Friday, July 30, 2010

Researching a new case and some technical difficulties...

We seem to be having some sort of problem with the google blog template, so it's going to be short today.   We've stumbled upon more of Assistant State Attorney Bill Kostrzewski's mortgage fraud handy work, check the charges he filed on this defendant...


Anyone wanna guess how this case ended?  Have a great weekend!

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Don't do it!





That's all I keep getting lately, stop criticizing the cops, stop criticizing the state attorneys office, they're gonna come after you.  So is that the way it goes?  Or worse, every instance of misconduct I've exposed is countered with a "it happens all the time" from attorneys and cops.

Hey I caught the cop perjuring himself again...
It happens all the time.
Look, I busted the cop fabricating evidence!
It happens all the time.
Check it, I caught the prosecutor coercing a witness and fabricating a witness statement!
It happens all the time.
Damn, I found exculpatory evidence that the prosecutors been hiding,
It happens all the time.
Holy crap, the prosecutor lied to the judge!
It happens all the time.
Is that it?  Should we sit by and watch this kind of police and prosecutorial misconduct occur again and again and expect to be appeased with a simple "it happens all the time"?  Is that enough?  Should we cower under our beds for fear of retaliation from the "man" if we expose his wrong doings?  If the police department and the state attorneys office are really about finding the truth and looking for justice, shouldn't rooting out bad apples within their own offices be of the utmost importance to them rather than retaliating against people who expose them?

Last night while going through some old posts, I come across this pleading from the Gaston Smith case, I found this part of the transcript (which came from an illegal recording of an interview) particularly troubling...


Now correct me if I'm wrong, but isn't the prosecutor in that case telling the witness what to say?  At the very least you have to give this guy credit, at least he went through the motions and tried to get the witness to say what he wants, unlike Prosecutor Kostrzewski who creates his own witness statement, a statement based on questions that the witness denies ever being asked...


Even worse, how about Prosecutor Kostrzewski's main witness against one of the people he charged not being able to identify the person he's testifying against?  Imagine that?  Your witness can't identify the person he's testifying against yet his testimony is good enough for you to try to send someone to jail?  PFFFFFFFFT!

So what's the deal?  Sit back and ignore the cops and prosecutors breaking the law or continue on exposing their misdeeds?  I think you already know the answer...

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Introducing The Straw Buyers "Moron of the Week", attorney David Alschuler.

Just when I think I've gone through every single document relating to the Bernardo Barrera mortgage fraud case, I trip upon something new.  Today we've stumbled upon a report from the court appointed guardian in the foreclosure case that arose from the Barrera mortgage fraud.  From what I'm told the court appointed a Guardian Ad Litem (GAL) to look into the claims of an impostor posing as Mr. Barrera at the closing and if indeed there was an impostor to determine whether the impostor had an interest in the property to effectuate service in the foreclosure case.  Simple enough to understand right?  The court appointed an attorney named David Alschuler to act as the guardian, surely in his role as a guardian Mr. Alschuler left no stone unturned in his effort to find out whether or not there was an impostor right?  Let's take a look at  his report...

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

Fantastic!  That's some investigation that Mr Alschuler conducted before he wrote that report, huh?  So what exactly did Mr. Alschuler do to prepare for this report?  Apparently he first read the police report and comes up with this...



Brilliant!  Mr. Barrera "did all of the right things"!  Of course he did.  How about all those letters that Citi Mortgage sent Mr. Barrera before the closing actually occurred Mr. Alschuler?  Of  course Mr. Barrera received several alerts from the credit monitoring services, yet somehow he missed all the alerts that they sent out before the closing for the fraudulent home purchase?  How about them signatures Mr. Alschuler, did you bother to look at them?  We certainly did!  Nice work there Mr. Alschuler!

So what did Mr. Alschuler do next in his quest for the truth?  He read the Miami Herald!


From the looks of it, Mr. Alschuler read the Herald article regarding the Barrera fraud and practically copied it in his report, inaccuracies and all.  Once again, nice going there.


Last but not least Mr. Alschuler summarizes a conversation with Assistant State Attorney Bill Kostrzewski...


...and concludes that he cannot locate John Doe aka the impostor who showed up at the closing posing as Bernardo Barrera.  Considering the facts that we've laid out Mr. Alschuler you may want to reconsider your findings, the impostor may have been right in front of you all along.

It's one thing for a stupid cop to over look important evidence in putting together a case, but it's something else all together different for an independent attorney that has no interest in whether or not the defendants that were charged are prosecuted to do such a piss poor job in investigating the case.  With that said, considering the effort that Mr. Alschuler put into his investigation of the Barrera mortgage fraud and his woefully inadequate GAL report, we crown him the inaugural Straw Buyer MORON OF THE WEEK!

Monday, July 26, 2010

Attorneys Steve Stoll and Stephen Orchard from the Plantation cops mortgage fraud case being investigated by the Florida Bar...

