Friday, January 28, 2011

Man sits in jail for 21 days before prosecutor realizes he's got the wrong guy.

As the title states, poor guys sits in a Miami Dade County jail for 21 days before the prosecutor realizes that he's got the wrong man behind bars.  If that wasn't enough, when the mistake was uncovered, the prosecutor refused to appear before the judge to explain himself!  Could this be possible?  Can anyone guess the name of the prosecutor responsible?   I'm working on getting all the details, I'll update as soon as possible.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Cooperating witnesses, snitches, rats and the states obligations...

Give us a break, I'm no lawyer nor do I pretend to be, so for the lawyers among you, if you see us laboring through legal mumbo jumbo, cut us some slack!

With all this talk lately on our blog regarding cooperating witnesses or defendants that have agreed to testify against other co defendants in exchange for leniency or even immunity from the state, one has to wonder, what obligations does the state have to notify the other defendants that such a deal exists?  Wonder no longer, welcome to Giglio v. United States, from the Wikipedia page...
Giglio v. United States, 405 U.S. 150 (1972), was a case in which the United States Supreme Court held that the prosecution's failure to inform the jury that a witness had been promised not to be prosecuted in exchange for his testimony was a failure to fulfill the duty to present all material evidence to the jury, and constituted a violation of due process, requiring a new trial. This is the case even if the failure to disclose was a matter of negligence and not intent. The case extended the Court's holding in Brady v. Maryland, requiring such agreements to be disclosed to defense counsel.[1] As a result of this case, the term Giglio material is sometimes used to refer to any information pertaining to deals that witnesses in a criminal case may have entered into with the government.[2]
There's that pesky due process stuff again!  Once again we find ourselves at the mercy of the state hoping they'll take the high road and disclose all "deals that witnesses in a criminal case may have entered into with the government" to defense counsel.  It only makes sense, doesn't it?

So what happens when a morally and ethically challenged prosecutor makes the mistake of not disclosing such evidence to the defense?  Could such a mistake have been made during the course of one of the mortgage fraud cases that we've discussed?  Imagine yourself charged with a crime, trying to defend yourself.  It's bad enough that you suspect that the prosecutor is hiding exculpatory evidence, it's bad enough that you know that the police have interviewed several witnesses who told them in no uncertain terms that you weren't involved in any wrong doing yet they still won't turn those interviews over to you, but now on top of everything else, you find out that one of the people that were charged along with you is not only cooperating but has also been given immunity!  To add insult to injury, the prosecutor whose made your life a living hell hasn't told you or your attorneys anything about such a deal!

I know we talked about prosecutors wanting an "Unfair Advantage" but this is fucking ridiculous.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

"Before he knew it, he was in the middle of a Ponzi!"

OH SNAP! Everything was great then next thing I knew, I found myself in the middle of a $40 million dollar Ponzi scheme! WTF!? That's how we're to believe Hialeah jeweler Luis Felipe Perez got caught up running a $40 million dollar Ponzi scheme. From the Miami New Times article last June...
Havana-born Perez ran a jewelery and pawn shop business, and promised investors returns of anywhere from 18 to 120 percent a year through monthly payment.

Investors thought they were investing in two of Perez's companies, Lucky Star Diamonds Inc. and Luis Felipe Jewelry Design Corp. (neither had employees other than Perez), and that their money was collateralized by diamonds. In fact, Perez said he kept diamonds in deposit safes, however they turned out to be fake.
There's a sucker born every minute, isn't there? Who could possibly believe that some two bit jeweler could provide a 120% return on an investment? Like many many other Ponzi schemers of the last decade, Mr. Perez's house of cards came falling down during the economic down turn when he was no longer able to recruit new investors. Read the SEC's press release and complaint against Mr. Perez here.

Today we learn that the real cause of Mr. Perez's downfall wasn't the unsustainable lavish lifestyle that he led, but in fact according to his attorney, Alvin Entin, the blame for Mr. Perez's indiscretions lay at the feet of loan sharks, one of which just happened to be the Mayor of the City of Hialeah, Julio Robaina, who's recently announced that he's got his eye on the county mayor seat. Take a look at this story by Jim Defede on Mayor Julio Robaina and his alleged dealings with Ponzi schemer Perez...

Now that's some funny shit. I find the suggestion that Mr. Perez was paying the private lenders that he worked with 36% interest simply laughable. During the real estate boom there were hoards of private lenders running around Miami that routinely lent large sums of money for anywhere from 7% up to 18% annual interest. The suggestion that Mr Perez was paying Mayor Robaina and the like an additional 18% under the table (cash no less) in addition to the 18% that's on the recorded mortgage docs is ludicrous considering how many people were willing to lend at the time for far less. Regardless, if you were to believe Mr Entin, his client Mr. Perez got caught in this vicous cycle of borrowing and paying back money from these "loan sharks" which ultimately led him to this life of crime, in his own words...

“Luis Perez is a nice young man,” Entin said. “He had a jewelry business and borrowed money from people who were loan sharks to get the business moving, couldn’t keep up with the payments to the loan sharks, started borrowing more money and before he knew it he was in the middle of a Ponzi.”
WHOOPS! First you find yourself borrowing money to keep your little business going and then next thing you know, BAM, you're stuck in the middle of a $40,000,000 Ponzi scheme! God damn it, don't you hate when that kinda shit happens! It's even worse when it happens to a "nice young man"! CRAP!

