53 posts categorized "Current Affairs"

May 02, 2009

Brown Obtains Guilty Plea from Woman Who Operated Sophisticated Loan Scam

BrownPortrait LOS ANGELES- Continuing his crackdown on mortgage fraud, Attorney General Edmund G. Brown Jr. late Thursday won a guilty plea from 22-year old Anna Santos, who conned thousands of dollars from homeowners in a "cruel and sophisticated" loan scam.

Santos will be formally sentenced on May 20 in Los Angeles Superior Court. She is expected to receive 2 years in prison.

"Santos conned thousands of dollars from homeowners trying to save their homes through a cruel and sophisticated scam," Brown said. "She held out hope, but in reality did not provide an ounce of loan modification, leaving her victims unprotected and in far worse straits."

Santos was arrested on March 12, 2009 after she used forged documents to convince victims to hand over thousands of dollars for non-existent loan modification services.

Santos obtained a fictitious business permit through the City of Los Angeles for "Payment Processing Department." She opened several bank accounts and two post office boxes under that name. She mailed flyers to vulnerable homeowners that appeared to be from victims' lenders or a government agency. The flyer used a large, bold header that read "Final Notice" and advised homeowners that they qualified for a special program to save their home from foreclosure.

After signing up for "loan modification services," homeowners then received what appeared to be "confirmation" that their lender had been notified. Many victims also received loan modification documents that appeared to be from their lender. These documents were all forgeries.

The victims were informed they had been placed in a "probationary" program and their mortgage payments should be submitted to "Payment Processing Department" and sent to a given post office box address. None of the payments were credited to the victims' home loans.

Payments sent to the post office box were retrieved by Ms. Santos and deposited into the bank accounts she had opened.

Santos targeted seniors and homeowners on the verge of foreclosure. It is believed that she scammed more than 100 victims. On average, victims lost approximately $3,000, at a time when they could not afford their mortgage, let alone additional fraudulent expenses.

Since taking office, Attorney General Brown has shut down loan modification and foreclosure rescue scams and fought companies that have misled vulnerable borrowers:

  • In March 2009, Brown shut down Foreclosure Freedom, a fraudulent loan modification company that continued to collect fees and mortgage payments from dozens of homeowners without ever providing any loan modification services.
  • In November 2008, Brown arrested three members of First Gov after the company demanded an up-front fee, ranging from $1,500 to $5,000, to participate in a loan-modification program and never renegotiated the loans.
  • In October 2008, Brown announced an $8.68 billion settlement with Countrywide Home Loans after the company deceived borrowers by misrepresenting loan terms, loan payment increases, and borrowers' ability to afford loans.
  • In May 2008, Brown shut down a team of scam artists that acquired deeds to hundreds of homes in foreclosure by convincing desperate consumers to pay $10,000 to place their property in a land grant, a phony and worthless real estate document, and then tricked homeowners into signing over the deed to their home and paying the company rent.
  • In March 2008, Brown shut down Lifetime Financial, Nations Mortgage, Greenleaf Lending, Virtual Escrow, Olympic Escrow and Direct Credit Solutions after the companies ran a complex predatory lending scheme using bait and switch tactics to victimize thousands of homeowners, many of whom lost their homes.

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April 28, 2009

Training to End Strokes - A Worthy Cause

Wendi wagner training My good friend and colleague, attorney Wendi Wagner McCluskey, will be training to end strokes.  I asked her to write a piece to post here on my blog.  Please read and help her exceed her goals.  Although we're in tough times, I truly believe that hers is a worthy cause, and, for  that reason, I made a donation.

From the pen of Wendi Wagner McCluskey, Esq.

January, I watched my husband's grandmother will herself to die after having had a stroke. Christmas Eve, she had been a vibrant woman, smiling and bouncing her great-granddaughter on her lap; by New Year she could do nothing but lie in bed and murmur that she was in terrible pain and wanted an end.     

Never in my life did I imagine that I would be walking for a charity.  Let me rephrase - Never in my life did I imagine that I would be walking 13 miles, for any reason.  In honor of Lally, my husband's grandmother, I committed to walk the Santa Barbara Wine Country Half Marathon - 13.2 miles.