Due to the tropical storm last Friday that never came , we here in South Florida had an unexpected long weekend.  The Straw Buyer and family attended a couple of barbecues and kicked back, wifey had a bit too much to drink though...


Looks like the Florida Bar is investigating both the attorneys that were arrested in the $16mm Plantation Cops mortgage fraud ring.  From the AP article...
Steve Stoll, a politically connected Republican attorney in Fort Lauderdale arrested last month in a mortgage fraud case, is now under investigation by the Florida Bar.
Florida Bar spokeswoman Karen Kirksey declined to provide specifics except to confirm that Stoll and fellow lawyer Stephen Orchard, also indicted in the fraud case, are under investigation.
In June, a federal indictment detailed how a group of attorneys, police officers and mortgage brokers falsified documents to obtain $16.5 million in loans they used to buy and flip properties.
Stoll's attorney, Robert Nicholson, who has said his client is innocent, was unaware the Bar was investigating but wasn't surprised. ``The Bar as a matter of course opens an investigation anytime a licensed attorney is charged with a criminal offense.''
Stoll and his wife, Rebecca Stoll, a former North Broward Hospital District commissioner, are familiar names in Broward political circles. They have supported candidates in recent years, including Gov. Charlie Crist in 2006 and in 2009 and Bill McCollum in 2009, and raise money for the Fort Lauderdale Museum of Discovery and Science.
-- AMY SHERMAN
Uh oh, that certainly doesn't sound good for the lawyers involved now does it?  Throughout the course of our blog we've noticed that the Bar has moved at glacial speeds against the attorneys that have been charged with crimes, yet in this case they seemed to be moving quickly against these two.  What struck me as strange about this article was the following quote from Mr. Stoll's attorney...
`The Bar as a matter of course opens an investigation anytime a licensed attorney is charged with a criminal offense.''
Is that right?  If indeed that is the case, what happened with the attorney from the Miami Dade County Mortgage Fraud Task Forces inaugural case, Attorney David Rodriguez?  You all remember him don't you?  This was the attorney that was charged with setting up an illegal home purchase where the buyer was getting tens of thousands of dollars from the closing without the lenders knowledge as well as paying off the sellers mortgage weeks before the closing actually occurred according to the state.  He was also accused putting the deal together with an undercover cop acting as the sellers accountant.  With those kinds of allegations, surely Mr. Rodriguez had some sort of investigation initiated by the Bar regarding his alleged involvement in this fraud, but as we mentioned before, there's no record of any discipline arising from this incident...




We're gonna take a closer look and see what we can find...

Friday, July 23, 2010

BLOG FAIL and a tropical storm...

We were all anxiously awaiting Mr John Arthur Romneys plea to get entered today in the Bernardo Barrera mortgage fraud case, it turns out somehow we made a mistake, the plea that we thought was scheduled for today somehow is actually scheduled for August 25, 2010.  Oh well.


On another note, we received a comment from one of our readers regarding the Plantation Cop Mortgage Fraud case that's rather disturbing, take a look...
"Mortgage Brokers in Vancouver said... We are very lucky that these criminals were arrested before they could victimize other people. We could say the government is doing their job against criminal groups."
Dear "mortgage brokers in Vancouver", we don't know how the criminal justice system over in Vancouver works, but over here it goes something like "innocent until proven guilty".   

With that said, we here in South Florida are dealing with Tropical Storm Bonnie...


We'll be back on monday! 

Thursday, July 22, 2010

In a rush today...

We're in a rush today so no time for a lengthy post.  While we're waiting for John Arthur Romney to plead guilty to his role in the Barrera mortgage fraud tomorrow, go ahead and check these two old blog posts out.  Can anyone figure out what those mortgage fraud prosecutions that ended in probation all have in common?

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

21 months after the Barrera Mortgage fraud arrests, where's everyone at?

Like the title says, 21 months after the intitial arrests were made in the Barrera mortgage fraud case, where's everyone at?  Let's take a look:

1- John Romney, the architect of the Barrera mortgage fraud.  Mr. Romney the seller of the home located at Oak avenue that purchased said home only days before the closing that occurred involving the "straw buyer" and the Identity Theft. Based on the arrest affidavit he netted $234,896.88. Not bad for a days work!  After his plea was delayed at least 6 or more times (we lost count) it looks like he's set to enter a plea this Friday.  From what we understand the sweetheart deal that Prosecutor Kostrzewski gave him is off the table and the new prosecutor is going to throw the book at him.  Considering this recent photo of Mr. Romney, he certainly hasn't aged well these last two years...

2- Michael Martinez -this is the guy who lent the "straw buyer" $125,000 as the earnest money for the closing and was then repaid the $125,000 and $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.  Problem is that the testimony he gave to Prosecutor Kostrzewski was bullshit, we'll deal with this later.  Take a look at this photo of Mr. Martinez, does he look like he's worried?


