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Are you a target for scammers? How they pick their victims

SPARTANBURG, S.C. (WSPA) – Have you ever wondered how scammers get your number and email?

We have, so we looked into how scammers pick their targets.

We talked with Darryl Robinson, who says he is one of those people who can’t get scammers to stop calling him.

“They call middle of the night, during the day. You hang up, they call right back,” Robinson said.

Somewhere in his history is a clue as to why he’s such a big target, but he wasn’t aware of the red flags.

We talked with Attorney Ken Anthony about what scammers look for and this is what he had to say:

“A lot of times the people who are targeted are shown to be in a vulnerable position by the public records. They’re going through a foreclosure, they’re going through a bankruptcy, they’ve got a tax lien filed against them, they’ve got a lawsuit filed against them, they’ve been arrested.  They’ve got some kind of problem.”

Robinson went through a foreclosure during the recession, and the public record may be how the first scammer got his number.

Robinson said that after the foreclosure, he began receiving more and more calls, and now he’s afraid he’s on a scammers’ list.

Another way scammers sniff out targets is through social media.

They especially like pulling the grandparent and romance scams, where knowing your family and your marital status makes it more convincing.

And don’t forget the old-fashioned way.

“Some of them will just knock on your door. There are people who will go around and say we’re doing work in the neighborhood here,” Anthony said. “We can give you a lower price.”

But they leave with your money.

As for Robinson, he did find some relief in the app TrueCaller which screens scam calls.

“It’s catching ’em now, so my phone rings a lot less.”

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From the destruction of Greece to democracy in Europe

In protesting the Treaty of Versailles ending World War I, John Maynard Keynes wrote: “The policy . . . of depriving the lives of millions of human beings, of depriving a whole nation of happiness should be abhorrent and detestable — abhorrent and detestable, even if it were possible, even if it enriched ourselves, even if it did not sow the decay of the whole civilized life of Europe.”

Last year’s third bailout of Greece, imposed by Europe and the International Monetrary Fund, does to Greece what Versailles did to Germany: It strips assets to satisfy debts. Germany lost its merchant marine, its rolling stock, its colonies, and its coal; Greece has lost its seaports, its airports — the profitable ones — and is set to sell off its beaches, the public asset that is a uniquely Greek glory. Private businesses are being forced into bankruptcy to make way for European chains; private citizens are being forced into foreclosure on their homes. It’s a land grab.


And for what? To satisfy old public debts, incurred for tanks, submarines, the Olympics, big construction projects outsourced to German firms, and to hide deficits in health care, with creditor connivance — a quagmire of graft to support an illusion, that Greece could “compete” as part of the euro. Already in 2010 the IMF knew it was breaking its own rules by pretending that Greece could recover quickly, sustain a huge primary surplus, and repay its debts. Why? To help save French and German banks, which the IMF’s sainted managing director, Dominique Strauss-Kahn, wanted to do, because he wanted to be president of France.

Europe crushed the Greek resistance in 2015. Not because Wolfgang Schäuble, the German finance minister, thought his economic plan would work; he candidly told the Greek finance minister, Yanis Varoufakis, that “as a patriot” he would not sign it himself. But Germany wants to impose its order on Italy and on France, where civil society continues to fight back. And Chancellor Angela Merkel could not admit to her voters, or to fellow Europeans from Slovakia to Portugal, that back in 2010 she’d saved Germany’s banks by saddling them with Greek debts that could never be paid.

Greece was given collective punishment as a lesson. It was done to show that “there is no alternative.” It was done to stop any other attempt to develop, articulate, and defend a more rational policy. It was done to protect the power of the European Central Bank, the German government in Europe, and the policy-making authority, in face of a long record of failure, of the IMF.

Greece is now a colony — the polite say “protectorate.” Elsewhere in Europe the left — Podemos in Spain, the Left Bloc in Portugal, Die Linke in Germany — has stalled out, for now. In France the Socialists are destroying themselves. Italy alone is interesting: It is in the midst of a banking crisis whose only solution is stronger growth; this requires the government to defy Eurozone doctrine or it may lose power to the radical Five Star movement soon. But, apart from that one case, progressive Europe is blocked.

Next up will be the far right, especially the National Front in France, which if it came to power would blow the European Union apart. Similar pressures are building in Poland and Hungary, which have governments already outside of European democratic norms. In Britain, right-wing Tories and the UK Independence Party have combined to vote the UK out of the European Union — although with surprisingly moderate political results so far.


