Thursday, September 30, 2010

Surreptitious audio recordings.

You know, the kind that are made without people's consent?  Say for example the kind made without everyone's consent when some attorneys or cops are standing around discussing sensitive issues regarding a case they're working on or the kind that's made when a prosecutor has a body wire on someone who's talking to their attorney in the privacy of their attorneys office?  You get the drift don't you?

We've discussed several of these surreptitious recordings in the past, let's start with illegal audio recordings of Pastor Gaston Smith's interview with Assistant State Attorney Scruggs and a police detective.  From Francisco Alvarado's story in the Miami New Times...
Late Friday, at 9:05 p.m., Miami-Dade Judge Beatrice Butchko dealt a serious blow to state prosecutors' case against a popular pastor in Miami's black community.  Butchko ruled Assistant State Attorney Richard Scruggs cannot use digital recordings of two interviews with Rev. Gaston Smith. They were made months before the clergyman was indicted for stealing more than $10,000 in county grant money. 

The reason: Smith, his lawyer, and Scruggs did not know the cop who sat in for both interviews was recording them. 

"That is inexcusable," Butchko said. "It cannot happen ever. So those tapes are gone."
Those recordings and the fact that the prosecutor didn't immediately notify the defense that the tapes existed got the judge so worked up that she said the following...
"The way you handled this disclosure was very unprofessional," Butchko railed. "As soon as you found this out, not only did you need to call them, you needed to draft a letter explaining exactly what happened and the purpose of the tape and the meaning of it, to avoid an appearance of impropriety... That didn't happen." 

You all remember boxer short wearing federal prosecutor Sean Cronin don't you?  Prosecutor Cronin seems to have a soft spot for audio recordings as well, from the Federal Criminal Defense blog...
In addition, without informing the Department of Justice, the court or the defense, the prosecution also approached two fact witnesses and directed them to tape record their communications with defense counsel. The witnesses’ recordings of defense counsel without counsel’s knowledge were revealed to the defense only when one of the witnesses testified that he possessed a recording of a conversation with counsel during trial. Despite this disclosure, the defense’s motion alleges that it was not until one week later when a member of the prosecution team told a member of the defense team that he had been recorded by the witness without his knowledge.
After being informed of this fact, the district court ordered the government to prepare sworn affidavits regarding what had occurred. The prosecution submitted affidavits admitting that the U.S. Attorney’s Office had authorized the DEA to tape record communications between witnesses and the “defense team” without court authorization. A DEA agent subsequently instructed two government witnesses “to record any future conversations with members of the defense team,” and at least three records were made of conversations with defense attorneys or investigators.
Whoops.  That mess got the judge worked up as well, take a look...
Judge Gold found that AUSAs Cronin, his co-counsel, Andrea Hoffman, and his supervisor, Karen Gilbert, had failed to perform their duties and had engaged in a collateral witness tampering investigation motivated by Cronin’s personal animus against the defense team.
In addition to assessing attorney’s fees and costs Judge Gold entered a public reprimand against the three AUSAs and enjoined the United States Attorney’s Office from engaging in witness tampering investigations of defense counsel without first bringing such matters to his attention.
So what happened?  With all the noise surrounding these surreptitious recordings, why hasn't anyone been reprimanded or charged?  At the very least, why hasn't the bar taken any action against the lawyers involved?  I'm constantly reminded that making audio recordings of this nature without consent is illegal, yet we've seen several examples of people making and using these types of recordings without any significant consequences (that is aside from the government having to pay Dr. Shaygan $600K++).  So what if we had some audio recordings that exposed some of the people involved in one of the mortgage fraud cases we discussed behaving inappropriately, maybe even illegally?  What if that person was an attorney or worse an assistant state attorney?  God, that would be awful wouldn't it?   

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Federal prosecutor Sean Cronin charged with Lewd and Lascivious Assault on a Child and another Federal prosecutor commits suicide!