3- Delaila Estefano, the attorney that prosecutor Kostrzewski accused of orchastrating the Barrera fraud, the prosecutors that replaced Kostrzewski dropped the charges against her.

4- Bernardo Barrera, the man who claimed his identity and credit was stolen for the mortgage fraud that's at the center of our blog.  Looks like Mr. Barrera split to Panama shortly after he was deposed for this case and hasn't come back.  WHOOPS!

5- Detective Jorge Baluja, from what we hear the good detective has more than his share of issues these days (unrelated to this case), wait till we get started!

6- Prosecutor Bill Kostrzewski, like his puppet Jorge looks like he's got his share of issues resulting from his behavior in this case and like Jorge, we haven't even gotten started yet!


Looks like we're gonna have to wait till Friday to find out what's happening with Mr. Romney.  There's also lots of rumors circulating regarding the girl that Mr. Martinez is pictured with above, we'll have to do a little digging and see what we can find...

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Fraud, fraud, fraud! Why so quick to scream fraud?!

What's up with that?  Why is everyone investigating these mortgage fraud cases so quick to conclude there was fraud without properly investigating?  We've been told by several of our readers that the banks own investigators are so overwhelmed with mortgage fraud cases that they don't have time to properly investigate the cases the way they should be.  We've seen first hand that the cops running mortgage fraud cases can't even grasp the fundamentals of the real estate and mortgage business, yet they're the first ones to slam together a case and start cuffing people.  Why?  What's the rush to classify these cases as "fraud"?


Let's look at it from the banks point of view, why would they rush to claim there was fraud?  One hypothesis that we presented earlier in our blog was that the banks had some way of getting reimbursed if they classified these mortgages that had gone bad as fraud.  That certainly sounds plausible doesn't it?  Isn't that type of business that brought AIG and Lehman Brothers down?




Why are the cops so eager to conclude there was fraud and slam together a case?  Our guess at least with the Bernardo Barrera case was that the Miami Dade County Mortgage Fraud task force needed a case to mark the one year anniversary of their first arrests.  Was it a coincidence that the arrests in the Barrera case were made on October 3, 2008 and the task forces inaugural arrests were made on October 3, 2007?  Prosecutor Kostrzewski later confessed that "he was under a lot of pressure" to put the case together, why?  Look at that October 3 date from the perspective of the money hungry Chairman of the mortgage fraud task force that was desperate for federal funding, is it just a coincidence that the arrests were made two days after the beginning of the fiscal year?  Check out Prosecutor Kostrzewski's handy work with the plea agreement for Michael Martinez...

Martinez Plea

Check this bit...
"As a special condition of Community Control and probation, defendant shall make payments of not less than five hundred dollars ($500.00) per month to victim Citi Mortgage, Inc., or to its successor(s), or, in the event that Citi Mortgage, Inc., is reimbursed for its loss by title insurance, to its insurer of title."
Boy, it sure is nice to know that the prosecutor is so concerned about Citi Mortgage or its insurer to get their money back.  In fact this very plea agreement is going to come back and bite the prosecutor in the ass, the testimony that Mr. Martinez gave the prosecutor was pure bullshit.  The fact of the matter is the prosecutor wanted so desperately to have some sort of testimony against the attorney that he charged, that he bought whatever came out of the guys mouth hook line and sinker.  I can't discuss details right now, but let's just say that there is irrefutable evidence to completely disprove nearly everything the witness said regarding his interaction with the attorney, but the prosecutor wasn't going to hear it.  Not only did he believe everything the guy said, but as evidenced by the plea agreement, he gave him a sweetheart deal and sent him on his way without ever investigating any of his claims.  Nice work Bill!


How the hell can everything get so ass backwards?  We proved beyond a reasonable doubt (at least in our opinion) that the man who claimed his identity was stolen, Bernardo Barrera, was completely full of shit, yet he got away scott free.  While the mortgage brokers and their associates got arrested in the Plantation cops case, the mortgage brokers in the Barrera case got away without even being questioned!  What about the appraiser that appraised the Oak Avenue home that was at the center the Barrera fraud for three times more than it was appraised for just one month earlier?  Why wasn't he never questioned?  WTF?!


This brings me back to the Plantation cops case.  Somehow I can't reconcile that mess, wtf happened there?  What kind of trouble were the mortgage brokers in that led them to cut deals and help build the case against the cops?  Were any of the homes that were at the center of that case even in foreclosure?  As far was we can tell from the indictment, the homes were rented, mortgages being paid and everything seemed on the up an up?!  What gives?  We're going to have take a closer look at that case.

While we're here trying to decipher this nonsense, look what the Talibans been up to, TRAINING MONKEYS TO BE TERRORISTS!





YIKES!  Maybe the Miami Dade County police department might want to think about training monkeys to investigate mortgage fraud, they couldn't do any worse than Detective Baluja!