A little further in the interview, we get a some insight into the real motivation behind this amazing tale of private lenders who charge 36% interest rates...
“I can tell you that my client is still cooperating,” Entin said. “There are other subjects and targets of governmental interest out there. My client has provided some very useful information and I think the government is proceeding on it.”
Did you expect any less? Mr. Perez is staring at a ten year stretch in Federal prison and now all of a sudden we get this quasi "press release" with all kinds of documents and personal photos from an "unknown" source that paints a prominent politician in a bad light. Only time will tell if Mr. Perez's "useful information" will succeed in shaving time off his sentence. I've been caught off guard doing a lot of things Mr. Entin, running a 8 figure Ponzi scheme has never been one of them.

It's Miami though, a very, very small town indeed. For those of you following our blog, the old school criminal defense attorney, Alvin Entin, shouldn't be a stranger to you, Mr. Entin represented the central figure in the Barrera Mortgage fraud case, Mr. John Romney.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Slain MDPD officers Amanda Haworth and Roger Castillo laid to rest today and the Straw Buyer is reminded of another funeral...

The two Miami Dade county police officers, Roger Castillo and Amanda Haworth, that were senselessly murdered last week while trying to serve an arrest warrant will be laid to rest this afternoon.  Our thoughts and prayers go out to their family and friends.

This reminds me of another funeral that occurred about a year ago, the funeral of an old time Miami criminal attorney.  Obviously among the friends and family members that attended the funeral there were several of the deceased's fellow colleagues from the criminal defense bar.  At some point during the viewing, two of these old school attorneys who just happened to be working on the same case bump into each other and start chatting about their clients.  The first attorney is emphatic about taking the case to trial since he insists that his client is innocent.  The other attorney says dismissively that he got his client full immunity two days after he was arrested and had gotten him a sweetheart deal in exchange for his cooperation with the state.  Stunned, the first attorney steps back and asks his friend to reiterate what he just said.  Stunned because a year and change into the case, this was the first time anyone had heard anything about anyone in the case cooperating against the other defendants, let alone getting immunity.

Did I lose you?  Imagine you're the poor guy whose been charged with a crime that's trying to prepare a defense for over a year, all the while being kept in the dark about one of your co defendants cutting a deal and to add insult to injury getting immunity in exchange for ratting out everybody and their brother that they've ever done business with.  Does that seem fair?  In fact it's not only unfair, but it's illegal, a clear violation of due process rights afforded to an individual under the constitution.  Fact of the matter is that when there is such a deal in place it's the prosecutor's duty obligation to inform the defense counsel.

So what's this got to do with anything we've been talking about?  Another hypothetical situation or did this occur in one of the cases that we've discussed?  

More tomorrow...

Friday, January 21, 2011

Tragedy in the Magic City...

From the Herald...