What the hell is going on here?  We start with Federal prosecutor Sean Cronin being with charged with Lewd and Lascivious Assault on a Child, from the Miami Herald article...
Sean Cronin, 35, was charged by police with lewd and lascivious behavior in front of a minor under 16 -- a felony -- at Finnegan's River, 401 SW Third Ave., according to an arrest affidavit.
Cronin, a Boston native who was watching the New England Patriots game on the big-screen TV at the outdoor bar, went swimming in his boxer shorts. The girl and her mother were in the pool.
According to the arrest form, the girl and her mother told Miami police that Cronin's genitalia were exposed as he got out of the pool. ``The victim's mother, who also witnessed the incident, then covered her daughter's eyes,'' the form said.
They alerted the pool's staff members, who tried to detain Cronin until police arrived, the affidavit said. But Cronin tried to leave through a back exit.
According to the affidavit, a Miami police officer arrived and spotted Cronin running out the back of the establishment. Cronin saw the officer, but ``continued fleeing'' and ``jumping over multiple fences'' away from the waterfront bar.
The officer stopped him and placed him under arrest about 2:30 p.m.
Cronin also was charged with a misdemeanor, resisting arrest without violence, according to the affidavit.
Amazing.  Mr. Cronin caught our attention a while back because of the allegations of prosecutorial misconduct leveled against him by attorney David O. Markus during the trial of Dr. Ali Shaygan.  Mr. Cronin and his crew of prosecutors decided to surreptitiously record conversations between Dr. Shaygan and his attorneys, clearly one of the most egregious examples of prosecutorial misconduct we've ever discussed, in fact his behavior throughout the trail was so bad that U.S. District Judge Alan Gold ordered the government to pay $601,795 to cover legal fees, litigation expenses and expert fees for Dr Shaygan.  Didn't we discuss a  hypothetical situation a while back where a prosecutor was ILLEGALLY recording conversations between an attorney and their client?  Can you imagine the consequences if said recording actually occurred?  God forbid some idiot with a blog actually had proof of something like this happening...

Now, onto another federal prosecutor accused of misconduct, AUSA Nicholas Marsh who was one of the prosecutors accused of misconduct in the Senator Ted Stevens case decided to end his life this past weekend.  From the Criminal Enterprise blog...
Marsh was among six Justice Department lawyers under investigation for their handling of Stevens' trial, part of a wide probe into corruption in Alaska politics. Marsh had been reassigned from the elite public integrity section, and had been working on international extraditions. 
Marsh's suicide was confirmed by his lawyer, Robert Luskin.  "I reckon Nick loved being a prosecutor and I reckon he was incredibly fearful that this would prevent him from continuing to work for the Justice Department," Luskin said Monday. "It's incredibly tragic after all this time when we were on the verge of a successful resolution."
Somehow I have a hard time having any sympathy for this guy, again from Criminal Enterprise...
While I have sympathy for the man's family, nonetheless any prosecutor who knowingly withholds exculpatory evidence in order to grease the skids for a conviction is a criminal and nothing else.
If this man had shown integrity a year ago, he would not have had to undergo the "strain" of the in-house investigation that, frankly, is NOTHING like a real criminal prosecution that he and others place innocent people through all of the time. If he could not stand the pressure of, frankly, a whitewashed "investigation," then I doubt he ever could know the real hurt he did to others in his lifetime.
Well said.  Karma's a bitch, ain't it?

Friday, September 24, 2010

Fantastic article on prosecutorial misconduct and internet connectivity problems for the Straw Buyer...

As the title of today's post states, we're having problems with both our internet connection and the Blogger software.  Regardless, check out this fantastic article from USA Today regarding one of our favorite subjects, prosecutorial misconduct.  From the article...

Most interestingly...
In case after case during that time, judges blasted prosecutors for "flagrant" or "outrageous" misconduct. They caught some prosecutors hiding evidence, found others lying to judges and juries, and said others had broken plea bargains.

"Prosecutors think they're doing the Lord's work, and that they wear the white hat. When I was a prosecutor, I thought everything I did was right," said Jack Wolfe, a former federal prosecutor in Texas and now a defense lawyer. "So even if you got out of line, you could tell yourself that you didn't do it on purpose, or that it was for the greater good."  
Doing the Lord's work?!  PUHLEEZE!  We'll discuss this "Lord's work" next week, till then have a great weekend.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Rummaging through some old documents regarding the Barrera mortgage fraud case.

I'm going through some old paperwork I've collected over the last couple of years when I stumble upon this letter from the Bernardo Barrera mortgage fraud case:

Statement From Celia Ritchie From Citi Mortgage Regarding the Bernardo Barrera Mortgage Fraud Case                                                            

No big deal right?  We've discussed this letter before, specifically how Detective Jorge Baluja dictated the content of the letter to the representative of Citi Mortgage...

Besides the obvious problem of Detective telling a witness what to say, I noticed something else that I missed before, take a look at the date the letter was written and also the date from the fax transmission on the top of the page.  In case you can't see the dates, click on the picture to enlarge...

The affidavit was dated September 11, 2008, a rather ominous date don't you think?  The date on the top left hand corner of the page shows that it was faxed on May 5, 2009.  We know that the arrests in the Barrera case were made on October 3, 2008, so obviously this statement was in the states hands for nearly a month before the arrests, what about that May 5, 2009 time stamp?  Does it mean anything?  We'll have to do some digging to see if there's any other documents that could explain if there's any significance to that time stamp, I can tell you this much though, the old spidey senses are tingling again...

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

So what happens to websites and online documents that are highly critical of local government? What the hell happened to the Miami Dade County Independent Review Panel records online?

The answer should be obvious.  Case in point, the local blog that was turning the City of Miami politicians inside out, Miami for Change.  

Go to the site now and it looks like this...

