Anna Nicole Smith Case Fizzles Out

Well, it looks like there is nobody to blame in Anna Nicole Smith’s overdose death, except Anna Nicole.

After a nine-week jury trial in 2010 I reported on November 9, 2010 that most of the charges against her boyfriend/lawyer Howard Stern, and her psychiatrist were dismissed, except for felony charges for conspiracy to obtain prescription drugs for Ms. Smith using a fraudulent name and prescribing opiates for an addict. Charges against her personal physician were also thrown out. The sentencing for Howard Stern and Dr. Eroshevich was to occur on January 6, 2011.

There was a sentence hearing this week, but before it got started Superior Court Judge Robert Perry ignored the jury’s decision and tossed out all the convictions, leaving only one misdemeanor count against psychiatrist Dr. Eroshevich for prescribing Vicodin to Ms. Smith.

Judge Perry, who presided over the jury trial, found that the evidence was “lacking and insufficient”. He also said that the prosecutors did not understand the law of conspiracy and the jury’s dismissal of most of the charges was a clear repudiation of the prosecutor’s case.

Perry held that in this media-crazed society it was not unreasonable for Howard Stern to obtain prescriptions for Ms. Smith under assumed names to protect her privacy. The Court referred to the situation when the dying Farrah Fawcett’s medical records were unlawfully released and the resultant breach of her privacy.

Perry also found Mr. Stern lacked the intent to commit fraud and Ms. Smith was not an addict, but she did suffer from chronic pain.

Dr. Eroshevich was sentenced to one-year probation and a fine of $100.00. The change from a felony conviction to a misdemeanor means the psychiatrist will not likely lose her medical license, although her practice and reputation have been decimated.

But not everyone is happy. The prosecutors have vowed to fight on and will appeal Judge Perry’s ruling. The Judge acknowledged there were medical practitioners who pushed pills, but not in Anna Nicole’s case.

Lawdiva aka Georgialee Lang

Top Three Tax Cheats in the World

New York hotel entrepreneur, the late Leona Helmsley was heard to say that “only the little people pay taxes”. She was right. You and I pay every penny we owe, just like millions of others in North America. It’s the filthy rich that get away with tax scams, those who don’t need a tax break at all. So who are the world’s worst tax cheats? Let me introduce my three finalists to you.

1. WALTER ANDERSON is an American telephone mogul who holds the record as the world’s biggest tax evader. A college dropout, he began his telecommunications career in sales, eventually morphing into an entrepreneur in the industry. Anderson was arrested in 2005 for secreting his corporate earnings in offshore accounts in Panama and the British Virgin Islands.
He plead guilty in 2006 to evading taxes on $365 million and was sentenced to nine years in prison and a restitution order of $200 million. His scams involved shell companies, offshore tax havens and secret accounts. Due to a “technicality” his fine was later reduced to a mere $23 million. Anderson continues to protest his innocence on his website “justiceforwalt”.

2. Country singer/songwriter WILLIE NELSON, “the redheaded stranger” has also had difficulties with the Internal Revenue Service. For reasons unknown, Willie failed to pay taxes on his significant career earnings and in 1990 was assessed $16.7 million in unpaid taxes. Willie released an album called “The IRS Tapes: Who’ll Buy My Memories” that quickly filled his coffers with money. The government also auctioned off some of Willie’s more valuable furnishings and memorabilia which were purchased by friends and fans who returned the items to him.

3. Fashion designer VALENTINO and his business/life partner GIANCARLO GIAMMETTI were fined $39 million by the Italian government for tax evasion. The couple moved from Italy to London in the late 90′s but their Italian couturier continued doing business in Italy, tax-free. Italian law provides that if one-half of an Italian’s income is earned in Italy, although the person may reside outside of Italy, tax must be paid on the Italian earnings. Valentino’s personal extravagance is evident in the documentary “The Last Emperor”.

Lawdiva aka Georgialee Lang

The High Cost of Cupid

The old way to meet potential partners was to hang out in bars and nightclubs and in the 1980′s many a happy marriage began at the disco. Personal ads in newspapers also gained popularity and created acronyms such as SWF (single white female) or AJP (American Jewish Princess). But the new wave of personal introductions is through the internet or professional matchmakers.

For well-heeled boomer women, companies like Hearts, RomancePros, Divine Intervention, JustLunch and hundreds of others, contract to introduce upscale sophisticates to charming, intelligent, eligible bachelors. For a price, of course.

Reality TV has also jumped on the bandwagon with Bravo’s Millionaire Matchmaker and VH1′s Tough Love.

But how successful are these matchmakers? Try as I might I have been unable to find any credible research or data on whether true love is actually realized as a result of these attempts at professional coupling. But anecdotally I can say that I am aware of dating disasters, hurt feelings and allegations of deceit involving companies who promise much, but deliver little.

Cases in point:

A beautiful, outgoing 45-year-old client of mine with professional business credentials paid $3,500.00 to a dating agency who asked her what her criteria for a match would be. She was not picky, open to either a blue-collar or white-collar worker but the candidate had to be at least 5’7″.

She was promised six dates over a twelve month period. Each of her first three dates were with gentleman who were under the height requirement. One was only 5’5″.

She complained to the agency but it seemed they were unperturbed, after all they already had her money. She declined the last three dates.

A second friend, a smart ex-beauty queen in her 50′s paid $2000.00. She carefully described her ideal mate. Her only non-starter was he had to be man of Christian faith. Her first two dates had never been inside a church, synagogue or mosque. Her last date was a non-practicing Jew. Over lunch she described the men she had met and to my surprise she had been lined up with a man named Doug who was dating another client of mine, at the same time!