Last Saturday, I did 12 miles with my training group.  If you had told me 6 months ago that I could walk/run 12 miles, I would have told you that you had lost your last marble.  I am not an athlete, but I am actually doing it.  Okay, I am doing in great pain and I don’t look so pretty, and I am usually the last person to finish out of 20 or so people - but I am doing it.   My legs ache, but not in places they are supposed to.  I think I am not normal.  But, I am determined to do this.

I have committed to raise $1,600.  I am pushing to finish my fundraising efforts by May 1st.  Check out http://ttes-la.kintera.org/wendi to see how much money I have raised - or to make a donation of your own.

Did you know that someone suffers a stroke every 45 seconds and someone dies of one every 3.1 minutes? Or that 29 percent of people who have strokes are under age 65? Please join me in my efforts to end stroke.

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March 22, 2009

Fritzl Chooses Luxury Prison - Where's the Outrage?

Timesonline reports that per Austrian law Josef Fritzl, who was convicted of rape, murder, false imprisonment and other atrocities which he committed during the 24 years that he kept his daughter Elisabeth and the 6 surviving children that he forced her to bear in while confined in a windowless dungeon, will get to pick his poison ... I mean prison. (I apologize for the long sentence but, after all, I am a lawyer and we tend to be verbose). 

Associated Press Video

Can this horrific story get any more bizarre?  73 year old Fritzl, a creature who has no right to call himself a human being, was sentenced to life in prison but will be eligible for parole in 15 years.  I am disgusted by the fact that he was allowed to choose to spend his incarceration at Garsten,  prison for the "psychologically abnormal" where, according to Timesonline, "he will be able to improve his English or study other foreign languages, as well as singing in the choir or training in a gym that is better-equipped than those of many hotels. As an inmate, he will be offered a wide variety of hobbies and entertainment, including tennis, darts and art classes."

Where is the outrage?  This treatment calls for reform.  Garsten is set in the foothills of the Alps and boasts of one of the largest prison libraries in Austria so that Fritzl won't be deprived of the ability to indulge in his passion for reading.  What about Elisabeth's passion for, well, anything?  Even though she's been freed from her prison, common sense dictates that she will never be freed from the memory of the horror that was her life.

Details of Elisabeth Fritzl's Abuse at the Hands of Her Father, Josef Fritzl

Fritzl's fellow inmates include such dignitaries as a former TV presenter, Helmut Frodl, serving life for murdering a rival and dismembering his body with a chainsaw. Frodl is working on a PhD and is allowed out twice a month with an escort to discuss his thesis with a professor.

Although in theory it's commendable that, per a spokesman for the Austrian prisons, “The Austrian penal system aims not only at enforcing punishment, but also attempts to bring the inmate back within the norms of society,” the inhuman wrongs that this man committed against his daughter and the children that he begat with her, can never be made right.  Every day of the rest of his life should be filled with the same fear, terror, frustration and horror that he bestowed upon his family.

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March 19, 2009

Josef Fritzl Sentenced To Life in Mental Hospital

Fritzl Croaking Voice Joseph Fritzl, the monster who imprisoned, raped and tortured his own daughter, Elisabeth, for 24 years while forcing her to bear 7 of his children, has been sentenced to life in a mental hospital -- a mental hospital of HIS own choosing. 

In general, I'm not a punitive person.  However, in these circumstances, this man should be afforded absolutely no choice as to any aspect of his life, not the least of which is where he will spend the rest of his days.  He should be afforded the same choice he gave to his daughter - none.

According to Timesonline:

Josef Fritzl barely quivered when he was sentenced yesterday to life in a prison for psychologically disturbed criminals. He was found guilty of murdering a boy, one of seven children fathered with his daughter, of enslaving her, incarcerating her, beating her and raping her 3,000 times in the cellar of the family home.

Fritzl, 73, said in a croaking voice that he accepted the verdict — there will be no appeal — and he was marched off by a phalanx of policemen to a cell that lets in more sunlight than his daughter Elisabeth saw in almost a quarter of a century.

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March 18, 2009

Joseph Fritzl Pleads Guilty to All Charges - He's Still a Monster

In spite of the fact that Josef Fritzl pled guilty to ALL charges today, he remains one of the great monsters of all time.  Click here, here, here, here and here to read previous, detailed postings of his horrific crimes.

