Saturday, November 8, 2008

Looting Free for All .- Victims You Are On Your Own!

post by Ray Fernandez

The culture of entitlement is in full swing and picking up steam the looting of assets is the word de jour , it doesn't matter how you loot or who you loot the important thing is that you loot!

Perhaps it doesn't bother you that Goldman Sachs, which is getting $10 billion from the bailout plan, is paying out $6.85 billion in bonuses, according to media reports. That's $210,000 per employee. And that's despite a 47% drop in its profit and 53% drop in its share price.

or that Morgan Stanley, which is also getting $10 billion from our government, is doling out $6.44 billion in bonuses or $138,700 per employee, even though its profits tumbled 41% and its shares are off by 69%. And even the failures at Lehman Brothers are collectively getting over $1 billion in bonuses.

How about the fact that fat cats and public figures , if they DO get caught with their hand in the cookie jar all they have to do is resign to avoid criminal prosecution! Case in point todays headlines "No charges for Spitzer" the public servantwho spent thousands of tax payers money and an investigation by the FBI and the IRS’ Criminal Investigation Division determined that Spitzer made payments to bank accounts, one named QAT Consulting, that had been used to launder more than $1 million worth of criminal proceeds derived from the Emperors Club VIP’s prostitution business, according to U.S. Attorney Michael Garcia. Spitzer got off scot free.

And from the city St. Petersburg , Florida If you are unfortunately enough to be caught in a scam the word from the authorities is YOU ARE ON YOUR OWN

— Few things anger homeowners more than contractors who take them for thousands of dollars and mess up the work. And don't ask the small-business owners about the scams that cost them their companies.Fraud victims expect that if they alert law enforcement to the bum that took them, he'll be arrested. Often, it doesn't happen.

The disputes usually involve too much he-said, she-said for law enforcement to wade through, and victims are told the dreaded, "It's a civil matter."

This declaration is the end of the line for most fraud victims. Pursuing a case in civil court is time-consuming, expensive, a hassle. Most people would rather just get on with their lives. Debbie Rowe and Scott Plantz are not most people.

They don't know each other; their cases are unrelated. But they share a kindred spirit that no matter what it takes, they are not giving up until the person they say wronged them gets his.
Rowe says a contractor ruined her home addition and cost her a fortune. Plantz says a con man took his business for $59,000 with the promise to build a Web site for his company.

Rowe and Plantz refused to accept, "It's a civil matter." They mined public documents to find other victims, so they could show authorities a pattern of fraud.

"I'll fight to the death if I know I'm right," said Rowe,55, who has had various jobs including painting and trying to start her own bakery business. "I think God put me on this earth to help people."Added Plantz, an emergency medicine physician: "You don't want this to happen to someone else. It's the simple reality of civic duty."
Rowe's tale began almost four years ago, when she wanted an addition to her St. Petersburg home for her elderly mother.

She hired contractor Jack B. Quick. And like the nursery rhyme character, the contractor may have burned himself playing with fire.

Rowe gave Quick about $30,000 for a project the contractor said would cost $95,000. After repeated delays that left her home open to the elements,she could not get satisfaction. She hired other contractors to repair and finish parts of the job, until she ran out of money to finish the work or to sue Quick. Rowe complained to county and state licensing agencies. But rather than investigate, the county challenged her accusations. The state contracting licensing board found no cause for action against Quick.

She took matters into her own hands. To find other potential victims, she researched building permits under Quick's name. She found other complaints with consumerprotection agencies. She amassed ..a file on Quick that filled large notebook binders.

"We don't have any protection," Rowe said.

That's how other homeowners feel after suffering an unscrupulous contractor. But by pressing such agencies as the Pinellas Department of Justice and Consumer Services as well as the Fourth Estate, Rowe finally earned herself the pleasure of Quick being arrested on grand theft charges.

It took two years from the time Rowe launched her campaign until Quick was picked up and accused of taking money without intending to complete contracted work.

A conviction won't help Rowe's pocketbook. But she said that's beside the point. "We're not going to get any money. It's about putting a stop to at least one (problem) contractor."

Plantz does not expect any money, either. His business lost $59,000 on a Web site development contract.

After contractor John P Heintz failed to meet Plantz's vision for a Web site that would provide online training for nurses, the doctor filed a fraud complaint with St. Pete Beach police.

But the pace of the investigation and what he viewed as a lack of interest only angered the doctor. He hired an investigator, researched court records and searched the Internet.
After spending thousands of dollars, Plantz discovered Heintz had left a trail of criminal charges, bankruptcies and lawsuits from Illinois to Michigan to Florida. Other clients told Plantz how they were taken by Heintz.

Finally, Plantz questioned investigators for the State Attorney's Office why Heintz was on the street and not in prison. "It takes perseverance to build a company," Plantz said. "It can be destroyed in a second.

You take away the American dream. That's what this guy does."

Plantz's persistence has prompted investigations into Heintz's activities.
Pinellas State Attorney Bernie McCabe said it isn't always clear if a case is civil or criminal. "Bad business, that's a civil matter. Did they take the advance with no intent to complete the job? That's a criminal matter. Were there a string of victims all in the same lurch?".

Reference: Bailout Failure and Investing in America's Future

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