'Our worst nightmare': Two officers shot dead

Hunting a violent career criminal wanted for murder, Miami-Dade police detectives knocked on the door of a Liberty City duplex Thursday morning. The man's mother let them in. But Johnny Simms, a tattooed thug fresh off his most recent prison stint, refused to face justice, jumping out from another room with his pistol blazing at point-blank range.
Police bullets felled the fugitive -- but not before he shot and killed veteran detectives Roger Castillo, 41, and Amanda Haworth, 44.
The career criminal's bloody last stand rocked South Florida's law enforcement community, which has counted six other officers killed in the line of duty in the past five years.
``I know I'm supposed to say we're all children of God and that things happen,'' said an angry and tearful Miami-Dade Police Director James Loftus. ``But that guy is evil. He murdered two of my people today.''
The shooting was the first double police murder in South Florida since Miami-Dade detectives Richard Boles and David Strzalkowski were gunned down at a trailer park in 1988, and the first time a female officer was shot to death on the job in Miami-Dade.
Detective Deidre Beecher survived the ambush with a minor knee injury. Detective Oscar Plasencia emerged unscathed, shooting Simms dead just outside the front door of the duplex.
The shock of the bloodletting melted into a heart-wrenching memorial hours later, as somber officers began honoring Castillo and Haworth, who boasted a combined 44 years of police experience. Both their flag-draped bodies were escorted in Fire-Rescue ambulances from the Ryder Trauma Center to the Miami-Dade Medical Examiner's Office, a block away.
A chaplain and police Honor Guard accompanied Castillo's body to the morgue. For Haworth, against the glow of red-and-blue police lights, dozens of officers on motorcycles and foot formed a neat procession -- black bands over their badges -- to accompany the ambulance, led by an officer carrying a folded flag.
Castillo, a 21-year veteran, was married to a fellow officer, Debbie. The Davie couple had three boys, ages 9, 11 and 14. Haworth, with 23 years on the force, was the single mother of a 13-year-old son she was raising in Miramar.
Both officers were part of a fugitive task working with the U.S. Marshal's Service. They had targeted Simms, who had been on the lam from Miami police since he was named in a murder warrant for the slaying of an Overtown man in October.
According to interviews with law enforcement officials, and police and court records, Simms had been in trouble since he was a teen. Officers first arrested him at 14, for larceny. In all, Simms was arrested 11 times before he was an adult on charges including burglary and auto theft, state records show. He received house arrest in some cases, while others were dropped.
His tattoos mirrored his lifestyle: a gun, flames, and the words ``savage'' and ``10-20 Life.''
In October 2005 and December 2005, Simms was arrested for separate armed robberies, one with a pistol and the second with a rifle. Prosecutors did not file charges in either case.
In 2007, Simms -- who also goes by ``Sims'' -- went to state prison for a different 2005 armed robbery and auto theft. He was released in February 2009 on probation.
Simms violated his probation when he was again arrested in June 2010, this time for robbery with a deadly weapon and selling cocaine. He pleaded guilty and Miami-Dade Circuit Judge Julio Jimenez sentenced him to one year in prison plus five years' probation.
But Simms served only one month because he had earned credit for time served earlier in a Miami-Dade jail. He was released in September 2010 on five years of court-mandated ``administrative probation,'' a low-level form of supervision that does not require regular check-ins with authorities.
Simms hadn't been out a month before he was again implicated in a violent act.
According to Miami homicide detectives, Simms shot and killed Cornelious Larry, 27, on Oct. 16 in the parking lot of an Overtown apartment complex, 1535 NW First Pl.
Miami police say Simms shot Larry to death after the man began yelling and cursing at Simms' sister. Simms fled on a bicycle. Detectives searched for him for 12 days before Miami-Dade Circuit Judge Diane Ward signed an arrest warrant. The charges: first-degree murder and possession of a firearm by a convicted felon.
Simms had been on the lam since.
Miami police last week spotted him driving a rented car in Allapattah, according to law enforcement sources. He bailed out of the car, which was traced back to his family.
Detectives had been in touch with his relatives, trying to get him to turn himself in.
Tipsters had placed Simms in several houses in Liberty City. Miami homicide detectives turned to the county police warrants bureau, which has a squad specially trained to arrest fugitive career criminals, Loftus said. He said the assignment was routine.
``These are warrants people,'' he said. ``They do this everyday. They have an elevated level of expertise.''
Miami police Cmdr. Delrish Moss, a spokesman, agreed: ``It's not unusual for us to be assisted by county warrants in arresting the most dangerous criminals. The criminals we're dealing with don't see the difference between the uniforms or jurisdiction -- they just see cops.''
Castillo's and Haworth's squad, wearing body armor labeled ``Police,'' were dispatched to a duplex at 6112 NW Sixth Ct., in a gritty section of Liberty City just west of Interstate 95.
To get to the front door, detectives needed to walk down a narrow pathway bordered by a wire fence on one side and the duplex on the other.
Simms' mother lived at the home with some of his siblings. Sources familiar with the investigation said the detectives knocked on the door, and Simms' mother let them inside.
Just inside the living room, investigators believe, Simms jumped out of another room, firing his gun.
Haworth was shot in the head inside the home. Beecher was not hit. Castillo was shot dead just outside, in the walkway.
Plasencia, who had been behind the duplex, ran back around and -- under fire -- shot Simms dead in front of the door.
Witnesses said they heard three or four gunshots. ``It was like `Pow, pow, pow, pow,' '' said T'Shai Bey, who was at an auto body shop beside the building. ``I could see smoke. I thought it was fireworks.''
Bey walked over to the duplex and peered through the wire fence. It was partially blocked by plywood, she said. In the yard: two bodies pointing in different directions.
``Women were screaming. Babies were crying,'' Bey said. ``A lady came running out of the house asking for a cellphone. She kept saying ``I don't want my son to die. I don't want my son to die.' ''
Emergency calls immediately went out. Ambulance crews rushed to the scene, followed by detectives and top police brass from Miami and Miami-Dade, as well as elected officials.
``Unfortunately, no matter how well prepared you are, when there's a person who's willing to give their lives, they're going to have the advantage,'' said Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Alvarez, former director of the Miami-Dade Police Department.
Paramedics pronounced Castillo and Simms dead on the scene. Their bodies were covered in plastic sheets as news helicopters hovered overhead.
Haworth was rushed to Ryder Trauma Center at Jackson Memorial, where she was pronounced dead at about 1 p.m. Miami-Dade homicide detectives whisked away Simms' relatives to interview them; it was not immediately clear if they could face charges in connection with the shooting, or with his time as a fugitive.
Miami-Dade Commissioner Joe Martinez announced the tragedy to the stunned audience at a commission meeting. Condolences -- from Gov. Rick Scott, police union boss John Rivera, Miami Archbishop Thomas Wenski and others -- poured in.
Loftus, a longtime Miami-Dade cop and first-year director, fought back tears as he explained that he hoped to serve out his tenure without attending another police funeral.
``The fact of the matter is, our worst nightmare was visited upon us again,'' he said.
Words cannot describe how we feel about this incident where two heroes were gunned down and murdered while in the line of duty.  Our thoughts and prayers are with the families of the slain officers.  Thank you officers Castillo and Haworth for making the ultimate sacrifice in order to keep our streets safe.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

A sad commentary on the current state of affairs in the Magic City...

As most of you are aware Miami Dade County is embroiled in a recall for both the Mayor, Carlos Alvarez and a county commissioner Natacha Seijas. The citizenry of Miami Dade county got fed up with the mayor and the county commissioners for raising taxes despite the fact that we are stuck with a faltering economy with real estate prices still plummeting while the county continues to give hefty pay and benefit increases to its employees. People are pissed and rightfully so, next step? Gather enough petitions to recall the politicians that created this mess, democracy at work right? You would think so, now comes this bit from the Miami Herald...