Monday, July 19, 2010

Prosecutor drops charges amid allegations of misconduct...

Prosecutorial misconduct?  No, we're not talking about the prosecutor from the Michelle Spence-Jones case or any of the other cases that we've discussed to date, we're referring to the prosecutor from a murder case in Brooklyn, New York, Michael F. Vecchione.  Take a look at the New York Times story here, although the cases are different, the behavior of the prosecutor is eerily similar to one of the prosecutors we've been talking about on our blog, Assistant State Attorney Bill Kostrzewski.  Here are some excerpts from the article...
"the district attorney’s office had avoided a hearing that would have offered greater transparency into the case’s “troubling history.”"
Tell me about it!  We were all salivating at the chance to see prosecutor Kostrzewski fumble his way through a trial!
“a prosecutor with a passion for justice who had spent most of his life trying to make sure bad things happened to bad people.”  
Nothing wrong with that.  What more can you ask for than a prosecutor that's dedicated to doing his job and putting people behind bars?  (FYI Mr. Kostrzewski, doling out probation doesn't count as "doing your job").
"But he has also been dogged by allegations of impropriety from defense lawyers, and former colleagues who say his eye for the spotlight and willingness to cut corners to win convictions have caused some cases to fall apart..."
This is where it goes wrong, once a crusading prosecutor gets that "win by any  means necessary" attitude, it's all over.
"...failing to turn over exculpatory evidence to the defense, knowingly eliciting inaccurate testimony and making false statements."
Constitutional rights?  PFFT!  
“I was looking forward to confronting him with his affidavit and his statements at the trial and comparing those statements to the truth,” he said. “Obviously in the final analysis, the district attorney did not want to expose Mr. Vecchione to cross-examination.”
Same here, even with ASA Kostrzewski taken off the Bernardo Barrera Mortgage fraud case, we still had a chance of seeing him grilled on the stand by the defense in court.  Don't fret though, I suspect we'll get our day in the sun regardless...
“It is important that the D.A.’s office examine what went wrong and hold individual prosecutors accountable for any misconduct,” she said. “Transparency and accountability are essential.”
This is of the utmost importance.  If you don't deal with a prosecutor who can no longer distinguish between right or wrong, a good lawyer that's gone rogue who has peoples lives in his hands, you can only imagine what the consequences will be, more lives ruined, more reputations destroyed, etc...
“Everyone pushes the envelope to some degree; everyone looks for strategic advantage,” Mr. Barket said. “That’s fine. But you have to play by the rules. What I’ve not seen is someone who disregards the rules so flagrantly. He looks at the rules as obstacles.” 
Exactly, just like the cops who see the Constitution as an obstacle to doing their job, a prosecutor who's hell bent on convicting people no matter what is no different.
“I don’t understand how he can continue to prosecute criminal cases,”
He shouldn't be.  Once again we must deffer to former Plantation Police Chief Larry Massey...
"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.  In the interest of the community I separated him from service."
Has Mr. Kostrzewski lied to us throughout the course of the Bernardo Barrera mortgage fraud case?  He's lied to the court, he's lied to witnesses, he's lied to the defense attorneys, just to name a few.  Here's our favorite example, November 3, 2009 Mr. Kostrzewski claims he's come down with swine flu and cancels an important deposition that was scheduled for November 4th then he's back to work on November 5th!  Is that the most incredible case of swine flu or WHAT?!

At the very least the Brooklyn District Attorneys office should fire this $hitbag prosecutor then fully investigate these allegations of misconduct and hopefully prosecute this S.O.B. to the fullest extent of the law.  Whether it's a DA from Brooklyn or an ASA from Miami, once they break the law to achieve a conviction by any means necessary, they should be fired and then referred to the Bar for disciplinary action.  Once they cross the line, they are as much of a criminal as the people they're prosecuting.  


Welcome back from vacation Mr. Kostrzewski, I hope you have a nice day at the office...

Friday, July 16, 2010

Conflicting witness statements, some Miranda law stuff and a new board game...

Yesterday we discovered that a key witness in the Michelle Spence-Jones case had recanted her testimony about a document that the prosecution used against Spence-Jones being forged.  What's the prosecution going to do now that a key component of their case, the document that they allege Spence-Jones forged to get $50k in county grant money, is indeed genuine?  Why would the witness who first testified that the document was forged now turn around and say it was indeed her signature on the letter recommending that Spence-Jones get the grant money?  Our theory is that the witness, Barbara Carey-Shuller was somehow pressured into telling the state that the document was forged in order to get herself out of some sort of hot water, just a theory though but it is plausible.  Which leads us to this quote from the Justice Building Blog's discussion of the reading of Miranda Rights to a witness... 