That is why Europe needs the Democracy in Europe Movement. DiEM25, started by Varoufakis, is a new transnational European progressive movement. It is just getting underway, and it may go nowhere. But it presents a last, slim hope of holding the European Union together on terms that the peoples of Europe might accept.

Democracy would come by small steps at first. Transparency and accountability for Europe’s opaque governing institutions would come first. After that, an economic policy focused on jobs, investment, and sustainability. Ultimately there would have to be big changes, as revolutionary as the 2015 Athens Spring. The old oligarchies, the Brussels cabals, the self-serving technocrats, and the economic ideologues who now dominate European economic policy would have to yield.

Bring it on.

James K. Galbraith is the author of “Welcome to the Poisoned Chalice: The Destruction of Greece and the Future of Europe.’’ He teaches at the LBJ School at the University of Texas at Austin and he assisted Greek Finance Minister Varoufakis in 2015.

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Attorney General Bondi Takes Action to Stop Foreclosure Fraud

TALLAHASSEE, Fla.—Attorney General Pam Bondi today filed a court action to stop a group of non-lawyers operating an illegitimate foreclosure defense and loan modification law firm. Adam Forman, Joseph Hilton, aka Joseph Starr, Victor Spagnuolo and others, all of whom are not lawyers, operate the Asset Protection Law Firm, Heritage Law Group, Liberty Law Group, Consumer Legal Resources, Consumer Legal Advocates, Legal Referral Services, Galler Lehman Law and Selective Housing Solutions. According to the filing, the defendants, through these law firms, unlawfully deceived homeowners into paying hefty up-front and monthly fees for legal services not supervised or approved by licensed attorneys.

“Florida homeowners facing the stress of foreclosure should not have to worry about scammers posing as lawyers and making false promises of relief to get what little money the homeowners may have. Thanks to the great work and dedication of my Consumer Protection Division, we will continue to fight foreclosure rescue fraud and protect homeowners,” said Attorney General Bondi.

The Attorney General’s Office filed the action in cooperation with the Coral Springs Police Department, Boca Raton Police Department, the Broward County State Attorney’s Office and the United States Secret Service, which are separately investigating possible criminal charges for the unlicensed practice of law.

The Attorney General’s Office received 37 complaints from consumers about the defendants’ deceptive and unfair practices, including allegations that the defendants made misleading representations regarding the law firms’ expert legal services, charged unlawful up-front fees prior to the services being completed, failed to protect the consumers’ homes from foreclosure and failed to obtain loan modifications as promised.
The complaint seeks an injunction barring the defendants from engaging in future loan modification, foreclosure defense and legal services, and also seeks full restitution for consumers harmed by the defendants’ activities.

To view the complaint, click here.

Homeowners can follow these tips to safeguard against deceptive and unfair trade practices in the mortgage and foreclosure process:
Never pay any up-front fees and avoid any high-pressure sales tactics. Fees may only be collected after services are completed;
Try talking to lenders or a lawyer before contracting with any third-party company for rescue or modification services; and
Call the Florida Attorney General’s fraud hotline at 1(866) 9-NO-SCAM or file a complaint online at, if a homeowner believes to be taken advantage of by a disreputable company.

Attorney General Bondi’s Consumer Protection Division is the civil enforcement authority for all violations of the Florida Deceptive and Unfair Trade Practices Act. The Division protects Florida consumers by pursuing individuals and entities that engage in unfair methods of competition or unconscionable, deceptive and unfair practices in any trade or commerce. The Division also often partners with other state attorneys general, other state agencies, and the federal consumer protection enforcement agencies in joint enforcement efforts. Since 2011, the Division has resolved more than 550 matters and generated more than $10 billion in recoveries. Approximately $9.8 billion of that total has been scheduled or has already been returned to the benefit of Floridians.

Contact: Whitney Ray
Phone: (850) 245-0150

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US Olympic CEO Promises Further Action on Lochte and Three Other Swimmers

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Nine Injured After 74-Year-Old Ohio Woman Drives Onto Dance Floor at Outdoor Concert

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Your Weekend Digest: Louisiana flooding, H-E-B, and bully parents

Here’s a look at some of our top stories from the past week.

