.

Sunday, August 20, 2017

Pennsylvania Supremes OK Record $4.4 Million Payout As Partial Reimbursement For Claimed $11.3 Million Fleeced From Ex-Clients By Thieving Lawyer; Recent 4-Year Fund Payouts Triggered By Sticky-Fingered Attorneys Now Up To $15 Million

In Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, reports:
  • More than four dozen victims of a Ponzi scheme perpetrated by late Hummelstown attorney Jeffrey Mottern will share in what is the largest payout ever made from a fund created by the state Supreme Court to help those cheated by dishonest lawyers.

    The 47 former Mottern clients whose claims were approved by the Pennsylvania Lawyers Fund for Client Security will receive a combined total of $4.4 million in two separate payments, half this December and the other half next December, said the fund's executive director Kathryn Peifer Morgan.(1)

    That represents about 39 percent of the $11.3 million in combined losses that 67 clients, in a pending lawsuit, are claiming that Mottern stole.

    It was the first real bit of good news they have received since they realized, after Mottern's suicide three years ago, that they had been the victims of a scam that cost some their life's savings. It was news that some had begun to doubt they would ever receive.

    "At the rate it was going for a while there, it didn't look good at all," said Cosmo Agostino of Hummelstown, whose claim to the lawyers fund was approved. "I think the clients will be satisfied to a point. At least it's something."

    The letter caught Carol Bingaman of Swatara Township and her husband Stanley by surprise.

    "We were thrilled," she said. "We couldn't believe it. For us and for our brother [who also was a scam victim] it pretty much covers what we lost. It's fantastic."

    But she also feels for victims who lost more money -- in some cases, hundreds of thousands of dollars and, in two cases, more than $1 million.

    The maximum amount that the fund allows any of the victims to receive is $100,000.

    "A $100,000 doesn't do a lot for them," Bingaman said.

    Because of the number of victims and the combined amount of money that Mottern had fraudulently taken from them, the Supreme Court waived its $1 million aggregate cap on what the fund could pay for claims against any single lawyer, said Peifer Morgan.

    "We're just grateful for the court providing us with the financial resources to be able to help these people," she said.

    The Lawyers Fund for Client Security's primary funding source is $45 from the $200 lawyers pay annually to keep their law license active in Pennsylvania.

    Mottern took advantage of the trusted relationships he had developed with clients and family members of clients by encouraging them to allow him to pool their money - oftentimes, inheritances from estates he handled - with that of other clients' money in a certificate of deposit that never existed.

    He bolstered his clients' confidence that the investment was legitimate by sending out monthly financial statements on his law office stationery showing the balance was growing. He allegedly used money from new investors to make monthly payments to clients who requested them.

    Court records show he also spent some on himself and to pay personal bills, gave some to his wife Susan, and used some to play the stock market, losing most of it.

    As others became aware of his scam, Mottern voluntarily surrendered his law license in the fall of 2013 rather than face punishment from the Supreme Court's lawyers disciplinary board. But he didn't tell his clients and continued the pretense of practicing law.

    In March 2014, two of his elderly clients, who had given Mottern control over more than $2.2 million of their money, became aware that Mottern no longer was a practicing attorney. They became nervous and filed a civil action against him demanding their money back. Two days later, the FBI, tipped off by the court's disciplinary board, raided Mottern's law office, removing boxes of files and his computer.

    Three days after that, Mottern admitted his guilt in what several of his former clients later say was a cowardly way by taking his life in his Main Street office. He was 62.

    Scam victims filed a lawsuit in Dauphin County Court against three financial institutions with which Mottern had accounts. A trial date is set to begin on May 21, 2018. They hope to recover more of the money they lost through that effort.

    Most of Mottern's victims were senior citizens, and at least a couple have died since the scheme was discovered. Given the circumstances that cost them their nest eggs or savings they wanted to leave to their children, Peifer Morgan said the Lawyers Fund for Client Security board modified its rules for recovering money it is paying out to the victims.

    Its past practice was to recover every dollar the fund pays out whenever a court ruling or verdict results in a monetary award. Instead, the fund's board decided to use a calculation that takes into account the principal amount the victim lost and the amount of money, less attorney fees, that are awarded through the litigation.

    So, for example, if a victim lost a principal amount of $500,000 and was paid $100,000 from the fund, that represents 20 percent of their loss. So if the litigation results in $300,000 for that victim after attorney and other fees associated with the litigation are deducted, the fund would receive $60,000 of the settlement and the victim would receive the remaining $240,000.

    But the idea that a portion of any money that the lawsuit might recover would be deducted from what victims receive doesn't sit well with Paul Stokes of Middletown. He said some of the other victims he has spoken with also find it hard to swallow.