Miranda warnings are a formality of arrest and are required only at the time of an arrest or prior to custodial interrogation. Further, the warnings are associated in the public mind with the spectacle of an individual being placed under arrest. Therefore, it is not unreasonable to conclude that an individual who is given Miranda warnings during what begins as a consensual encounter may interpret those warnings as a restraint on his or her freedom....


Based on our above discussion, we believe that the reading of Miranda warnings during a consensual police encounter might add to the coercive nature of that encounter under at least some circumstances. ...
No kidding?  Am I reading that right or does it say that a witness will freak the fcuk out when they're read the Miranda rights during an interview and might think they're going to get locked up?  That sure as hell sound like it doesn't it?  We've already learned that Detective Baluja read the key witness in the Barrera mortgage fraud case her Miranda rights before he started her interview...





...and we know the witness was scared shitless afterwords...




And now we can go one step further, when the defense attorneys who deposed the states "key witness" in the Barrera fraud asked her about the typewritten statement she gave which consisted of a series of questions and answers, she says...
 




UH OH! She says she wasn't even asked those questions that were on her statement! WTF?! We already know who wrote that statement don't we? Detective Baluja answered that question a while back...






We got some big problems now don't we? A critical statement from a key witness that for some reason or another is written by the prosecutor, a statement that the witness doesn't even recognize as being her own. WTF? Why wasn't this case dropped shortly after the deposition was taken back in April 2009 when this fatal flaw in the states case was discovered? That's a question that ASA Kostrzewski is gonna answer in the very near future. More importantly though, why is the prosecutor writing a statement for a witness based on questions that the witness says she was never asked? Tisk, Tisk Bill. This doesn't bode well for you and your license to practice law and Jorge, be patient I haven't forgotten about you, we're going to wait for one Internal Affairs investigation to be over before we start another one.

Enough with this for now, it's Friday, the weekend is here and it's time for some recreation. Considering the crappy weather, I've planned ahead an and got a board game for me and my kids to play this weekend, should be fun...



Thursday, July 15, 2010

Huge news on the Michelle Spence-Jones case.

Some of you may remember the embattled City of Miami commissioner Michelle Spence-Jones who was first arrested for Grand Theft and then months later indicted by a grand jury on charges of bribery.  The grand theft charge was based on a letter from former county commsioner Barbara Carey-Shuler authorizing the release of $50,000 to Spence-Jones and her company Karym Ventures Inc, only problem is that both Carey-Shuler and the state attorneys office said that the letter was a forgery.  That forged document was the basis of the states case against Spence-Jones, according to Francisco Alvarado's article in the Miami New Times today, there seems to be a problem with that letter that the state insists was forged...
During last month's deposition (obtained by New Times and WPLG's political reporter Michael Putney), Spence-Jones' criminal defense attorney Peter Raben showed Carey-Shuler two drafts of the February 15, 2005 correspondence. One draft, dated January 9, 2005, contained several handwritten edits, including a notation that said: "should release the $50,000 to Karym."

"Whose handwriting is that?" Raben asked Carey-Shuler. "It's mine," she replied. 


When Raben quizzed her if the final version -- the one prosecutors alleged was a forgery -- was "genuine," Carey-Shuler said: "That's correct."
UH OH!  Let's take a look at that first draft with Carey-Shuler's handwriting all over it...

bcareyletter

Pretty hard to deny that huh?!  The article goes on to say...
Carey-Shuler explained that Scruggs did not show her the draft with her handwritten notes when he questioned her this past September on two separate occasions. How Scruggs, a former federal prosecutor who sent mass murderer Yahweh Ben Yahweh to prison, could have missed a key piece of evidence is a total head scratcher. The drafts were in a box of files stored by the county after Carey-Shuler left office. The box was marked "Cafe Soul," the name of the property on NW 7th avenue Karym was going to renovate with the grants. In other words, it was readily available when Scruggs subpoenaed hundreds of county records pertaining to the $50,000 that went to Karym.
And here's the best bit...
When Raben asked her if she had been tricked or misled to redirect the $50,000 to Karym, Carey-Shuler's response was "no."
You have to wonder, was the exclusion of this draft version of the letter simply an oversight by the prosecutor preparing the case or was it a calculated dirty trick designed to mislead?  Carey-Shuler goes on to say...
When Raben asked her if she had been tricked or misled to redirect the $50,000 to Karym, Carey-Shuler's response was "no."
Now consider the magnitude of this "new" evidence, would there have been a case if this letter was made public before?  Could charges have been brought against Spence-Jones if the state couldn't allege that the Carey-Shuler letter was a forgery?  Wouldn't you think that the state should have used an abundance of caution before bringing charges against ANYONE let alone a public figure like Spence-Jones?  After all this draft of the letter that the state alleges was a forgery was in the evidence that they subpoenaed!

I'm sure your asking yourselves, what does this have to do with our tales of mortgage fraud?  Sadly dear readers this exact same thing happened in the Bernardo Barrera mortgage fraud case.  We'll have to wait a little while before we can discuss.  This certainly doesn't look good for Prosecutor Scruggs!