Are we ignoring Louisiana?

Parts of Louisiana saw devastating flooding last week, but major media outlets seemed preoccupied with riots in Milwaukee and controversial actions by Donald Trump.

Columnist Jacquielynn Floyd drew Texas’ attention to the plight of our next-door neighbors in a widely shared article on the floods.


UT sorority video goes viral

One Texas sorority recruitment video attracted international attention for all of the wrong reasons. The video features dozens of Alpha Delta Pi members chanting in unison.

Many social media users thought the video was disturbing. Others felt that the video highlighted a lack of diversity in the sorority.

Earlier: GuideLive’s top 10 sorority recruitment videos.


Black homeowners say Dallas firm pushed them toward foreclosure

A group of black New York homeowners is suing a Dallas equity firm called Lone Star Funds. The class-action lawsuit alleges that the homeowners were pushed toward foreclosure after the firm mislead them about their mortgages.

The federal lawsuit also targets the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. The federal agency sells delinquent mortgages to private investors like Lone Star Funds, leaving homeowners with fewer protections.


Texas’ STAAR ratings released

Schools across the country received their state accountability ratings last week. The ratings are largely based on the STAAR test, which was plagued with computer glitches, inaccuracies, and other problems.

Superintendents from across the state want the ratings to be thrown out, but Education Commissioner Mike Morath says that the STAAR results can be trusted.

Do parents bully schools?

School consultants Robert Evans and Michael G. Thompson say that schools across the country are having problems with overly demanding parents.

The consultants say that ‘bully parents’ come in three basic types: the Righteous Crusader, the Entitled Intimidator, and the Vicious Gossip.


H-E-B is coming to Dallas

The San Antonio-based grocer bought six Sun Fresh Market stores in North Texas, and people are excited.

H-E-B will open four Dallas stores in Uptown, Lake Highlands, Lakewood and Northwest Dallas. McKinney and Grapevine are getting stores too. It is unclear whether the former Sun Fresh sites will become H-E-B or Central Market stores.


The Texas Rangers opted against $80 million sun shade

They want to build a new $1 billion retractable-roof stadium instead. 

The rangers first looked into adding a massive shade canopy to Globe Life Park, but decided that the logistics were too complicated.

A vote on the stadium is set for November 8. If approved, the city of Arlington will pay $500 million for the project.


ATT’s chief executive to head federal ‘Robocall Strike Force’

Randall Stephenson was asked by the Federal Communications Commission to head the federal government’s latest attempt to stop annoying robocalls. The strike force will involve device makers, developers, network designers and lawmakers.

“Our goal isn’t complicated,” Stephenson said. “Stop unwanted robocalls. Easy to say. Hard to do.”

The strike force hopes to be done with its work by Oct. 19.


Dallas Bishop Kevin Farrell is headed to the Vatican

Pope Francis summoned Dallas Bishop Kevin Farrell to work in the Vatican. Farrell will oversee a new department called the ‘Dicastery for Laity, the Family and Life,’ which focuses on the lives of ordinary Catholics around the world.

Farrell said, he was “extremely humbled” and “grateful for the holy father’s confidence in me.”


$90 million proposal would put a parking garage in Klyde Warren Park

The proposed plan calls for a new deck topped by a parking garage, offices and a restaurant, among other things.

Jody Grant, the chair of the Woodall Rodgers Deck Park Foundation, says that the entire expansion project will be abandoned if the garage is not approved.


Editorial: It’s time to stop calling fringe white supremacist groups ‘the Ku Klux Klan’

At one point, the Ku Klux Klan had millions of members, but that national organization was dismantled by internal scandals and heavy federal prosecution.

The Southern Poverty Law Center estimates that there are only between 5,000 and 8,000 active Klan members left, and that they are “split between different – and often warring – organizations that use the Klan name.”

Continuing to describe these white supremacy groups as “the Ku Klux Klan” implies an organizational unity that does not exist and creates a misleading link to the powerful KKK organization of the 1920s.

Perhaps it is time to start referring to these groups as ‘neo-KKK’ organizations.

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Truck stop bad idea in Carbon Hill?

From the Journal Record

Williams defends truck stop decision 

Mayor, financial advisors felt proposal was too risky for city


Staff Writer

HAMILTON  - Hamilton Mayor Wade Williams said he and other city representatives turned down a proposal in late 2015 for a truck stop as it would have required a $5 million bond issue that included half  of those funds to benefit an insurance investment by developers.