From what we've heard through the grapevine, Commissioner Marc Sarnoff pulled the right levers and got the blog that had uncovered his nefarious activities shut down.  From the Investigation Miami Blog we get this:
We also got some really creepy information yesterday about a meeting on Monday at the Miami Police Department's Internal Affairs Office.  That meeting was ostensibly held with Marc Sarnoff, Chief Exposito, an assistant chief and head of IA, Al Alvarez.  Alvarez and Sarnoff are very close - Alvarez was Marc and Teresa Sarnoff's police chauffeur for several years. Alvarez reportedly continues to spend hours and hours every week in Sarnoff's office despite having become a member of the brass with his appointment to head of IA.
The information we were given is there was going to be an attempt to shut the blogs down because Sarnoff is really, really, really pissed off about our posts.  But really, I can't imagine that could be done by a two-bit cabal of those "Einsteins."
So much for first amendment rights and freedom of speech huh?

Regardless, for those of you familiar with our blog and one of the many mortgage fraud cases we've written about, the Bernardo Barrera mortgage fraud case, you'll remember we initially learned about the cop that was involved with that case, Jorge Baluja, through records that were available online from the Miami Dade County website.  The records in question were the findings of the Miami Dade County Independent Review Panel that investigated the Blanton Harris traffic accident that Detective Baluja screwed up royally.  Matt Meltzer wrote about the incident on the Miami Beach 411 website.  We also learned last year that due to budget cuts, Miami Dade County was going to cut the funding for the Independent Review Panel.  Doesn't that make sense?  Why not cut out a panel comprised of citizens that investigates complaints against cops and other county officials?  Who the hell needs these trouble makers anyway?  In fact, if we go back to the minutes of one of the meetings of the Independent Review Panel you can see the disdain against the IRP from the Miami Dade County Police Departments top brass...

That's too bad ain't it?  The police Chief is worried about his reputation being tarnished because the Independent Review Panel exposed him and his cronies sweeping an internal affairs case under the rug?  The IRP answers with this...

Right on!  Are you guys nuts?!  The IRP busts you guys and you want there findings taken offline?  Nice work IRP!

All good right?  For once the good guys prevail!  WRONG!  Let's go the the link that lead us to the IRP's report and findings regarding the Blanton Harris traffic incident, what do you get?

OH SNAP!  That can't be right!  What about the minutes of the hearing where the Chief of Police was bitching about his reputation being tarnished?!  

Everythings GONE!  Just like that, someone in the command staff of the MDPD complains and POOF!  Any evidence of their malfeasance disappears!  WTF!  Don't fret though folks, we still have copies of both reports.  Here's the IRP's report and findings regarding the Blanton Harris traffic accident...

IRP Minutes of Blanton Harris traffic accident investigation where MDPD top brass want the report erased fr...                                                            

And let's not forget the minutes of the IRP meeting where the Police Chief was bitching about his "tarnished reputation"...

IRP Minutes of Blanton Harris traffic accident investigation where MDPD top brass want the report erased fr...                                                            

Although the Miami page says these pages might be "temporarily unavailable", they've been this way for months.  Considering what we've seen recently regarding the Miami for Change blog being taken down, does any of this surprise anyone?

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Wait a minute, does anyone know what actually went on in the Bernardo Barrera mortgage fraud?

ANYONE?!  We know by know the police have no clue, we certainly the prosecutor who put together the case, ASA Bill Kostrzewski has no clue but we thought we had a pretty good handle on what went on.  Today we're specifically referring to the role of defendant Michael Martinez's part in the Barrera mortgage fraud.  As we mentioned before on our blog, it was our understanding (and perhaps the states as well) that Michael Martinez  was the guy who lent the "straw buyer" $125,000 as the earnest money for the closing and was then repaid the $125,000 plus $10,000 more after the closing for the Barrera fraud.  We know that Mr. Martinez plead out back in June 2009 and is now nearly done with his probation sentence.   I think that those of you following our blog since it's inception can agree that this was our understanding of Mr. Martinez's role in this fraud or so we thought!

Last night while digging through the files pertaining to the Barrera mortgage fraud, I came across the report prepared by the court appointed guardian, David Alschuler, for the foreclosure case associated with the Barrera mortgage fraud case, here it is again for your review...

David Alschuler Guardian Ad Litem Report for Bernardo Barrera Mortgage Fraud Case                                                            

Did anyone catch it?  Take a closer look...

So according to the court appointed guardian David Alschuler, it was Michael Martinez who purchased the home at the center of the Barrera mortgage fraud not John Romney.  If we're to believe Mr. Alschuler then the state and the defense attorneys had gotten it all wrong for the last two years.  Obviously Mr Alschuler wasn't paying much attention while he was cutting and pasting from the Miami Herald in preparing his report from the court, if he was paying any attention when he was preparing his highly inflammatory and blatantly false report he would have known that it Michael Martinez had nothing to do with the purchase of the home in question.  It's downright scary to think Mr. Alshuler could be so sloppy, I can only hope that he takes better care of his clients.