Alvarez, Seijas in fight for survival

Carmen Carrigan said the private investigator showed up unannounced at her Westchester home on a Saturday afternoon, identified himself as Al Lopez and stayed for an hour asking how she and her husband, Rigoberto, had collected signatures to recall Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos Alvarez. ``He asked us who interviewed us, who taught us to collect the signatures, how we filled the forms,'' Carrigan told The Miami Herald. ``We said, `Everyone really wanted to sign, because they don't want Alvarez.' ''
The investigator told Carrigan he had been hired by some sort of committee -- perhaps a political action committee. ``I'm not sure why he was there,'' Carrigan said. ``To scare us?''
With the recall elections for Mayor Alvarez and County Commissioner Natacha Seijas set for March 15, both politicians are employing private investigators, lawyers and political consultants in a bare-knuckles fight for survival.
Underlining the urgency: early voting begins Feb. 28, just six weeks away.
Last month Alvarez's political action committee, Citizens For Truth, hired private investigative firm Sessler & Lopez. The PAC paid the firm $5,000 on Dec. 17 and another $5,000 on Dec. 22, according to year-end financial disclosures. Seijas has hired ICDA Investigations, run by former county homicide detective Raul Diaz, to probe into the backgrounds of recall-petition gatherers, known as circulators, in search of evidence that may help discredit the petitions they were involved with.
Diaz has done a lot of private investigative work over the years for the county, and previously worked for Seijas. Seijas' PAC, Abre Los Brazos, paid Diaz's firm $5,000 on Dec. 22, according to the latest filings.
Stephen Cody, an attorney for Seijas, said the private investigations firm is doing background checks on those whom he will depose in her pending lawsuit, but hasn't interviewed petition circulators.
``It's not like I'm having people knocking on doors and saying give us the dirt,'' said Cody.
Alvarez's private investigator, Al Lopez, declined to comment. Said Alvarez's attorney, Bruce Rogow: ``The task was to get a handle on how the circulators were operating, if the circulators were willing to talk about it.''
The recall defenses for Alvarez and Seijas are moving on two tracks: legal efforts aimed at avoiding an election altogether, and political campaigning to sway voters. For support, each politician is relying on a mix that includes companies doing business with the county, county lobbyists, county unions and county employees themselves.
Seijas is waging a legal fight to have her election blocked, while Alvarez is scrutinizing petitions for a potential second legal challenge.
Both are seeking to bolster their campaign war chests.
Alvarez, a career cop who led a successful campaign to revise the county charter to become the first strong mayor, has assembled $261,600 in contributions and in-kind donations to beat back Miami billionaire Norman Braman's campaign to oust him.
The car dealer, an outspoken critic of local government, launched his drive after the county commission approved the mayor's proposed budget, which raised the property-tax rate while giving raises to most county employees.
According to the latest filing by his PAC, Alvarez continues to draw much of his support from county employee unions. The Transport Workers Union donated $20,000 on Dec. 27. The Dade Police Police Benevolent Association PAC previously wrote a check for $50,000. Lobbyist Ron Book contributed $10,000.
The mayor's PAC has received more than $70,000 from the Florida Marlins and its contractors. That strong support came two years after Alvarez pushed to spend public dollars to build a new stadium for the ball club.
For his part, Braman has assembled a war chest of $521,112 in his PAC, People Who Want Honest Government. The majority comes from his own pocket. Developer and art collector Martin Z. Margulies has contributed $25,000 and Miami Beach Commissioner Jonah Wolfson has pitched in $1,000.
Meanwhile, Seijas' PAC has garnered $92,750, with big chunks coming from lobbyists and unions representing county employees. The Service Employees International Union gave $20,000 and the county police union anted up $10,000.
Overseeing fundraising for the PAC is her longtime campaign treasurer, Daniel Hernandez, a local businessman who is president of the Hialeah Chamber of Commerce and Industries.
Seijas, whose district includes Miami Lakes and Hialeah, knows the recall drill as well as anyone: She decisively defeated an earlier campaign to drive her from office in December 2006, winning 65 percent of the ballots cast.
Her opponents, meanwhile, have raised just $16,041 for Miami Voice, a political action committee headed by Vanessa Brito. That includes $5,000 from Braman and $5,000 from Brito's marketing firm Myami Marketing.
But while they lack money, those seeking Seijas' ouster have backing from vocal Miami Lakes Mayor Michael Pizzi, a lawyer who is providing free legal counsel. And they can ride on the coattails of the Braman campaign.
With the election date set, Braman said he plans to unveil the next phase of his campaign this coming week. While laying out his argument for Alvarez's recall, Braman said, he will advocate for broader governance changes such as term limits and at-large county commission seats. ``I don't want to be perceived as someone who is just negative,'' Braman said.
Braman has hired pollster Dario Moreno to take the pulse of the community. As of year-end, Moreno received $8,000 from Braman's PAC.
Braman spent $1,733 on private investigative firm Wayne Black & Associates. His attorney, Stanley Krieger, said the private investigator spent ``a couple hours'' following up on calls from former county employees who contacted Braman's office.
``We did not investigate anyone,'' Krieger said.
Alvarez, whose second term expires in November 2012, is betting on showing residents that his budget, which raised widespread anger, was a responsible proposal that preserves core services.
``It's my hope that reality trumps rhetoric and substance beats out style,'' Alvarez said in a statement released Thursday, when the recall election date was set.
But he hasn't given up on derailing the recall through the courts. His team, led by political consultant Ivy Korman, has been meeting at a Doral warehouse in recent weeks and scrutinizing recall petitions for flaws. The warehouse is owned by Ralph Gazitua, an Alvarez supporter and father of mayoral aide Luis Andres Gazitua.
Alvarez has spent more than $20,000 on nearly 40 people, including Ryan Burgess, who is the son of County Manager George Burgess, to review the petitions.
``The game is still on,'' said Rogow, Alvarez's attorney, who withdrew an initial lawsuit challenging the recall in December.
Both the mayor and Seijas have hired Korman, a former county elections official.
The mayor has also worked to mobilize support from county employees. In recent months, when staffers log on to their county computers, they have sometimes been met with upbeat messages about the controversial budget, which triggered the recall drive after it was adopted last fall by commissioners.
While facing voters on the same ballot as Alvarez would by all accounts be challenging, Seijas has a strong power base to draw from and a long track record of prevailing in political confrontations.
However, an important supporter of hers in fending off the 2006 recall said he will not help Seijas this time around.
``I will not be involved this year,'' said Hialeah Mayor Julio Robaina, who recently announced a run for county mayor. ``In 2006, I thought it was a personal vendetta against her and it was wrong. This is different. This is based on a policy difference and I am against raising taxes.''
But Seijas' primary aim is to keep from appearing on a recall ballot at all.
At an emotionally charged commission meeting Jan. 13, Seijas argued unsuccessfully that commissioners should postpone setting her election recall date at least until the next commission meeting Jan. 20. She said she wanted time for a judge to hear her legal challenge on Jan. 18. There is little likelihood, however, a decision will be reached so soon.
Seijas, who also has veteran litigator Kendall Coffey on her team, filed suit to block her recall election, claiming that many of the petitions submitted were flawed, and when those are discounted there would not be enough signatures left to warrant a recall.
``I expect a just resolution and favorable conclusion to this process,'' said Seijas in a statement issued Saturday. She added: ``A district campaign to urge residents to say no to a recall of their commissioner will occur if necessary. I am always prepared.''
That should be enough to make your stomach turn. You decide to speak out against elected official and express your discontent with their actions, you go one step further and get involved in a recall campaign and now you get rewarded for your actions by getting harassed by investigators? Investigators going to recall campaign volunteers homes, then running background checks on them and questioning them? Demanding they produce ID? What the fuck is that? Considering the type of harassment these volunteers are receiving, what are the chances that anyone will ever mount a campaign like this again only to have the wrath of powerful career politicians come down on them? This is sickening and should have everyone who reads about it mad enough to spit nails. Who would have thought we'd see this type of Gestapo like behavior in this day and age here in the United States? This is pathetic.