Williams released documents this week that showed  even the city’s bond attorney and its financial advisor, First National Bank of Hamilton, recommended not doing the deal.

Developer and current Hamilton mayoral candidate Ray Harper announced on Thursday, Aug. 11, he and Wayne Riggs of Hamilton are developing a travel center (truck stop) in Carbon Hill at U.S. Interstate 22. Harper said he hoped construction could begin in October, adding it will initially create 35 jobs.  

Williams indicated on Aug. 16 that people have asked why Hamilton could not have received a similar truck stop project. He said Harper has also noted in campaigning that Hamilton could have had a truck stop. 

Williams, Harper and  Bob Page are all running for mayor in the Tuesday, Aug. 23, municipal elections.  

Williams on Aug. 16 released a letter he said the city sent to the development team, dated Aug. 31, 2015. Harper said on Wednesday of this week he and Riggs did not get the letter; the mayor and Hamilton city attorney Scott Hunt said it was likely sent only to their bond attorney, Wyatt Haskell of Birmingham. 

“This is in response to your request concerning a proposed truck stop project within the City of Hamilton,” Williams wrote in the letter. “As a brief summary, you have asked that the city issue $5 million of general obligation warrants (the ‘city warrants’) to develop, own and lease the facility to you. 

“The city warrants would be payable from lease payments made by you, death benefits resulting from elderly life insurance policies acquired with proceeds of the city warrants, and a full faith and credit promise by the city to cover all $5 million of principal, plus interest. Following payment of the city warrants, you would have the right to purchase the truck stop for $1,000.”

Williams released a statement on Wednesday through Hunt’s office, saying, “Between April and the end of 2015, I had several discussions with (Harper, Riggs and Haskell) concerning a potential truck stop at one of our Hamilton exits. Obviously, I am always happy to entertain someone that is willing to invest in Hamilton and develop properties for industrial, commercial or retail.

“However, the proposals presented concerned me and the city’s financial advisors. Initially, the city was requested to create an improvement district, but the developers were unable to successfully answer a list of questions that I presented to them concerning their proposal and the property planned for the development. Later, the developers presented a plan that revolved around a $5.5 million bond issue backed by a general obligation of the City of Hamilton. 

“This plan was wrought with issues that I expressed to the developers and asked them to help us resolve the issues, but the developers never responded.” 

Hunt asked to meet with the Journal Record and Williams on Sept. 18, 2015, in Hunt’s office to talk about the proposal made for Hamilton, as the officials said then that people were talking about how the city turned down a deal for a truck stop.

The interview with Williams and Hunt was not published at the time as Harper and Riggs later never spoke about the proposal at a council meeting, as was expected.   

Hunt said the two men approached the city about the truck stop. 

Hunt said, “It may have morphed into a truck stop. There may have been some other ideas originally, but basically it settled” into a full-service, independent, 24/7 truck stop on 10-15 acres with a sit-down restaurant and showers. 

“They wanted the city to be involved,” he said. “Ultimately, the proposal that was presented to the city consisted of–they wanted the city to do a $5 million general obligation bond,” although “the last thing we saw may have been $5.5 million.”

About 40 jobs would be created

Williams said the proposal would have resulted in about 40 jobs, “which is something Hamilton needs.” He said city officials also know that “we need development on the interstate,” which could be jump-started through a truck stop or a hotel.

“But it’s got to be a good deal for the city,” Williams said, noting a $5 million general obligation bond “is a pretty steep commitment for us.” 

Asked if a $5 million bond issue would be expensive for  a truck stop, Hunt said the city was “intrigued” about the possibilities of revenue, growth on the interstate and new jobs (albeit many being part-time, low-paying jobs).

“There is no particular parcel of land that has been purchased yet to do this,” Hunt said. 

Moreover, the concern the city had was putting its name on a bond, Hunt said. Other security would be put up “to where the city might not ever have to pay anything, but still, we would be on the hook.” 

Hunt also said, speaking for himself and the mayor, “I think a big issue the city also had, that we had personally, is that half of the investment, of the $5 million or so, was going to purchase security for the repayment of the bond. In other words, roughly $2 million to $2.5 million was all that the project had planned to build an actual truck stop, and to purchase the property and the equipment and to put inventory in there. 