Nice work there Mr. Alschuler, I guess we didn't crown him "Moron of the Week" for nothing!


Friday, September 17, 2010

Who the hell reads those damn mortgages!

"What I’m doing is taking away the ignorance is a defense argument.”
                            - Commissioner Marc Sarnoff

Really now!  But what if you did actually take the time to read your mortgage before you executed it?  Say for example, you were to take a look at the mortgage for the property located at 3000 Shipping Avenue, what exactly would you find?

Marc Sarnoff Mortgage for 3000 Shipping Avenue Home From Country Wide Home Loans                                                            

Among other things you'd find this part that says something about the home in question being your primary residence...

Now, this could present a bit of a problem if say you weren't exactly honest about which one of your homes was your primary residence.  The Investigation Miami blog shed some light on this issue last Monday, so could this mean that the mortgage is in default if the borrower has been somewhat less than honest regarding the occupancy of the property?

Moving on, here's another standard part of the mortgage document that "no one reads" that may be of concern to some...

Now that would really be a problem for the borrower if say they got one of these letters stuck on their door...

That ain't no good now, is it?  According to the Crespo-Gram Report, Mr. Commissioner Sarnoff has been running an illegal law office out of the home located at 3000 Shipping Avenue for nearly a decade.  According to the mortgage document that illegal use of the banks collateral creates an issue for the borrower now doesn't it?

Throughout the course of our blog we've seen several instances where the police and prosecutors have vigilantly gone after people who didn't abide by the fine print in their mortgages, does anyone think they'll do the same in the case of Mr. Commissioner Sarnoff?  In fact, the entire case against the attorney that was charged in the Bernardo Barrera mortgage fraud case was based on the attorney allegedly not following the boilerplate fine print on the closing instructions!  Does anyone even believe that there is a real investigation going into the allegations of impropriety regarding Mr. Sarnoff's mortgages?  Anyone?  Good luck with that!

Thursday, September 16, 2010

An explanation for committing mortgage fraud by City of Miami Commissioner Marc Sarnoff, Freudian slip or a carefully planted comment?

We've discussed embattled City of Miami Commissioner Marc Sarnoff and the allegations of mortgage fraud against him recently.  The most serious of the allegations against him are regarding which of his three houses in Coconut Grove are his "primary residence", as we discussed last Tuesday, Mr. Sarnoff has indicated in the mortgages for his three homes that they are all his primary residences and therefore able to enjoy a lower interest rate rather than the rate he would have to pay if he indicated to the lenders that at least two of the home were his second or investment homes.  While this is not a big deal to some, remember this is precisely what the people charged in federal Plantation Police officers indictment are being accused of.

So why would someone lie about their primary residence to their lender?  A fantastic local blog that covers the misdeeds of those in Miami politics Investigation Miami while covering a City of Miami budget meeting came across a most interesting comment from Commissioner Sarnoff last night while discussing city employee pensions...
"Allegations of possible mortgage fraud published here must have been weighing on Marc DAVID Sarnoff when he blurted out an unbelievable statement very early in the day (so he can't blame being worn out when he said it). When discussing changes to the city's pension ordinance Sarnoff says something to the effect 'Reading an ordinance is like reading your mortgage. I don't know anyone who's ever read their mortgage!' Now that is one heck of a statement from an attorney - he doesn't read a contract before he signs it? Or was he saying he doesn't read the ordinances before he votes on them?"
HUH?!  No one reads their mortgage?  I'll buy that.  So Mr. Sarnoff didn't acknowledge the home that he was financing here as a second home because he didn't read the mortgage...

Ok, even though the page has got his initials, maybe he really didn't read it.  Perhaps then on his next mortgage he did read the document he was executing?

Ok, you don't read the document, you forget to check off the part about it being a second home, maybe next time?

Nope, three mortgages, three instance where Mr. Sarnoff didn't read this important legal document, three instances where he forgot check off the part about the home being a "second home", perhaps on the forth try...

Isn't that interesting?  In this fourth mortgage someone checked off the 1 to 4 family rider box!  Now, although people may not read the legal documents that their signing, at the very least my experience with real estate and mortgages reminds me that at closing the closing agent or attorney conducting the closing goes through every page of each document and explains what needs to be checked off  and or signed or initialed as well as explains the pertinent conditions of the mortgage.  Food for thought when considering the "nobody reads their mortgage" defense for committing mortgage fraud.

Yesterday we got the "I didn't know what was going on" defense and today we have a novel new defense "who reads their mortgages", both pretty pathetic excuses from two attorneys.  You're left to wonder though, was this "who reads their mortgages" statement from Mr. Commissioner Sarnoff Freudian slip or a carefully planted comment that foreshadows his defense of the mortgage fraud allegations against him?