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

The Straw Buyer runs into an asshole in the drive thru...

So I'm sitting at in a drive through yesterday waiting for my turn to order some nasty fast food when all of a sudden out of nowhere an older Crown Victoria with dark tinted windows cuts in front of me.  I'm pissed as hell and start blowing my horn at the driver, as soon as I hit the horn the guy stops and get's out of the car, flashes his badge and says "What's your problem?!"  When I tell him that I've been waiting on line and he needs to get to the back he responds with "What are you going to do about it?"  As long as steroid munching, little penis having dimwit has the power to put the cuffs on me, I guess nothing and therein lies the rub.  Does it make sense that this man of diminished mental capacity who has a chip on his shoulder is allowed to alter the course of your life by arresting you?  Throughout the course of our blog we've seen this exact same attitude from the lead detective on the Bernardo Barrera Mortgage fraud case, Jorge Baluja.  In our case, he didn't give a rats ass for what really went on, he made up his mind regarding who was guilty and facts be dammed went forward with his case.

To fully understand the problem with cops like Detective Baluja, you first have to understand the basic flaws in their thinking, first:

"I am the law"

How can you beat that?  Second, I only arrest criminals, criminals have no rights therefore I'm free to do anything I want whether that means lie, perjure or cheat.  With that underlying thinking and unchecked authority, you have the makings of a tyrant with a badge who enforces his authority not the law.  Once a cops thinking is corrupted like this the Constitution becomes an obstacle to them doing what they perceive as "doing their job", IE Detective Baluja stating that he "knew she was guilty cause she lawyered up", never mind several instances of the Detective lying and suborning perjury.  Early on in the Barrera mortgage fraud prosecution, Prosecutor Kostrzewski made this comment regarding Detective Baluja...
"...he's young, but he means well, he tries really hard."

Fantastic excuse for the Detectives mishandling of the case isn't it?  Now consider that the best evidence of Detective Baluja's mishandling of the Bernardo Barrera mortgage fraud case comes from the depositions conducted by Attorney Delaila Estefano's defense attorneys, the other defendants charged never conducted a single depo throughout the course of this case.  The kind of lawyering that tripped up the Detective and exposed all his misdeeds must have cost a small fortune.  Let's not forget the role our blog has played in the case as well, if nothing else we've managed to bring attention to the case further highlighting the misdeeds of the cop and the prosecutor.  So what would have happened if you were charged in such a crime and didn't have the hundreds of thousands of dollars required to properly defend yourself?  What if there was no one in the media exposing the missteps by the cop and the prosecutor?  What would have happened then is that the officer would have continued committing perjury and lying the way he did throughout the arrest affidavit (we'll discuss that in detail soon) that justified his actions and his behavior would have gone unchecked regardless of what the truth may have been.  

We've exposed several instances of Detective Baluja perjuring himself, suborning perjury and coercing witnesses, from something as small as directing a witness to lie about the time and location a statement was given (possibly to get overtime?) to outright lying about how a witness was handled.  So what now?  How can this type of misconduct be stopped?  Once again, I defer to former Plantation police chief Larry Massey:
"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.  In the interest of the community I separated him from service.
Get rid of them and then throw the book at em!  If every lying or "Brady Cop" is prosecuted for lying and for violating an individuals civil rights then are forced to serve real jail time with the same people that they may have perjured themselves to put behind bars, then maybe other cops thinking of bending the truth a little may think twice before doing so.  Personally, I have a lot of faith in the new Director of the MDPD, James Loftus, I'm sure our little story is going to get both his and Internal Affairs attention.



Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Some rumors and John McCain's new hybrid car...

Sorry folks, we're running late this morning so today's post has to be brief.  Apparently ASA Bill Kostrzewski is on vacation till next week, there's some noise about consequences regarding his handling of the Bernardo Barrera mortgage fraud case when he gets back.  As I said, it's nothing but an unsubstantiated rumor at this point, we'll report as soon as we hear anything else.  We've also been told that Detective Baluja is experiencing a tremendous amount of stress over the outcome of the Bernardo Barrera mortgage fraud case, I wonder why?  

On another note, John McCain seems to have discovered a car that runs on water...

Monday, July 12, 2010

The buck stops where?

You've all heard that old saying but what exactly does it mean when we're talking about committing a crime?  If during the course of writing this blog somehow I commit a crime, could you imagine the CEO of Google getting arrested?  Sure the company that provides the template for this blog may have some civil liability if I go nuts and commit a crime, but how could they have any criminal liability?

Could you imagine if Detective Jorge Baluja were to have committed a crime during the course of one of his investigations?  Would the police chief arrested for the Detective's crimes?  Or worse, if a prosecutor like Bill Kostrzewski were to commit a crime during the course of a prosecution, would it make sense for his supervisors to get arrested for his criminal acts?  Sure the supervisors might have some sort of civil liability, but unless they were actually directing the criminal activity, how could they have any criminal liability?