“The other $2.5 million went to purchase security for the bond, the payment of the bond. That also gave us very serious concerns. And it’s rare that we would ever recommend the city doing a general obligation bond for a private development. It’s obviously been done before, but I think in the future that is something we would be extremely conservative about, but if it were done, it would mostly likely be done on some type of manufacturing with higher-paying jobs.” 

Bond attorneys did not like idea

The mayor said the city’s bond attorneys “did not give their blessing” for the project. “They just don’t see how it would work.”  (In his August 2015 letter, Williams said the city approached its financial advisor, First National Bank of Hamilton, and its bond counsel, Bradley ArantBoult Cummings LLP, and that they had concerns.) 

Hunt said the plan to purchase security for the payment involved purchasing life insurance.

“There is this pool of investments. A company will buy up people’s life insurance. If you have a $1 million life insurance policy, for whatever reason you need the money now–you don’t need it when you are dead. So you say, ‘Wade, I will sell you my life insurance if you give me $500,000. You get the $500,000 and you go on your merry way. 

“Now, Wade owns your life insurance for $1 million. When you die, he gets $1 million. Of course, he has to continue to make the premiums on your life insurance.”

The pool Hunt referred to buys up life insurance. If one has a life expectancy of six months, a year or two years–at the most, seven years, the idea would be that the developers would spend $2.5 million to purchase up to $5 million of life insurance so that within seven years, they would be getting that money back, Hunt said. 

However, the mayor questioned if the majority of the people the policies are taken out on live to 90 or so. “You are not for sure going to die within that seven years,” Williams said.

What if the people live longer?

Also, Hunt noted that the bond issue would pay the insurance premiums once they are purchased. However, if the people live longer than expected, the bond money would run out and someone–likely the city–would have to pay that much more in premiums over time. 

“Or we might be on the hook for a dead truck stop. If it doesn’t fly, we might be paying the bill for five years,” he said. At that point, Hunt explained, the city would not be able to recover those extra payments in city revenue if the truck stop goes out of business. 

Hunt said the problem with only doing $2.5 million instead of $5 million in bonds is the developers have “no way” to secure the $2.5 million. “It would have to be all solely the city’s general obligation,” he said. “No one would give the money on a speculative truck stop. We’re not talking about a Pilot or a Love’s.”

Williams said, “It would be an independent-owned that could turn into one of those name brands.” 

Also, the environmental issues associated with a truck stop would have to be dealt with, and if the truck stop ceased to operate, the facility could likely not be used for anything else but a truck stop, Hunt said. 

The city’s attorney said bond counsel for the city put down on paper all the reasons he didn’t like it and the mayor sent that response to the developers. 

An executive session was held with the Hamilton City Council on Sept. 8, reportedly about the proposal. 

Riggs and Harper “wanted to speak to the council,” but the mayor asked to speak to the council first, Williams said. However, he said the council did not seem to be in favor of the plan, so it was not placed on the agenda. 

However, Williams said in September 2015 he had decided to allow the developers to speak to the council. Hunt said at the time the developers were asking for a proposal to still be considered and were willing to look at changes.

In the end, the developers never returned to speak to the council, leaving the proposal dead without being mentioned in a council meeting. The interview was never resurrected by the Journal Record, until Harper’s statements  prompted the mayor to release documents this week. 

Mayor sent response in 2015

In the newly released August 2015 letter, Williams wrote about concerns about the city’s pledge to “cover all the debt service.” While noting the developers would consider use of the city to be the “payment source of last resort,” Williams wrote city officials “cannot ignore the fact that if the truck stop is not successful, or payouts do not flow under the life insurance policies, then the city could have to pay all principal and interest. That, coupled with the size of this borrowing ($5  million representing over 25 percent of the city’s overall debt load), presents us with an incredibly risky proposition. 

“As stated by our bond counsel, the city would be betting its general fund on the success of the truck stop and death rates under insurance policies. We simply do not think that to be a prudent use of public funds.” 

Williams also noted the city’s financial advisor raised additional concerns about the city’s credit rating. 

“We understand that credit rating agencies would treat the city warrants like any other type of debt due to the city’s general obligation liability. Given the size of this borrowing, that could impair our credit rating; thus increasing our borrowing costs and limiting our access to credit markets.” 