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

I had no idea what was going on, 14 pages of excuses from Attorney Darlene Fernandez-Carus...

After reading and rereading the Darlene Fernardez Carus bar discipline I'm bewildered as to how Ms. Carus was able to avoid criminal prosecution by using the "I had no idea" defense.  Besides claiming that she had no idea how a million or so dollars worth of real estate fraud occurring using her trust account, title policies issued by her office, etc she then turns around and blames everything on an "abusive and overbearing husband" and an "old law school friend" who abused her trust.  The document goes on to claim that Ms. Carus is "a sweet, caring individual" that "had a soft spot and would want to help a friend in a time of need."  If that wasn't bad enough, the bar discipline goes on to blame her indiscretions on an infant child with autism as well as a "residential move". 

What a story!  I almost felt bad for the poor woman till I came across this bit...
"in her naivete, she never considered the possibility that her trusted friend would engage in fraud or misappropriate funds"
For fucks sake! " her naivete..." That's a bit much now isn't it!? The attorney defending her has used almost every excuse in the book, overbearing husband, sickly child with autism, close friend that screwed her and last but not least moving her home as defenses for being involved in a million or so dollars of outright fraud and grand theft! PUHLEEZE! This attorney turns over sensitive documents, passwords and wires money in and out of her trust account on transactions whose mortgages she wasn't satisfying into a third parties bank account and she did all of this because of "naivete"?  So let me get this straight, when the bank is writing these mortgage frauds off that were committed by the Maria T. Lopez crew, do they attribute the losses to "naivete" as well or do they claim the loss was because of an "abusive or overbearing husband"?  The attorney who crafted this excuse ridden document even goes so far as to get an insult in against Ms. Carus' ex-husband, Omar Carus, calling him "a jealous, overbearing, abusive ex-cop who graduated law school but could not pass the bar exam."  Wow.

Can anyone accept these excuses considering the complicity of Ms Carus in these complex mortgage frauds and real estate transactions?  If nothing else, if you buy all the other excuses, considering that her name is on all the paperwork, her trust account is receiving and dispersing hundreds of thousands of dollars, isn't it her responsibility to make sure that the sellers mortgages were paid off?!  Regardless of whether Ms. Carus wasn't aware of the nefarious activities of Ms. Lopez and her gang, it was her name on all the documents, her trust account receiving and disbursing funds related to the fraudulent transactions and her office that was issuing title policies, the simply "not knowing" excuse doesn't hold water.  I guess we can attribute Ms. Carus getting off to having a good criminal defense attorney.   

Just remember, next time you find yourself in hot water with the law, you can always use the "naivete" excuse!

Somethings haywire with the Google Blogger software!

NOTHING WORKS HERE!  I've been struggling for two days to make a post, but there seems to be something wrong with the blogger template.  Check back a little later!

Monday, September 13, 2010

The Florida Bar v. Darlene Fernandez Carus, more on the Maria Teresa Lopez mortgage fraud mess.

We briefly discussed the Maria Teresa Lopez mortgage fraud mess involving attorney Darlene Fernandez Carus last week and noted how though late, the Florida Bar finally took action against Ms. Carus for her involvement in the mortgage fraud that ended up getting Maria Teresa Lopez and her brother Guillermo Napoleon Lopez disbarred.  Oddly enough out of the three lawyers involved, Ms. Lopez was the only one that was arrested, both Mr. Lopez and Ms. Carus were not charged criminally.  The arrest affidavit doesn't really implicate Mr. Lopez, but it certainly paints Ms. Carus as a central figure in the "Organized Scheme to Defraud" yet somehow she was able to evade prosecution.

Regardless, the bar action tells her side of the story, take a good look and we'll discuss tomorrow...

Darlene Fernandez Carus Bar Suspension

Friday, September 10, 2010

So you've been charged with a crime and want to defend yourself PART III !!!

Here we are at the end of another week with the end of another year rapidly approaching.  Earlier this month we discussed the nuances of preparing a defense once you've been charged with a crime, first problems with the police and the prosecutor turning over police reports and then the problems with the state turning over witness statements.  I'm no lawyer, but it seems to me that having access to these documents is essential to preparing an adequate defense, yet throughout the course of the Bernardo Barrera mortgage fraud case, we've seen instances of the state (either through the PD or the state attorneys office) frustrating any meaningful attempts at creating an adequate defense for the defendants.  Let's refresh our memories, we have instances of the lead detective ducking depositions, the prosecutor telling the detective what to say then answering for him during depositions, the same prosecutor telling a states witness not to answer the defense attorneys questions during a deposition, the defendants having to file at FOUR motions to compel to try to get the state to produce documents and statements to help prepare a defense, etc...  