So where am I headed with this rambling Monday morning post?  In the case of the Bernardo Barrera mortgage fraud, the attorney whose office conducted the closing for the sale of the Oak Avenue home from John Arthur Romney to Bernardo Barrera was arrested and according to prosecutor Kostrzewski was part of an "organized scheme to defraud".  For the last two years both Detective Baluja and Prosecutor Kostrzewski have beat the following statement into our heads...
"She's guilty of mortgage fraud because she didn't follow closing instructions"
Again and again throughout the arrest affidavit, depositions and hearings we hear that "didn't follow closing instructions" line over and over.  Some of our readers have mentioned that not following closing instructions may not rise to the level of criminality, I don't know the law well enough to judge, but if indeed it doesn't rise to the level of criminality, then how could they have arrested the attorney?  According to Detective Baluja and Prosecutor Kostrzewski the attorney was guilty because she conducted the closing and in the course of doing so didn't follow the closing instructions set forth in the lenders closing instructions.  Now, for those of you who are somewhat familiar with closings and the procedures involved with such a transaction, you should recognize the document that's usually at the end of every closing package, it's called the "acknowledgment of closing instructions by the closing agent".  Essentially when the closing agent signs this document they attest that the closing has been done the way the lender outlined in their instructions.  Detective Baluja and Prosecutor Kostrzewski, it would only make sense that since you arrested the attorney for "not following closing instructions" that her signature would have been on this acknowledgment right?  Here's the document...

I've redacted the name of the person who actually signed the acknowledgment, but rest assured the person who signed wasn't arrested.  In fact months after the arrests were made Prosecutor Kostrzewski denied that such a document actually existed, even worse, the person who executed this critical document wasn't even questioned before the arrests were made.  Does that make any sense to anyone?  I'd be willing to bet that neither Detective Baluja or prosecutor Kostrzewski had ever seen this document before even though it's in their own case file... 

Friday, July 9, 2010

And then there was one, the state dismisses charges against defendant Delaila J. Estefano.

When you walk into a court room in the Dade County criminal courthouse just above where the judge sits you'll find a sign that says...

"We who labor here seek only the truth"

When you're sitting there waiting for the court to come to session, you can't help but stare at the sign and ponder what it really means.  Powerful words.  Nowhere in the court room does it say that a prosecutor must secure a conviction by any means necessary.  Nowhere in that courtroom is there any mention of hiding evidence or fabricating witness testimony, yet somehow since October 3, 2008 we've seen everything but a search for "truth" from assistant state attorney Bill Kostrzewski during the course of the Bernardo Barrera mortgage fraud prosecution.

Justice George Sutherland eloquently described the role of a prosecutor in this quote from Berger v. United States...
"[He] is the representative not of an ordinary party to a controversy, but of a sovereignty whose obligation to govern impartially is as compelling as its obligation to govern at all; and whose interest, therefore, in a criminal prosecution is not that it shall win a case, but that justice shall be done. As such, he is in a peculiar and very definite sense the servant of the law, the twofold aim of which is that guilt shall not escape or innocence suffer. He may prosecute with earnestness and vigor -- indeed, he should do so. But, while he may strike hard blows, he is not at liberty to strike foul ones. It is as much his duty to refrain from improper methods calculated to produce a wrongful conviction as it is to use every legitimate means to bring about a just one."
That's a mighty fine line to walk.  One must consider the incredibly difficult role the prosecutor plays in our legal system, consider this quote from Supreme Court Justice Brennan...
"Between the private life of the citizen and the public glare of criminal accusation stands the prosecutor. That state official has the power to employ the full machinery of the state in scrutinizing any given individual. Even if a defendant is ultimately acquitted, forced immersion in criminal investigation and adjudication is a wrenching disruption of everyday life. For this reason, we must have assurance that those who would wield this power will be guided solely by their sense of public responsibility for the attainment of justice."
Consider the charging powers the prosecutor wields and the consequences if that power is misused.  With that said, you have to ask how ASA Kostrzewski can possibly reconcile his behavior throughout the Bernardo Barrera mortgage fraud prosecution, his actions since the inception of the case have been misleading, intemperate and undignified. Nearly a year and a half ago ASA Kostrzewski conceded that he knew that the attorney he charged with identity theft, the charge that carried a minimum mandatory sentence of 10 years, had no knowledge or involvement with the alleged identity theft, yet despite his moral and ethical obligations to drop the charge, he chose not to and  instead threatened to pile on more charges against the attorney.  A far more eloquent blogger than I sums up this abuse of prosecutorial power most effectively...
"Trying a defendant that a prosecutor knows is innocent, or even bringing to trial a person that the prosecutor knows there is not sufficient evidence to justify a conviction is an offense so odious to the American system of justice that prosecutors who engage in such abuse should be referred to the bar for disbarment. The supervisors who approve of such conduct should be disbarred as well."
We noted back in February that the State Attorneys Office had removed Prosecutor Kostrzewski from the Barrera mortgage fraud case, while we have our theories as to why this really happened it would be disingenuous of us to speculate in a public forum.  The prosecutor who replaced Mr. Kostrzewski appeared in court on Wednesday and made the following statement:
"May it please the court, good morning your honor, Steve LeClair for the state of Florida.  Judge, based on information that we've acquired during the course of the discovery process, it's become clear that we cannot prove this defendants guilt beyond a reasonable doubt and therefore at this time we will announce a nolle pros as it relates to the three counts in which Ms Estefano is named as it relates only to her."
Think about that for a moment Mr. Kostrzewski.  You know that there's been no new discovery since you were taken off the case.  The prosecutor that replaced Kostrzewski had the same facts before him that Kostrzewski had yet after careful review by ASA LeClair and his supervisors at the state attorneys office they chose to drop the charges.  You didn't get out lawyered, a jury didn't find the defendant not guilty, instead your office concluded that your case was so weak that the they couldn't move forward.  Mr. Kostrzewski, sit back and consider the harm your actions have caused over the last two years, not only to the fellow attorney whose career you destroyed but to the young and inexperienced detective who you manipulated and used to do your bidding, not to mention the cloud of impropriety that you've created around your office and fellow prosecutors.  