So this is it? This is how we treat people critical of government? People who are simply exercising their democratic rights are now having their lives turned inside and out by the very people they're looking to remove from office? So the question that begs to be asked is how are bloggers and people who comment on blogs that are critical of say police and prosecutors treated? Do they get their lives turned inside and out by the same people that they criticize?

We'll find out soon enough. Is it showtime yet guys?

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Let's try to understand the mortgages that were at the root of all the mortgage frauds that we've discussed.

Makes sense doesn't it?  We couldn't have 99.9% of the cases of mortgage fraud cases that we've discussed if not for the exotic mortgage backed securities that came into being over the last decade, so why don't we take a look at the journey a simple home mortgage makes from inception to securitization in order to understand why our nations economy is in so much trouble.  A man named Dan Edstrom did just that, he reverse engineered his mortgage from the 1003 mortgage application to the monthly payments and figured out where everything went every step of the way then prepared this fantastic flowchart, take a look, as always click to enlarge...

Having a bit of trouble understanding it?  You're not alone, it takes a few runs to fully understand how screwy it is, come to find out that it took Mr. Edstrom a year to figure it out!  Not to mention that Mr. Edstrom reverse engineers these kind of securities for a living!  Check out Mr. Edstrom on CNBC...

How many owners does this one note have?  Can you imagine trying to get everyone to agree on something like a loan modification?  Think about how many times this loan has been bought and sold and how much money has been made before there was a single payment even made!  Now considering the amount of money that was made from packaging these loans into securities we can begin to understand why lenders were in such a rush to lend money to ANYONE.  Suddenly we can understand why builders were in such a rush to push urban boundaries outward (IE building subdivisions in the Everglades) so they could keep building more homes to further the "American dream" which was nothing more than a guise for the bankers to sell more of these loans that they had no intention of keeping.

So here we are being told day in and day out that our economy can't get back on it's feet until these mortgages are sorted out and foreclosures return to normal levels.  How can that happen when most people can't even identify who owns these mortgages?  Even worse, when is our government going to get serious about prosecuting the people who created these mortgages rather than the poor schmuck on the street who took advantage of the money the banks were freely giving away?  Don't hold your breath, they're too busy going after the guy next door who overstated his income on his 1003...

Monday, January 17, 2011

Martin Luther King day and another fallen black leader...

"Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere."

Martin Luther King, April 16, 1963

While the world is celebrating Martin Luther King Day, I'd like to make mention of another fallen black leader from Miami, Arthur E. Teele. While his alleged misdeeds towards the end of his career reflected him in a poor light, I think it's important that we remember his achievements for the community he represented as well.  This movie sums up his final days leading up to his suicide pretty well, if you have an hour to kill, it's worth watching.  You can see it in it's entirety here.

Considering the crimes that some of our local leaders have been accused of committing lately, does the relentless pursuit of Teele by the media and law enforcement that lead to his suicide seem fair in retrospect?  I think the artist that painted Teele's memorial mural, Addonis Parker, said it best...
"Sometimes you're in a game you don't even know you're playing. Teele may have been uncouth or in question, but so many others only get a slap on the wrist while we [African-Americans] always get the rough end of the mop."

Friday, January 14, 2011

"All I want is an unfair advantage"

That was a favorite line of former AIG head, Hank Greenberg.  Nothing wrong with it, who wouldn't want a leg up on their adversaries?  Not exactly fair, but whatever.