You get the picture, based on what we've seen it's safe to conclude that the prosecutor is doing everything he possibly can to stop the person who he's charged from preparing a meaningful defense.  So what happens when the state finally turns over some documents to the defendants?  Let's take a look at one such document that prosecutor Bill Kostrzewski turned over to the defendants in the Barrera mortgage fraud case, here we have part of the first page of former codefendant, now cooperating states witness Michael Martinez's statement to the police...

Good luck with that!  The statement is so heavily redacted that it's damn near useless.  Even worse, it clearly states that the statement was given on March 4, 2009 yet the prosecutor didn't turn it over to the defendants until October 8, 2009!  Are we to believe it took over seven months to prepare this statement that's just a little over one page?  Any idiot with a modicum of common sense can figure out what the prosecutors game plan was here, sit on the statements as long as possible in order to frustrate the defendant into cutting some sort of deal.  That's bullshit if you ask me.  

We'll take a closer look at this highly suspicious statement in it's entirety next week, till then have a great weekend.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

An update on the Maria Teresa Lopez mortgage fraud case and attorney Darlene Fernandez Carus.

We discussed the Maria Teresa Lopez mortgage fraud case back in April which involved the use of attorney Darlene Fernandez Carus' law office and trust account yet somehow neither the police or the Florida Bar took any action against Ms. Carus.  Here's a recap of what went on...

  • 9/29/08 $519,858.18 gets wired into Attorney Carus' trust account (of which she has no knowledge of according to her statement to the police), the entire proceeds are then wire transferred out of Carus' trust account (again without her knowledge) and into "Lopez's" account at City National Bank.  We can only presume that Lopez was then going to pay off the mortgage that she had forgotten to record seven months earlier?!  LOL!
  • 9/30/08 Ms. Lopez then wires $148,872.65 to the "Mortgage Fraud Troll" HUH?!  What about paying off the first mortgage?!
  • 10/28/08 Ms. Lopez knowing that she's going to be suspended by the Florida Bar the next day takes the remaining money out of her trust account ($353,678.97) and wires it to her brothers account who also happens to be an attorney.  From this money, Lopez hauls ass with $228,123.98 and the brother distributes $125,554.99 to other clients without ever satisfying the original mortgage from 2/08!
Despite the hundreds of thousands of dollars going back and forth through Ms. Carus' trust account and the reams of documents that this transaction must have created, Ms. Carus claimed that...
"that this and other closings were executed by "LOPEZ" in Carus' name without her knowledge or supervision..."
Ignorance, probably the worst defense of all but it seems at the very least it worked for the cops who didn't bring charges against her.  We also know that the Florida Bar disbarred attorney Maria Teresa Lopez and her brother Guillermo Napoleon Lopez for their misdeeds stemming from this transactions, yet somehow they didn't do anything to Ms Carus.  That was the case until August 10, 2010, from the Florida Bar's website...

While the bar hasn't posted any documents regarding the suspension, one can only assume that there's some connection to the Maria Teresa Lopez, Guillermo Napoleon Lopez mortgage fraud mess.  If indeed this bar action and the Lopez case are related, shouldn't there be some sort of criminal charges coming down the pike as well?

Speaking of mortgage fraud, bar actions and criminal charges, does anyone think that the cops or the state attorneys office is looking into the allegations of mortgage fraud against City of Miami Commissioner Marc Sarnoff?  I wouldn't hold my breath...

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

So you've been charged with a crime and want to defend yourself PART II!

The title of today's post may sound familiar, just last week we talked about how a defendant needs to have access to all the police reports regarding his/her case in order to prepare an adequate defense.  In last weeks post we described how despite demands by the defense attorneys representing the people charged in the Barrera mortgage fraud case, the state even today some 22 months after the arrests were made STILL HAVE NOT TURNED OVER THE REPORTS THE DEFENSE HAD REQUESTED!  When the assistant state attorney handling the case was called to task he responded with this...
"On November 13, 2008, Assistant State Attorney Bill Kostrzewski advised that the detective reports were not available.  Furthermore, he could not estimate when the detective reports would be provided as it depended on when the Detectives could find time to complete the reports."
Ok, blame it on the detectives, either they're really slammed or they're really lazy or as a certain two faced back stabbing assistant state attorney (not my words) likes describe them "incompetent".  So here you are, charged with a crime and you don't have access to the Detectives reports regarding your alleged crime, at the very least you must be entitled to statements from witnesses that the state has interviewed, correct?  I mean, how the hell else are you supposed to prepare a defense right?  Common sense, right?  It should go without saying that you need these statements in a timely fashion as well, right?  Let's not forget that Assistant State Attorney Bill Kostrzewski decided to bring charges against the defendants in the Barrera mortgage fraud case on October 3, 2008, take a look at this letter I came across the other day...