With that said, the only remaining defendant from the arrests back in October 3, 2008 is John Arthur Romney, we'll keep tabs on his status in the coming weeks.  More to come on Monday, have a great weekend folks!

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Is the lead Detective in a headline case lying or is his star witness lying?

Which is worse?  The lead Detective in a headline case lying or the witness whose testimony he built his case on lying?  Last month we discussed how Detective Jorge Baluja interviewed a key witness in the Bernardo Barrera Mortgage fraud case, based on what we found in the deposition transcripts there seems to be some reason for concern.  The way the detective conducted this interview was troubling, in fact the witness was so rattled that she went on to state during her deposition that she wanted to make sure she wasn't going to be criminally charged, you have to ask yourself though, just how far would the witness go to make sure she wasn't going to get charged? 


With the testimony from the key witness in hand, let's see how Detective Jorge Baluja addressed the very same questions that the key witness was asked during her deposition.  Let's start off with whether or not the Detective read the witness her Miranda rights, from the witnesses deposition...


That's pretty clear now, isn't it?  Now let's see what Detective Baluja says when asked the same question during his deposition...


Did we just read that right?  It seems to me that Detective Baluja clearly states that he didn't read the witness her Miranda rights, clearly confused the attorney conducting the deposition asks the detective the question again...


Bizarre.  The witness then goes on to say...


Easy enough.  During his deposition Detective Baluja tells the attorneys that, the witness wasn't being investigated and was not a suspect in the Bernardo Barrera mortgage fraud...


Fair enough right?  According to the Detective, the witness has nothing to worry about...


So why is she worried about getting charged if she's just a witness?  Somethings not right, look again...


Looking at her bank records Detective?  That must have given the poor girl a warm and fuzzy feeling.  Let's see what the Detective has to say...


This causes the Detective to pause for a second (I've redacted the witnesses name for privacy reasons)...


Now we clearly have a problem here as Detective Baluja has contradicted the testimony from the witness regarding her bank records, she says the detective told her he had her bank statements and he says he didn't.  It get's worse, the witness says...


When asked if he was surveilling the witness, the Detective says...


Another inconsistency, the detective again...


Really?  The witness again...


Nice.  Once again Detective Baluja leaves the witness with that warm and fuzzy feeling...


With that said, can you really blame the poor witness...


We're now presented with a serious problem folks, we have the lead detective and the key witness whose testimony the detective built his case on contradicting each other.  Someone's lying.  If the witness is lying then she loses credibility, if the detective is lying then his case is worthless.  Which is it?  We don't know much about the witness but we know the Detective has a poor track record when it comes to telling the truth and dealing with witnesses.  How does that old kids rhyme go Jorge?  Something about pants being on fire? 


I'll leave it to members of the MDPD and it's command staff who we know read our blog to consider the following quote from former Plantation police chief  Larry Massey regarding Joseph Guaracino a lying cop that he fired who was later charged with mortgage fraud...
"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.  In the interest of the community I separated him from service."

With the states so called "victim" added into the mix we now have the lead detective, the states victim and key witness with serious if not fatal credibility issues.  It's at this point that any reasonably prudent and competent prosecutor working the case should have had the common sense to put the brakes on this investigation, instead Prosecutor Bill Kostrzewski went full steam ahead.  As we've learned and will see in the near future though, the terms prudent, competent and common sense don't apply to Prosecutor Kostrzewski.  

Clickity Clack Bill, the train has definitely left the station!