What about when you find yourself charged with a crime and have to defend yourself in court?  As we've discussed in the past, the state is obligated to hand over the evidence they have against you as well as any evidence that they may have that's exculpatory and can help you defend yourself.  There are several states throughout the country that have what's called an "Open File Discovery", from the Criminal Defense Wiki page...
Open file discovery is promoted in the United States as a means to help equalize the investigatory disparity between the prosecution and the defense attorney. [1] Under open file discovery, a defendant should have access to the prosecutor's entire file and there should never be any surprises at trial.
Open file discovery is also the only means by which the state can guarantee due process to defendants. It also eliminates the need for prosecutors to evaluate whether evidence is both material and exculpatory under the Brady Rule.
Disclosure must not only be complete, it must also be timely. Disclosure must be completed well in advance of trial so that the defense attorney has time to examine the evidence, test it, and prepare an adequate defense. 
At least in my opinion as a lay person, this seems like the way things should be, it only makes sense.  Consider that the person charged with the crime doesn't have the resources to research the case as well as the state, it's hard enough paying for a lawyer let alone a private investigator.  Then you have to consider the fact that the current system in the state of Florida only obligates the prosecutor to turn over whatever they think is necessary therefore creating a perfect opportunity for a prosecutor or police to withhold evidence.  Think about it, if you were the prosecutor or a cop and you had something in your possession that would exonerate the defendant, how inclined would you be to turn it over to the defense knowing your case will get blown out of the water?  Granted under the Brady Rule a moral and ethical prosecutor is obligated to hand over such evidence, but we live in an imperfect world, that's hardly the case.

If that wasn't bad enough, this week we've discovered what could possibly amount to a prosecutor listening in on his targets discussing legal matters with their attorney.  Could you ask for anything more unfair than being able to listen in on someone candidly discussing legal matters or perhaps a crime with their attorney under the guise of the confidentiality afforded to them by the attorney client privilege?  Talk about having an unfair advantage?  

So here's my question.  If I was able to find out about this "body wire at attorneys office" business, then who else knows about it?  If indeed it is illegal to conduct such a recording, why hasn't anything been done about it?  If my hunch is right, this operation took place some time between October and December of 2008, that's over two years and nothings happened?  Perhaps it's not illegal to record conversations between an attorney and their client?  Or was all evidence of such a recording occurring hidden or destroyed?

We'll find out soon enough.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

The voluminous Barrera mortgage fraud case file and the gems contained within...

We've taken several trips over to the courthouse over the last few years to scour over the various files associated with the cases that we've discussed. You all remember the drill, go over to the Richard E. Gerstein justice building...

Go through security then wrestle with the decrepit elevators and the mobs of stinky ass people till you make it to the ninth floor, make a right and go over to the felony file room...

Fill out the proper forms and if you're lucky you'll find yourself locked in a tiny room with the files that you requested. Once you're in the room you're free to peruse through the files that you requested and order copies. Over the last year or so I did notice something strange about the Barrera mortgage fraud case file...

There were instances where I would request and subsequently be given all three volumes of the file while on other occasions I'd only be given one or two of the three volumes. When I asked why, they tell me that the missing volumes were either still in court or that the prosecutors had them in their office. That makes sense. In other instances I would find documents in these files that would be there one day and disappear the next, in at least one instance I found a plea agreement from one of the codefendants in the Barrera mortgage fraud that wasn't executed well before there was any plea. No big deal, right?

From my experience with these case files, it seems that they aren't really looked after too well and we've seen a couple of examples in the past where sensitive information was either accidentally left in the file or poorly redacted as evidenced by the horrific redacting in the David Rodriguez mortgage fraud case...

As if the redacting that resulted from the sealing of attorney David Rodriguez's criminal history wasn't bad enough, further into the file we find this...

Here we clearly see that Attorney David Rodriguez was defendant "D" in case number F07-3446A-D. So much for sealing the record!

So what does sloppy criminal case files have to do with our story? These files are for lack of a better description almost alive. They're constantly changing, new documents come in, some old ones disappear or get lost, you get the idea. At one point back during the fall of 2009, I found a strange document within the Bernardo Barrera case file, one that I didn't find the next go around or even the one after that. This particular document struck me as strange, among other things it said the following...

Transcribe tape of Xxxxx, etc at attys. office.
That certainly doesn't sound Kosher does it? Obviously I've omitted the name that was listed, regardless, why would you need to transcribe a tape of some people at an attorneys office? That in and of itself doesn't sound that bad, it's the next line that threw me back in my seat...
Need transcriptions: Xxxx Xxxxxxxx body wire at attorneys office.
If there was any confusion about the first statement about a " attys. office" then this certainly clears it up since there is no way to misinterpret "body wire at attorneys office." Now that we've established that someone was wearing a body wire at an attorneys office, we have to ask, who the hell authored this document that was in the case file that I accidentally stumbled upon and why in the FCUK would they need a transcript of a wire that recorded the conversation between a client(s) and their attorney?

The answer should be more than obvious. More tomorrow...

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Justice starts where?

Justice, isn't that a tricky concept?  Throughout the course of our blog we've come across several people that have run afoul of the law and discussed their subsequent prosecutions.  We take for granted that those whose responsibility it is to charge these people and subsequently try them in a court of law are themselves operating above board and to the letter of the law that they swore to uphold.  Unfortunately, as we have discovered, that isn't always the case.  

Throughout the last couple of years of digging through files pertaining to the cases that I've written about, I've seen law enforcement officers and prosecutors making everything from simple mistakes to flagrantly breaking the law.  I've been reluctant to write uncover the majority of these findings because of threats made have been made both indirectly and directly against myself.  So I sit here today and ask myself, what about this notion of justice?  Does it only apply when it's being administered by the government against it's citizens?  What about when the shoe is on the other foot?  What are we to expect to do when the one breaking the law is say a prosecutor or a cop?  I've alluded to several different "hypothetical situations" over the last year and a half or so, rest assured there are no "hypothetical situations", everything I've described as such actually happened.