Bill Kostrzewski Cover Letter for John Romney Statement                                                            

Now, that ain't no good now is it?  The arrests were made on October 3, 2008 and the prosecutor is turning over the co-defendants statements A FULL YEAR LATER?!  How the hell are you supposed to prepare a defense when the states been sitting on statements for a year??!!  Even worse, check the dates that the statements were taken on, March 4, 2009!  Are you telling me that it takes eight months to type up a few pages worth of statements?!  Jeeze!  I knew the cops and prosecutors were overwhelmed, but this is a bit much!

More tomorrow, in the mean time, please...

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

What does former Coconut Grove activist and current City of Miami Commissioner Marc Sarnoff and the Plantation cops charged with $16mm worth of mortgage fraud have in common?

You all recall the federal mortgage fraud indictment a few months back involving the Plantation cops don't you?  One part of the indictment that stuck out was the following...
"submitting and causing to be submitted materially false and fraudulent mortgage applications and settlement statements"
One of the most serious charges leveled was lying on a mortgage application or mortgage documents, something most of our readers who commented agreed was relatively minor in light of everything else that was going on during the real estate meltdown.  The feds among other things accused the cops of lying to the lenders about the homes in question being their primary residence, by doing so, they enjoyed lower interest rates and perhaps made it easier to qualify for the loans.  If nothing else, we've now established that if the feds want you, they'll indict you for simply lying about your primary residence on a mortgage.

With that said, let's say hello to city of Miami Commissioner Marc David Sarnoff, the man who came into prominence through his unsuccessful fight against Home Depot in Coconut Grove.  While he failed to keep Home Depot out of Coconut Grove, he did succeed in getting elected to the City Commission on the "Save the Grove" platform, all good, but it seems like Mr. Sarnoff has made a ton of enemies along the way, in fact there are several blogs dedicated to bringing about Mr. Sarnoff's demise, most recently a blog named Investigation Miami unearthed some disturbing facts regarding Mr. Sarnoff's homes, his mortgages and his "primary residence".  From the Investigation Miami blog...
  • 1993 Marc DAVID Sarnoff (MDS) buys a property at 3197 Virginia Street (down the street from 3100 Virginia) and uses it has his law office, per official State of Florida filings through at least 5/21/2001.  The mortgage requires 3197 Virginia to be his primary residence.
  • July 1998 MDS purchases a townhouse at 3000 Shipping Avenue.  He uses this unit as his illegal law office beginning at least 5/12/2002 per official State of Florida filings.  The signature page on the mortgage lists his address as 3000 Shipping Avenue.  This mortgage requires 3000 to be his primary residence.  So now there are two  mortgages that require the property to be his primary residence.  He isn't married yet so, guess he is living in both places.

  • April 2000 MDS purchases a townhouse at 3100 Virginia Street.  The Fannie Mae/Freddie Mac qualifying mortgage requires him to use 3100 as his primary residence.  So now he has three mortgages on three properties, each of which require the liened property to be his primary residence.

  • October 2001 MDS refinances mortgage of 3197 Virginia Street.  Whoa, Nellie, we're back to the beginning.   This mortgage also requires 3197 to be his primary residence and look at the signature!  That's exactly where he lives according to the signature page of this new mortgage!

  • June 2002  MDS refinances mortgage at 3100 Virginia Street.  And holy shit!  He's moving again!  The mortgage requires 3100 Virginia Street to be his primary residence, and daddy, it is! It is!

  • January 2006   The 3100 Virginia mortgage was refinanced with the address of both Teresa and Marc DAVID (they were married in 2001 according to his campaign website, and May 19, 2002 per the MDC clerk's records - another weird tidbit that is beside the point for this post).

RUT RO!!!!

Does anyone else see the problem there?  Any difference between this and what the Plantation cops were charged with?  Do you think our favorite "veteran economic crimes prosecutor" is on top of this one?  Don't hold your breath.  

Great work Investigation Miami, keep it coming!

Friday, September 3, 2010

Penis pumps and fraud...

I know, a little off topic but it's the Friday before a long weekend, so why not.  From the UPI article...
MIAMI, Aug. 17 (UPI) -- Two Florida penis pump purveyors allegedly bilked Medicare for phony claims, including for four pumps for a single female patient, officials said.
The Hialeah companies, Charlie RX and Happy Trips, together fraudulently billed Medicare $63,000 for vacuum-erection systems -- at $395 a piece -- that are supposed to help remedy male patients' impotence, the Miami Herald reported Tuesday.
The federal Medicare program paid the two companies $28,600, charges unsealed Monday in Miami federal court showed.
"That we should have caught," said Medicare spokesman Peter Ashkenaz of the payments for the woman's pumps.
Emilio Felipe Lopez, 47, president of Charlie RX, and Orlando Hernandez Estevez, 25, president of Happy Trips, in February were indicted on charges of healthcare fraud. FBI agents last week arrested the two, who authorities said were in hiding.
Lopez and Estevez are accused of stealing Medicare patients' numbers and doctors' identifications to submit close to $2 million in fraudulent bills to Medicare between October and February, the Herald reported.
The newspaper said Medicare pays bills quickly without first verifying them -- enabling Miami-Dade County's reputation as the nation's healthcare-fraud capital.
U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius last month said Medicare would end the "pay and chase" system, whereby federal law enforcement must rectify Medicare's billing mistakes after false claims are already paid.
Last year, medical-equipment businesses nationwide were paid $2.4 million after billing Medicare for penis pumps, with 90 percent of the payments made to Florida companies, the Herald said. 
Penis pumps for women with erectile dysfunction?  Not exactly the smartest criminals, you have to wonder though, why would a single female with erectile dysfunction need FOUR PENIS PUMPS?!  I guess with all the opportunities in the mortgage fraud world drying up for these fraudsters, medicare fraud and penis pumps are the only things left.  Strange times folks!