Please watch the CNN Video News Report below for greater details of today's guilty plea.

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March 17, 2009

Details of Elisabeth Fritzl's Abuse at the Hands of Her Father, Josef

Josef-Fritzl-arrives-for--001 I am sickened by the account of Josef Fritzl’s treatment of his daughter, Elisabeth Fritzl, during the 24 years that he imprisoned her in a purposefully built cellar. 

This Josef Fritzl calls himself a man, a human being.  I don't perceive him as human.  The horrors that he bestowed upon his daughter beginning with drugging her at age 18 in order to imprison her in the dungeon that became her 24 year torture chamber and the deceit that he so brazenly perpetrated to friends and family during that time boggle the mind and shock the conscience. 

Here is, in part, what the indictment states:

  • He chained his daughter up, strapping up her arms and tying her hands behind her back with an iron chain, which he then secured to metal posts behind her bed. She could only move approximately half a metre either side of the bed.
  • After two days he gave her more freedom of movement by attaching the chain around her waist. Then around six to nine months into her imprisonment, he "removed the metal chain", because "it was hindering his sexual activity with his daughter".
  • He forced her to endure sexual abuse and rape at his hands sometimes several times a day, from the second day of her incarceration right up until her release last April. During the first nine months he kept her on a lead and "constantly covered her mouth and prevented her from breathing".
  • He repeatedly threatened her with the statement: "If you do not do as I say, your treatment will get worse and you will not escape from the cellar anyway."
  • He repeatedly beat and kicked her.
  • Subjected her to humiliating sexual abuse, including forcing her to reenact scenes in pornographic films with him as well as inserting objects into her in a violent manner.
  • Fritzl threatened Elisabeth and her children, warning them that if they tried to escape they would be killed. "He told them he had installed a system so that the doors would give them electric shocks if they tried to open them and that poison would be released into the cellar if they tried to escape, killing them all instantly."
  • He would punish her by switching off all the power to the cellar for days at a time "so she was left alone in total darkness".
  • The jury will hear three expert testimonies including the psychiatric assessment of Fritzl, and evidence from a technical expert and an electrical engineer who have inspected the dungeon prison, including its complex locking system and the eight doors which separated Elisabeth and her family from the outside world.

The poison that ran through this man's veins is incomprehensible.  I'm speechless.

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Fritzl Trial Media Frenzy

The trial begins.  From CNN:

One of Elisabeth Fritzl's brothers, Harald, also testified by video, a court spokesman said. The media and public have been barred from the courtroom for sensitive parts of the trial.

Fritzl has pleaded guilty to incest and other charges, but denied murder and enslavement.

He pleaded "partly guilty" -- an option in Austrian court -- to multiple charges of raping his daughter, Franz Cutka, a spokesman for the court in Landesgericht St. Poelten, said. A verdict is expected on Thursday, Cutka said.

Elisabeth testified on an 11-hour videotape. Portions of the tape were played Monday, and Fritzl was asked about it. The remainder of the tape was played Tuesday, officials said.

Authorities have said Elisabeth and her children were given new identities and are in a secret location.

Will there ever be justice for this family?  It doesn't seem possibleto me that Elisabeth Fritzl and her six surviving children can ever lead normal lives.  However, their new found freedom may send them on their way to integration and reintegration into society especially with the assumption that Josef Fritzl will be locked away for many years to come.  It's daunting, though, to know that his plea deal may include incarceration in a resort-like prison where the inmates are given the luxury of daily activities such as classes, tennis and other recreational sports.

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March 10, 2009

Josef Fritzl: Evil Father Goes on Trial for Crimes Against Daughter, Elisabeth

Fritzl 2009-03-10 005 You may recall the horrific story of Elisabeth Fritzl, the Austrian woman who was held captive, raped and tortured by her father for 24 years.  So many of you were incredulous at the horrific story that captured the world's attention and sympathy.  I blogged on it here, here, here and here.  Many of my blog postings include videos and photos of the crime (thus far) of the century.  There was also a link to a photo album containing nine photos of, among other things, the victim and her father.