From our very own State Attorneys website, we find this header...

It can't be any clearer than that, "Justice Starts Here".  Is that really the case?  If I come forward that with proof that an assistant state attorney from that very office coerced a witness into wearing a body wire while they were discussing a legal matter with their attorney clearly violating the attorney client privilege, what should we expect to happen?  Will that prosecutor be singled out for committing this most egregious crime against a fellow attorney, breaking the very moral and ethical codes that they swore to uphold as an attorney let alone a prosecutor?  Or will I become the bad guy for exposing this nefarious deed?

Without exception, every attorney (including several prosecutors and a sitting Judge) that I've spoken to about this prosecutor ordered "body wire at attorneys office" has reacted the same way, first with doubt over such a thing actually occurring then with disgust.  Unequivocally everyone that I've told this story to has said that if it can be proven, its a disbarable offense for the prosecutor involved with the possibility of criminal charges against those behind the wire.

So we're left with the conundrum of whether or not to go ahead with this "body wire at attorneys office" business.  Do we go ahead and uncover the evidence we have of such a thing occurring?  If so which law enforcement agency do we share this information with?  Or maybe we should just prepare a bar complaint and let the Bar decide how to handle it?  What do you guys think? 

Monday, January 10, 2011

Could you be there? Would you be there? Google analytic software kicks ass!

We mentioned a while back that our blog is equipped with Google Analytic software that allows us to see what people are googling and how they find our blog.  This is a fantastic feature to have and as we've studied the blog analytics we've made a few very interesting observations on who visits our blog and how they get here, last Friday at 1:42 pm we had one of our repeat visitors google a very, very interesting phrase...
"Florida prosecutor in trouble for taping clients conversation with an attorney"
YIKES!  Didn't we talk about something similar to this a while back?  You remember right?  Something about a prosecutor getting someone that they scared shitless into wearing a body wire to record their conversations with their attorney?  The example that we discussed back in August was a purely hypothetical one wasn't it or did an unscrupulous prosecutor actually get a person he was threatening to charge with a slew of crimes to wear a "body wire" to record conversations he was having with his attorney?  We'll just have to wait and see if this really did happen.  

What's most interesting about this person who performed that google search that led them to our blog last Friday was the fact that they're from Washington D.C., specifically from the United States Department of Justice. 

Could it be that our prosecutor ordered "body wire at attorney's office" story really did occur?  Maybe it did?  Maybe someone ratted out the person who ordered it?  We'll know soon enough if an overzealous prosecutor who lost sight of right and wrong in his relentless pursuit to save a case that he should have never signed off on actually did the unthinkable and violated one the most sacred legal concepts of our judicial system.

Moving on, last Friday we mentioned that the paranoid mayor of the City of Miami was worried that there were men in black SUV's following him around town, as luck would have it, guess who sat down next to me for lunch on Saturday?  Take a look...

What are the chances?  That's our very own Mayor, Tomas Regalado...

Trust me, I was there for over an hour and there were no black SUV's following you around Mr. Mayor, rest easy.

Friday, January 7, 2011

We're still number one DAMN IT!!

HELL YES! Despite law enforcements best efforts, it turns out Miami is still number one for mortgage fraud! From today's Miami Herald...

South Florida's still a national leader in mortgage fraud

South Florida's mortgage market had the nation's highest number of suspicious activity reports in the third quarter of 2010, according to the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network's third-quarter mortgage fraud report released Thursday. Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach counties logged 3,039 reports of questionable mortgage loan activity between July and September, about 33 per day, and more than any other metropolitan area in the nation. Florida's 5,404 suspicious activity reports, or SARs, during that time period ranked it second in the nation, behind California. On a per capita basis, Florida ranks ahead of California.
Miami-Dade County had the lion's share of South Florida's fraud reports, with 1,784 in the third quarter, second only to Los Angeles County, which had 1,967.
Jonathan Heller, a Miami defense lawyer defending a client who he believes was a victim of mortgage fraud, said he is not surprised by South Florida's ranking.
``When you have mortgage brokers who are unsavory, who are fueled by irresponsible lenders, it's like the perfect storm,'' he said.
Nationwide, there were 16,693 suspicious activity reports in the third quarter of 2010, up 2 percent from the same period in 2009. Florida was responsible for 32.3 percent of the nation's mortgage loan fraud reports that quarter, the report found.
The top types of mortgage fraud reported were false statements, debt elimination scams, identity theft and money laundering.
Most reports of mortgage loan fraud occur more than two years after the original loan was made. Of Miami-Dade's 1,784 reports logged in the third quarter of last year, only 404 involved loans made after Jan. 1, 2008.
That is consistent with the national trend, as those reporting fraud are focusing more on older incidents.
In the third quarter, 76 percent of SARs occurred before 2008, compared to 54 percent in 2009.

That's great to know isn't it? Meanwhile back in the Magic City our Mayor believes that there are men in black SUV's following him and one of the commissioners around...
Miami Mayor Tomás Regalado said Thursday he believes he and a city commissioner are under surveillance by the city's police department, taking the battle between the mayor and the police chief to a new level.
Regalado and Commissioner Richard P. Dunn II -- the two most outspoken critics of Chief Miguel Exposito -- said they had been told by ``credible'' law enforcement sources that Miami police officers have been tailing them. Twice in the past two weeks, Regalado said, he has noticed cars in front of his home that he didn't recognize, but which left as soon as he opened the front door.
``I just feel very threatened,'' Regalado said. The mayor said he's been warned by officers loyal to him in the police department that he was being followed, though he would not identify them.
And just when you thought the streets were safe, our local state attorneys office files charges against another cop with a penchant for fraud. It most be something in the water down here...