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Miami Dade cop exposes a pattern of lying by his fellow officers.

For those of you following our blog, it's no secret that some cops are somewhat less than honest.  We've dedicated pages and pages of blog to the misdeeds of Detective Jorge Baluja of the MDPD, now it looks like one of his fellow officers from his early stomping grounds, the Northside District of the MDPD,  has come forward and detailed a pattern of dishonesty in his department.  From Gus Garcia-Roberts article in the Miami New Times, Officer Frank Adams of the Miami Dade Police Department tells us...
"They're supposed to be my brothers in blue," he says, struggling to keep his voice audible as his eyes become soggy. "But they're not my brothers — not when they're treating people like this."
It's not like Officer Adams is some lackey cop with an axe to grind, again from the article...
"Adams is an exemplary cop if his personnel record is any indication. He has been decorated with 12 commendations for good police work, and his daughter is also a Miami-Dade officer. But he says the state's largest police department has become a menace, regularly abusing and humiliating the people it's sworn to protect — and then lying about it. He's risking his career by speaking with New Times to expose its failings."
The incident that caused Officer Adams to come out against the department was a brutal police beating and how the officers involved described it in their subsequent police reports...
But what really floored Adams is the way Officer Gregorio Perez, who wrote the report, spun the incident. Five-foot-nine-inch Gaines was described as an incredibly powerful aggressor. He had allegedly lifted one officer onto his shoulder, climbed a set of stairs, and hurled the cop to the ground. He had supposedly even grabbed Adams by the shirt and repeatedly punched him, knocking him to the ground and injuring his hand. 
Gaines, a chef at a racetrack, was "lying on his stomach, gasping for air," Adams wrote in a four-page complaint. Pratts Martinez was continuously punching the man in the head. At Adams's urging, they cuffed Gaines.
Then another cop,Luis Torres, arrived on the scene, burst from his cruiser, and "ran up and kicked Mr. Gaines in the face," Adams wrote. The kick sent Adams knuckles-first into the gravel. A fourth officer, Jorge Arana, started "stomping and kicking" the chef in the legs and side. Adams says he leaped onto Gaines to protect him from the kicks.
The cops account is in stark contrast to what Officer Adams saw...
It's a lie, Adams says. He claims Gaines never resisted: The hand injury had occurred when another cop knocked Adams over while trying to kick Gaines.
It's nice to know that there are good cops out there that will stand up to the few rotten apples in their department, even when the odds seem to be against them.  Despite the officers assertions that the suspect was the aggressor a subsequent investigation by the Miami Dade County Police Department sided with Mr. Gaines and his account of how things went down.  Congratulations to Officer Adams for having the courage to exposing these cops, once again, former Plantation Police Chief Larry Massey said it best...
"If you lie, you die, If you are willing to lie to me over this, what else are you willing to lie about? His integrity was shot."

There is no room in ANY police department for dishonest cops.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Yet another plea date come and gone for Mr. John Romney...

Did anyone expect any different?  Mr. Romney, the man who made over $400,000 as a result of the Barrera mortgage fraud was set to plead out to his role in the fraud yesterday August 31, 2010 but guess what?  As before Mr. Romney's plea got postponed again, but this time it wasn't for 30 days but instead it was delayed till December 21, 2010!  From the court docket...

We've been watching this plea date get postponed ever since the first one was set back in November 2009, once again from the docket...

It doesn't take a genius to figure out what's going on, Mr. Romney is obviously sweetening his plea by ratting on people he's done his nefarious deeds with in the past.  Did you expect any less?  While Mr. Romney is busy doing whatever he's doing in order to reduce his sentence, the clock is still ticking, people are talking and more facts are coming to light, facts that I'm sure Mr. Romney doesn't want anyone to find out about.  While reviewing the docket and the endless postponement of Mr. Romney's plea dates I'm reminded of the finite nature of life and believe me Mr. Romney, it's a lot later than you think...