Well, the outrage continues.  Josef Fritzl has admitted to his acts.  He is going on trial next week for murder, incest, unlawful imprisonment and enslavement.  His attorney, Rudolf Mayer, says "He is not a monster.  He loved his daughter in his own way."  This is love?  I don't know about you but I'm deeply offended by the callous disregard for the lives of his daughter and the 7 children (the product of repeated rapes by her father) that she bore from the depravity that defined her existence.  One of the children died in infancy, in the dungeon that was their home, while turning blue in her arms.   Josef Fritzl incinerated the body and, although it is believed that he won't be so convicted, this death is the subject of the murder charge against him.

It is quite possible that, under the current Austrian laws, Fritzl could get out of prison in less than 10 years (rape has a maximum sentence of 15 years and, with good behavior...).  To add insult to injury, it is rumored that his attorney has made a deal where Fritzl gets to choose the prison in which he will be held to pay for his crimes and that the chosen location will provide mediation, tennis, football and darts as well as cooking lessons. 

Elisabeth Fritzl has filmed 11 hours of testimony wherein she describes being assaulted by her father for the first time at age 11.  She tried to defend herself against his rape by kicking and screaming.  She became his captive at the age of 18 when he locked her in the dungeon that he purposefully built beneath their house (I'm loathe to call it a home) and, in an effort to cover up his perverted acts, forced her to write a letter saying that she had run away to join a cult.

The father's defense: He was protecting her from smoking, drugs, sex and drinking.  Oh, did I mention that he gave his captives a bird?  Oh, yes, the bird was able to live down there so it proves that he provided them with good air quality.  In addition to the bird, the police found whips and handcuffs.

The details of the upcoming trial and Elisabeth Fritzl's diary of her 8400+ days of captivity are plentiful on the Internet.  In particular, I found the following three articles which lay it all out:

Fritzl Daughter Tells of Fight to Save Children: Timesonline

Evil Father Goes on Trial: Babble.com

Fritzl Girl's Dunegon Diary Leaked: Ninemsn.com

And, of course, a Google Search on Elisabeth Fritzl or Josef Fritzl will yield a plethora of information.

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February 26, 2009

Octomom Porn Offer Follow-Up: Nadya Suleman Wisely Rejects the Offer

Octomom rejects offer
As a quick follow up to my previous blog post, it has been reported that Nadya Suleman, also known as Octomom, has rejected the offer by Stephen Hirsch of Vivid Video to star in a porn film for $1 Million.  Read the story here.  My faith in motherhood has been restored.

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Octomom Offered $1 Million to Do A Porn Movie: Sordid & Offensive

OctomomYou Can Follow me on Twitter

I haven't really been following the Octomom story because, frankly, I don't think it's any of my business what she does.  It's a bit scary to know that Nadya Suleman has a 2 bedroom, 1 bathroom apartment within which to raise 14 young children and babies.  Is it really any of my business, though? My take on her is that she's a woman who desperately loves her children.  

Octomom is also in a very vulnerable situation right now - the buzz is that her living situation may cause the powers-that-be to prevent her from taking her new babies home from the hospital. Click here

In light of that horrific situation, Fox News reports that Vivid Video has offered her $1 million to do a porn movie. I have no idea how this will turn out but, it seems to me, that Vivid is preying on this desperate woman's love for her children and, in so doing, is asking her to denigrate herself by having sexual relations with 8 men in this proposed movie project.

Please read the following passage - does this offend you as much as it offends me or am I just out of touch?

"The number eight is obviously heavily associated with her so we would like to work with that," Vivid’s CEO Stephen Hirsch told Tarts. "But we would really love just to sit down and talk with her and come up with something she feels comfortable with. We want her to be involved with the whole thing from the plot line to the packaging."

Hirsch says Suleman has received their offer and is considering it. Suleman did not return calls for comment.

"She’s struggling financially and this is a woman who wants to provide for her kids," Hirsch said. "This way she can hold her head high and not be using taxpayers money to support her family."

I ask again: Is anyone else outraged and offended by this sordid plan or is it just me?  I'm not saying that this woman is a saint (I have no way of denying it, either) but she is a mother and this whole idea of capitalizing on her vulnerable situation by dangling $1 million in front of her is an insult to the institution of motherhood.

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