He also pointed out in the letter about what he called the “unorthodox nature” of the deal, which he said could  call the city’s debt management practices into question, which could hurt in later activities, such as securing industry.

“Unlike a tax-sharing arrangement, our advisors are not aware of others in the state having utilized this structure,” Williams said–although he added that just because something is “unfamiliar does not mean it is flawed.” However, what works well in one city might be “problematic” in another.

“We certainly want you to locate the project in Hamilton and for it to be a great success, and we are more than happy to help with your efforts to locate other sources of funds. I hope you will not hesitate to let me know if we can be of any help in that process.”

Haskell sends memo to city

Williams also released a memorandum dated Dec. 7, 2015, from Haskell to Williams and Hunt that reviewed the proposal submitted to the city. 

“Mr. Riggs and Mr. Harper will also jointly and severally unconditionally guarantee payment of the principal and the interest on the warrants when due,” Haskell said. 

The truck stop would be subject to foreclosure if rent was not paid as due, he said, attaching proposed expenditures and revenue. Haskell noted that the city could, under default, take possession and lease the facility to another tenant. 

He estimated that the gross margin would rise from $1.07 million in the first year to $1.63 million in the fourth year, and expenses would rise from $718,302 in the first year to $1.03 million the fourth year. The city would get $98,634 in revenue the first year and nearly $150,000 by the fourth year.

Haskell said a portion of the proceeds from the sale of the warrants will be used to purchase investment grade policies of insurance that would provide death benefits equal to the principal of the warrants. 

“Other proceeds of the warrants will be used to provide funds to pay the premiums on the policies until the expected death benefits are received,” he said. The policies can be purchased at considerable discount to the value of the death benefits. 

Haskell said the city would have “no liability whatsoever for payment of the warrants” unless the developers default, there is not enough money to pay the debt service, the death benefits are not sufficient to pay the warrants and the facility can’t be sold after foreclosure for an adequate amount–and only if all those events occur. 

The warrants are more marketable if the city backs them, he said. He added the city, under Amendment 84 of the Alabama Constitution, has powers to levy–without an election–a special property tax of up to 50 mills if a tax is necessary to pay the principal and interest of the warrants. 

Harper responds with statement

On Aug. 18, Harper released a statement, saying he had held his “last conversation” with Williams and Hunt, noting the proposal had been put together by Haskell, whom he called “one of the state’s foremost attorneys.” Haskell’s first bond issue was for Harper’s company, Holiday Homes, in 1969 in Hamilton, providing 200 new jobs. He also did bond issues for the late mayor E.T. Sims, Jr., who brought Harper to Hamilton.

“Hamilton’s best years were from E.T. Sims. If Mr. Haskell was good enough for E.T., he’s good enough for me,” Harper said.

“We asked to speak to the council (about the truck stop). Mr. Williams refused. I don’t know if they were ever told about this,” he said. “After having mayor Williams force Scott Hunt to call Mr. Haskell back several times, I decided we were dealing with unprofessional people. Mr. Haskell made three trips to Hamilton, and he is not cheap.

“I will explain this in detail to our next council and city attorney. Whether I am mayor or not, as I said, my conversation with Mr. Williams and Mr. Hunt is over. I promise we will build a truck plaza in Hamilton, Ala., if I am mayor or not. The Weston exit will be developed. That is my promise.” 

He charged the city’s bond attorney, First National Bank and Hunt “were all three against this deal, because they were not involved,” losing out on thousands of dollars. “We had our own bond people and our own CPA, so they were left out.” 

Ray said, “We did not ask for any money and gave you all the tax revenue, approximately $15,000 to $20,000 a month,” as well as 40 jobs, not all low-paying. 

He asked if Williams consulted the bond attorney and the bank “when you gave $1,300,000 for a motel and six shops and probably about zero tax revenue.” He charged the mayor lost Tiffin Motorhomes and Little Caesars to Winfield.

“So I guess six to 10 jobs and a motel for $1,300,000 is a better deal,” he said, apparently addressing Williams and Hunt. “People say and do dumb things when they are desperate and scared for their jobs, and you should be.”