Thursday, January 6, 2011

The Plantation cops mortgage fraud case, read the blog comments damn it!

Some of you may remember the $16mm federal mortgage fraud indictment from last July that we discussed at length on our blog which involved several Plantation police officers and an FBI agent getting charged.  I was curious about what was going on with case so I went back to our blog posts regarding the case and started to read some of the comments that our readers had left.  I found this one especially interesting:
Anonymous said...

Very simple case. The cops and others bought homes fixed them up and sold them. The cops submitted real info, the brokers forged documents on these loans and hundreds of others. The Governent was made aware of the fraud commited against the cops and many others they ignored the eviedence and targeted the cops. End of story, look at the other loans you will find the same thing. People who commit mortgage fraud don't fix up the homes and make mortgage payments for several years, and then sell the homes at losses. They run away with money! Someone please do a real investigation, maybe a reporter, as the FDLE has clearly not.

July 19, 2010 11:08 PM
Now that's interesting allegation.  The cops submitted real information for the loans and the brokers were the ones that falsified all the information on the applications?  Some how I didn't pick up on that till this morning, what if that really was the case?  What if the cops were actually submitting accurate information to the mortgage brokers who then turned around and adulterated the applications without the applicants knowledge?  What I still can't comprehend is that according to this comment, the loans were paid for several years then the properties were sold, if that's true then there wasn't a default either, so where's the crime?  Considering how rampant mortgage fraud was during the real estate boom, aren't there better cases to prosecute than this one?  If the cops that were charged never submitted false information to the banks and it was the mortgage brokers who did, what exactly were the cops guilty of then?  

This comment and this case warrants a closer look, I'll see if I can find some more information on the case and post tomorrow.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Having a bit of trouble getting into the groove today. BTW, anyone need a divorce attorney in Chicago?

Not exactly sure why, but my thoughts are a bit jumbled today and I can't seem to get it together, we'll try again tomorrow.  

In the mean time, anyone need a divorce attorney in Chicago?  Try this on for size...

I'm not exactly sure what the Illinois bar has to say about the type of advertising that divorce attorney Corri Fetman is engaging in but after seeing her up close, she better leave the modeling up to models and not leave the office without her photoshop guru giving her a once over.

In other news, we heard an unsubstantiated rumor yesterday that foreclosure super villain David J. Stern has fled the country and is headed to Isreal.  Anybody hear anything remotely similar?

Monday, January 3, 2011

Foreclosure super villain David J. Stern and even more FAIL from the Miami Herald.

We've had our issues with our local rag paper in the past, from our experience they've had a hell of a time over at the Herald, whether it's getting facts straight, misleading it's readers or having a slightly different opinion of what makes "breaking news"

By now we're all too familiar with foreclosure super villain David J. Stern, the Herald reports that Mr. Stern lost his fight to stop a class action lawsuit against his firm, from the Herald article...
Court upholds decision on Stern, Wells Fargo

Sun Sentinel
A state appeals court in West Palm Beach has ruled a class-action lawsuit claiming Plantation attorney David J. Stern charged excessive fees to homeowners fighting their foreclosures can move forward, three years after it was first filed.

The 4th District Court of Appeal's opinion upheld an earlier decision by Palm Beach Circuit Judge Thomas Barkdull. Barkdull had granted class-action certification to a suit brought by Boynton Beach electrician Loren Banner against his lender, Wells Fargo Bank, Stern and Stern's firm, which handled Wells Fargo's foreclosure work.

The class includes Florida property owners facing foreclosure by Wells Fargo who received reinstatement letters from Stern's office between January 2003 and February 2009. They claim they were charged excessive fees for title searches and examinations, being served foreclosure papers, legal work -- and in some cases, were billed for expenses and mortgage payments not yet due.

``These are people who wanted to save their homes,'' said West Palm Beach attorney Louis Silber, who along with attorney Kirk Friedland is representing the homeowners. ``The improper charges made it much more difficult for them to reinstate their mortgages.''

Jeffrey Tew, the Miami attorney representing Stern, could not be reached for a comment Wednesday.

The suit claims Stern's foreclosure practices violated state laws protecting consumers from unfair debt-collection methods and deceptive trade.

Stern's attorneys had appealed Barkdull's certification, arguing circumstances would be different for homeowners whose mortgages had been reinstated and those who lost their property. Silber said between 1,500 and 2,000 borrowers could join the suit. The class is limited to those with Wells Fargo loans. But some of the practices that the suit alleges generate excessive fees are common to most large foreclosure law firms, not just Stern's.

``We think this will have an across-the-board affect,'' Silber said.
Too bad for Mr. Stern.  What's even more interesting than the contents of the article was the photo of Mr. Stern that accompanied the article in the paper, take a look for yourselves...

Who the hell is that guy?  Let's take a closer look...

Has David Stern aged horribly since his troubles started?  Last time I checked Mr. Stern looked like this...

Turns out true to form, the Herald didn't take the time to proof their story before going to print, the David Stern whose photo they used in the article wasn't David Stern the foreclosure attorney but instead David Stern the commissioner of the NBA. 

If they can't get something as simple as a photo right, how the hell can we expect them to get the facts of a story right?  Nice going guys.