    "I'll take what I can get. Don't get me wrong," Stokes said. "That being said, I just think it's low of them to want 20 percent back of what you receive on the other end, especially when the fund was set up to take care of clients like me who got screwed. To me, that's low."

    Peifer Morgan admits the Lawyers Fund for Client Security board considered waiving its rights to recover any money paid out to victims in the Mottern case, given the large size of some of the losses. But in the end, it decided it had to strike a balance, particularly given the rash of big-dollar cases that have come before it within the past four years.

    Since 2013, the fund has approved aggregate awards to victims of four different lawyers' criminal conduct that ranged between $3.4 million and Mottern's $4.4 million. Those awards combined add up to $15 million, the most the 35-year-old fund has ever paid out in a four-year span.

    "The board thought long and hard about this," Peifer Morgan said. "We have a duty to victims and that's our primary concern but we also have fiduciary duty to members of the Pennsylvania Bar Association who provide these resources. It's a balancing act."
For the story, see Victims of Pa. lawyer's Ponzi scheme get record payout.
(1) For other "attorney ripoff reimbursement funds" that sometimes help cover the losses created by the dishonest conduct of lawyers licensed in other states in the United States and in the Canadian provinces, see:
Maps available courtesy of The National Client Protection Organization, Inc.

Sneaky, Ambulance-Chasing Lawyer Gets Bar Boot For Attempting To Use Rubber Checks When Remitting Client's $2 Million Share Of Personal Injury Settlement, Then Failing To Make Good On The Money Or Account For The Cash

In St. Andrew, Jamaica, the Jamaica Observer reports:
  • The General Legal Council has advised that Attorney-at-law Graceann Cameron has been struck off the Roll of Attorneys entitled to practice in Jamaica due to professional misconduct.

    According to a newspaper advertisement today [August 16], Cameron was found in breach of the legal profession on July 22 after the Disciplinary Committee heard evidence from a client, who filed a complaint against her, that she failed to hand over money from a legal settlement.

    The council outlined that the attorney represented the complainant in seeking compensation for injuries she sustained in a motor vehicle accident. Cameron reportedly received proceeds on behalf of the client after which she sent two cheques totalling $2 million.(1)

    However, according to the complainant, the bank dishonoured the cheques when the client presented it.

    The complainant told the legal council that despite her subsequent efforts, she could not reach Cameron.

    The legal council, in its advertisement, stated that Cameron has not accounted for or paid her client the negotiated settlement.(2)

    Cameron is said to have breached sections of the legal profession rules that speak to discrediting the legal profession and not obligating financial commitments to her client.

    As such, she is not entitled to practice in Jamaica or be employed in that capacity by any member of the public.
Source: Attorney disbarred for failing to handover $2m in settlement funds to client.

Editor's Note: According to the bar complaint, the victim was laid up in the hospital receiving treatment for multiple injuries (including a fractured right hip, a fractured knee and lacerations) when she was approached by a woman who identified herself as working with the ambulance-chasing Cameron, recommending her employer to the victim for legal representation.
(1) At an exchange rate of $127.83 (Jamaican) to $1 (U.S.), the loss to the victim equates to approximately $15,600 (U.S.) in today's money.

(2) In Jamaica, The Compensation Fund was established in 2012 to assist clients who have suffered losses as a result of actions by attorneys. The General Legal Council of Jamaica is to administer the Fund.

For other "attorney ripoff reimbursement funds" that sometimes help cover the losses created by the dishonest conduct of lawyers licensed in the United States and in the Canadian provinces, see:
Maps available courtesy of The National Client Protection Organization, Inc.  ripoff reimbursement

Aging Attorney Gets Tripped Up By State Bar's Random Trust Account Audit Revealing Major Irregularities; Despite Lack Of Complaining Clients, Deposit Of $2.1 Million Of His Own Funds To Cover Account Shorfalls & Voluntary Relinquishment Of Law License, Lawyer Now Faces Criminal Larceny Charge For Playing Fast & Loose With Unwitting Clients' Cash

In Stamford, Connecticut, the Stamford Advocate reports:
  • A well-known former real estate lawyer has been accused of misappropriating more than $2 million from his attorney trust account.(1)

    Burt Hoffman, 75, has been charged with first-degree larceny and was released on a promise to appear in court.

    Unlike other attorneys similarly charged, Hoffman was not accused by any of his clients. Hoffman, who was admitted to the bar in 1970 and had law offices with his son on Summer Street, got into trouble following a random audit of his Interest on Lawyers Trust Account.

    The trust accounts are used when client funds are collected for many reasons, including home sales, retainers and personal injury settlements. State law prohibits co-mingling attorneys’ personal funds with their clients. Random audits of trust funds are conducted weekly throughout the state, Assistant Chief Disciplinary Counsel Beth Baldwin said.