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Senior seeks Chapter 7 relief for $19K credit cards

Client seeks Chapter 13 relief for massive default on mortgage

Senior seeks Chapter 7 relief for $19K credit cards

CLIENT is 55 and single. He appears to have no problems to worry about. He is self-employed and makes about $5K monthly teaching people a special skill. He has no dependents. He owns a house that has no equity. The house is worth $400K but he owes $420K on it. He has not paid the mortgage for at least 3 years and has massive arrears on his mortgage of $88K. He has applied several times for loan modification. Unfortunately, all attempts to modify were denied by the bank. I would surmise that his income is not easily verifiable. He filed another loan modification package three months ago (looks like he won’t take no for an answer) and the bank has yet to respond. Despite his pending loan modification request, the bank proceeded with a notice of default to start the foreclosure process. As you probably know, the bank is not supposed to proceed with foreclosure if there is a loan modification pending. However, the reality is that most banks don’t follow this law. Why should they? All you have to do is keep on resubmitting a loan modification package after each denial. As a result, the bank will never be able to foreclose on the house and you get to stay in your house without paying the mortgage forever. They’re not that dumb.

So, with a week before the foreclosure sale date, he comes to see me because he says he wants to stop the foreclosure. Well, the only sure way to stop the foreclosure is with a Chapter 13. Foreclosure stops upon filing of the Chapter 13 petition. The default amount gets frozen and client is given 60 months to pay the default in equal monthly installments without interest. However, the current mortgage payment must be resumed a month after the case is filed. I said, “Are you sure? Because your default is $88K and this means that your monthly plan payment to cure the default will be at least $1,466, and you have to resume your regular mortgage payment.” This means that in addition to your regular mortgage payment, you have to produce another $1,466 to save your house from foreclosure. Considering that the house has no equity isn’t it more productive to just abandon the house and rent somewhere since client is still single with no dependents. I mean, he lives by himself, so he can actually go buy a mobile home and live in it for less than $600 a month, plus rent of the space. That’s even less than the estimated plan payment. Or, he can just rent a room and pay $300 a month. There’s more than one way to skin a cat.

Client is headstrong and really wants to keep his house, I guess for sentimental reasons. He still believes that his pending loan modification might turn out ok. So he is willing to pay through his nose to save his house. Maybe it’s a matter of pride? Whatever the reason is, and I’m no psychiatrist, he is willing suffer a pyrrhic victory to save his house. A pyrrhic victory is one where the victor suffers a devastating loss to achieve victory. Of course, if the loan modification comes through, then the mortgage will become current again as the $88K default will just be added to the principal. There’s another problem that has just reared it’s ugly head. He has an adjustable rate mortgage that will reset next month by adding $500 to the monthly mortgage payment because of higher interest. When it rains it pours. On the other hand, client has no credit card debt, but he does pay for two new cars, total of about $900. Why not just abandon the house and live in the brand new van? That’s something to think about. The van has all the amenities of a house except a toilet and a kitchen. He doesn’t cook anyway. Maybe he can just buy one of those tiny houses? You can buy one for $20K. It has everything that a normal sized house has, except it’s smaller, like 200 sq. ft.

We just came back from the first hearing. Client paid the plan payment plus the first mortgage payment. I guess he could be hoarding a lot of cash since he hasn’t paid the house for two years.

Next client is 80. Finally, someone older than I. Would you believe, my oldest client for Chapter 7 was 92 years old! He did his first Chapter 7 case when he was 60. He had four wives and outlived all of them.  He just retired last month. His social security benefit is $1,000. His wife’s social security is $400. They migrated here just ten years ago. He had to work for ten years to qualify for social security. Rent is $900. He owes credit cards of $19K requiring minimum monthly payments of $700, which is 70% of his social security. Obviously, it’s high time to get rid of the $19K with a Chapter 7 petition. Client agrees and decides to file for Chapter 7 immediately. That’s the right decision of course.

“We wait in hope for the Lord; He is our help and our shield.” — Psalm 33:20

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Lawrence Bautista Yang specializes in bankruptcy, business, real estate and civil litigation and has successfully represented more than five thousand clients in California.  Please call Angie, Barbara or Jess at (626) 284-1142 for an appointment at 1000 S. Fremont Ave, Mailstop 58, Building A-1 Suite 1125, Alhambra, CA 91803.

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Phony lawyers preyed on financially strapped homeowners, authorities say

Authorities say two phony lawyers set up an office in Coral Springs and drew in more than 300 trusting homeowners on the brink of losing their homes to foreclosure.

Joseph Anton Hilton, 56, and Adam Forman, 46, owned The Asset Protection Law Firm, 3921 NW 126th Ave., which offered residential loan modifications and debt consolidation, authorities said.

But neither Hilton nor Forman, both of Parkland, was licensed to practice law in Florida, police said. Each has been charged with practicing law without a license, a third-degree felony. Hilton is jailed on $250,000 bond; Forman is being held on $75,000 bond, jail records show. Additional charges are pending.

According to the Florida Attorney General’s Office, the pair “deceived homeowners into paying hefty upfront and monthly fees for legal services not supervised or approved by licensed attorneys.”

Commentary: Officer’s death shines important a light on mental health

After 32 years of service, the July 25 death of Travis County Deputy sheriff’s Sgt. Craig Hutchinson made suicide real to our community at large. What better moment to try to better understand the complexities of suicide?

News reports paint a picture of a respected, even beloved member of the sheriff’s department. Sheriff Greg Hamilton publicly expressed his love for “Hutch,” the man who trained and mentored him, saying he was like a “big teddy bear.” By all accounts, his suicide came as a total shock to his co-workers and Hamilton.

Anecdotally and from research, we know that males in general are naturally predisposed to avoid seeking psychological help — especially first responders, who tend to have traditional family values with the male as the honorable, strong provider and protector who likely views psychological help as a sign of weakness.

Front-line law enforcement officers suffer trauma from the multiple sentinel events involving gunfire that they encounter, all too often caused by bad actors within their own force. Rather than seek help, they often fall silent, fearing stigma or being placed off duty with service revolvers taken away. (As an aside, our community just learned 50 years after the fact that it didn’t help to fall silent after the Charles Whitman shooting.)

It’s likely that Hutchinson suffered trauma, didn’t talk about it and became depressed and anxious. Symptoms typically include magnifying something small into something huge, feeling trapped and feeling they’re the only one who feels that way. They tend to isolate themselves and often self-treat with addictive behaviors. But they manage to pull themselves together at work.

+Commentary: Officer’s death shines important a light on mental health photo

Ricardo B.Brazziell

Travis County Sheriff Greg Hamilton speaks during a press conference with local news media at the Round Rock Police Department on … read more

Ricardo B.Brazziell

It’s no wonder that more law enforcement officers die by suicide than in the line of duty, according to the International Association of Chiefs of Police. Compare their suicide rate of 30.5 per 100,000 against the national average of 13 per 100,000.

The investigation found that Hutchinson was prescribed medication to treat anxiety and depression in December, but his autopsy revealed no trace of antidepressant in his blood. Did he stop taking his medication, unaware that antidepressants take three to six weeks to take effect?

The death investigation also found that Hutchinson, who made about $99,000 per year, had significant financial problems. His car was repossessed in June. On July 11, two weeks before his death, he received a foreclosure notice. His home off McNeil Road outside of Round Rock was to be put up for public sale on Aug. 2, the day that hundreds gathered for a hero’s funeral. To the sergeant, losing his car and home may have meant the ultimate symbol of failure, shame and disgrace.

It is possible to be suicidal and goal-directed at the same time. Once a plan is developed, often the individual becomes ebullient, which explains why the upbeat sergeant’s suicide stunned Hamilton. The plan to make it look as if he died in the line of duty would achieve many goals. It would protect his name. With nearly $1 million in local, state and federal survivor benefits, it would provide for his family. And importantly, it would end his suffering.

In a recent press conference, Hamilton tearfully stated a determination to help his staff. Many things can be done for all first responders at low or no cost. To name a few, conducting a professionally led staff debriefing session after each sentinel event; having counselors in line who specialize in trauma treatment for first responders; mandating yearly suicide inservices; and posting the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline — 800-273-TALK.

Mental health apps are an exciting new treatment modality. They can help individuals understand, track, treat and cope with their conditions. They are free, easy to use on a smartphone or tablet and can be very effective for a variety of conditions including post-traumatic stress, anxiety and depression. The Anxiety and Depression Association of America website has reviews of these apps.

Sgt. Hutchinson’s suicide has brought a new awareness to our community. Let’s make something of it.

Inglis, a retired nurse, served on the Austin Travis County Integral Care Board of Trustees for 12 years. Minot is a psychiatric clinical nurse specialist practicing in Austin.

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