    Hoffman’s Attorney Bob Frost did not return a call for comment.

    A February 2016 audit showed Hoffman’s trustee accounts were at a $1.5 million deficit, according to his four-page arrest affidavit prepared by Stamford State’s Attorney inspector John Forlivio.

    The auditors listed five issues Hoffman needed to address, including hiring a bookkeeper, creating a proper ledger and an account for the negative $1.5 million.

    A bookkeeper also found several questionable disbursements from client accounts to companies owned and controlled by Hoffman, the affidavit said.

    Hoffman deposited a total of $2.1 million of his own money into his trustee account to cover the shortfalls that were “due to accounting errors, omissions and improper disbursements,” the affidavit said.

    In November 2016, the Office of the Chief Disciplinary Counsel filed a request to suspend Hoffman’s law license. In April, Hoffman resigned his right to practice law in the state and his resignation was accepted one month later by a Stamford judge who also assigned attorney Mark Henderson as a trustee over the accounts.

    “A lawyer is expected to protect the funds of a client with utmost fiduciary responsibility,” Baldwin said. “Trust between the lawyer and client is paramount to the attorney-client relationship. Breach of that trust violates the core values of attorney ethical obligations.”
Source: Former Stamford attorney accused of misappropriating client funds.
(1) For "attorney ripoff reimbursement funds" that sometimes help cover the losses created by the dishonest conduct of lawyers licensed in states throughout the United States and in the Canadian provinces, see:
Maps available courtesy of The National Client Protection Organization, Inc.

Kentucky Lawyer Pleads Guilty To Fleecing Unwitting Clients Out Of At Least $550K In Personal Injury Lawsuit Settlements; Defendant Allegedly Forged Victims' Names On Settlement Checks Received From Insurance Companies, Then Pocketed Loot Without Telling Anyone

From the Office of the U.S. Attorney (Paducah, Kentucky):
  • A licensed Kentucky attorney pleaded guilty in United States District Court today [August 17], before Senior Judge Thomas B. Russell, to various charges including devising a scheme to defraud numerous clients of insurance settlements totaling at least $550,000(1) announced United States Attorney John E. Kuhn, Jr.

    “Clients trust their attorneys to act as fiduciaries, to put the clients’ interests first and to conduct themselves honestly and honorably,” stated U.S. Attorney John Kuhn. “In this case, Mr. King violated that trust and dishonored his profession by stealing from his clients. We will pursue justice for his defrauded clients, seek restitution on their behalf, and seek a sentence for Mr. King commensurate with his crime.”

    From at least March of 2007 through May of 2017, James Grant King, 43, of McCracken County, Kentucky, was an attorney licensed by the Kentucky Bar Association and licensed to practice law in the Commonwealth of Kentucky. In court today, King admitted that during that time period, he committed aggravated identity theft and wire fraud.

    King practiced as a plaintiff’s attorney for numerous clients within the Western District of Kentucky and elsewhere. These clients came to the defendant seeking his services in order to recover monetary damages and other remedies. After learning about his clients’ cases, King would seek to settle their cases with insurance companies. However, after reaching a settlement with the insurance companies, and unbeknownst to his clients, King would then keep most or all of the settlement amounts for himself.

    Specifically, depending on the case, King would either keep the entire settlement amount for himself or tell clients that he was still awaiting resolution and settlement of the case with the insurance company, knowing that the insurance company had already settled the case and sent him the full settlement amount. King’s clients would believe him because they trusted him. The settlements that King received from the insurance companies often came in the form of a check. In order to cash or deposit the check, King would forge the signatures of his clients so that they would not know about the check. King would forge these signatures without any lawful authority.

    King is also charged with obtaining a $97,500 personal loan from a McCracken County individual. As collateral for the loan, King transferred the title of a Phoenix Model 920 Pro XP boat. However, a few months later, King applied for a duplicate title to the boat, and then, unbeknownst to the individual who loaned him the money, King sold the boat, without repaying the $97,500 loan.

    If convicted at trial, King could face a sentence of 42 years in prison, pay a fine of $750,000 and be required to serve a three years period of supervised release.
Source: McCracken County, Kentucky Attorney Guilty Of Defrauding Clients Of Insurance Settlements (Kept at least $550,000 in settlement amounts that should have gone to his clients).

See also, A client speaks out after Grant King enters guilty pleas.
(1) For "attorney ripoff reimbursement funds" that sometimes help cover the losses created by the dishonest conduct of lawyers licensed in states throughout the United States and in the Canadian provinces, see:
Maps available courtesy of The National Client Protection Organization, Inc.