She called a second dating agency and asked whether they had Christian men on their roster. This firm was honest and said no. She now wants her money back because she believes that the agency that took her money knew they had no candidates that met her requirements.

Case # 3 is the worst of all. This woman was introduced to the man of her dreams and fell madly in love with him. What she didn’t know was that he was a pathological liar and serial philanderer who had dated almost every eligible woman in his hometown, usually four or five at the same time, declaring undying love to each. Apparently, the dating agency kept him on their list and operated as a pimp, supplying women to him year after year. My friend spent several years under the illusion that this was forever-love.

When she discovered the truth she had a nervous breakdown, having spent several years as
his partner, lover, chef, interior designer, travel agent and therapist, abandoning her career, friends and family.

Should professional matchmakers be worried about lawsuits? I think they should. New York lawyer John Friedland, 51, recently sued Manhattan matchmaker Amy Laurent for $100,000.00 when her agency failed to provide him with suitable dates. After dropping $10,000.00 the disappointed lawyer found that the women introduced to him were already seeing other men, did not meet his criteria or had personal backgrounds that were less than stellar.

At hearing of the lawsuit Ms. Laurent callously quipped that she was a matchmaker, not a therapist. Later she backtracked and advised the media that she had no idea that Mr. Friedland was unhappy and she would be working this out with him. She purports to have a near-perfect track record of matches.

You say all is fair in love and war? I say men and women longing for a life partner deserve honesty and respect.

Lawdiva aka Georgialee Lang

Conrad Black: Back To Jail Or Not?

You may recall that the United States Supreme Court struck down the law on “honest services fraud” and sent Lord Black’s case back to the Appeal Court in Chicago for reconsideration, based on their analysis that the law was unconstitutional for vagueness and that “honest services fraud” required evidence of bribes or kickbacks.

Black had his day in Court where his lawyer argued that the fraud convictions should be set aside as should Black’s conviction for obstruction of justice. (removing boxes of documents from his office that were relevant to the fraud charges)

Several days ago the Court of Appeal delivered their judgment wherein they vacated Black’s two convictions for “honest services fraud”, but refused to vacate a separate fraud conviction, that was not “honest services fraud”, and upheld the obstruction conviction. The three Judges ordered that Black be re-sentenced by the original trial judge, taking into account the absence of the “honest services fraud” convictions.

Black’s counsel will now review the Court’s Reasons and determine if a further appeal should be launched on the two remaining convictions. The prosecutors could also decide
to retry Black on the conduct that resulted in the “honest fraud convictions” by proving these counts are capable of being characterized as pecuniary fraud. It is noteworthy that the Appeal Judges suggested in their Reasons that the State drop the matter in light of the already protracted litigation and the State’s dwindling finances.

But, the big question is “Will Conrad Black go back to jail or will the Court free him based on time served?” Black has already served two years of his six and a half year sentence.

State lawyers have been zealous with respect to their prosecution of Lord Black’s alleged criminal behavior and there is no reason to expect that they will now let their guard down. Black is in for another battle, which will add to his now $40 million tab for legal fees. Who knows how much this has cost the State of Illinois?

The saga continues.

Lawdiva aka Georgialee Lang

Judges Jail Juveniles For Cash

When I think of judicial corruption, I think of Russia, Iran, Zimbabwe, Yemen and other countries where justice can be bought and sold. I never think of Pennsylvania. When I think of Pennsylvania I envision rustic Amish carts drawn by horses and little girls wearing bonnets.

I hope the little Amish girls were not victims of the kickback operation engineered by former Pennsylvania State Court Judges Michael Conahan and Mark Ciavarella Jr. Together they arranged to close down the government-run juvenile detention facility and deliver young offenders to serve time in two private juvenile detention centres owned by a friend, in exchange for money: $2.8 million.

It went something like this. A juvenile offender would appear in their court on a petty offense, say theft or failing to appear. With no lawyer to assist them and contrary to a probation officer’s recommendation, Judges Conahan and Ciavarella would find the minor guilty and order them to serve a custodial sentence in their friend’s juvenile prison. One of the conspirators in the plot was a well-known lawyer, Robert Powell, who eventually wore a wire to obtain incriminating evidence against the Judges in exchange for a plea deal for himself.

Upon their arrests in 2009 the Judges resigned their elected positions and almost immediately entered into plea bargains to plead guilty to honest services fraud, wire fraud and tax evasion, in exchange for seven year prison sentences. At the plea hearing, it was apparent to the trial judge that Mark Ciavarella would not admit that he was involved in a “cash for kids” deal, minimizing the transactions to payments he called “finders fees”. The trial judge refused to accept the plea deals and ordered bail of $1 million for each of the accused.

A grand jury recently handed down a phalanx of new charges including racketeering, fraud, money laundering, extortion, bribery and multiple tax violations. Not to mention a class action civil suit brought by 400 of the victimized juveniles and their parents.

While Judges Conahan and Ciavarella are protected by judicial immunity for their judicial functions, counsel in the class action suit intend to argue that their deliberate fraud ought to permeate that immunity. As well, administrative decisions made by a judge are not caught by judicial immunity.

Judge Conahan has now made a second plea deal for one count of racketeering while Judge Ciavarella vows to fight on.

The reputation of a province or state’s justice system cannot tolerate rogue judges who do more than damage the victims of their crimes; they undermine a community’s trust in one of the most sacred foundational principles of a democracy: The Rule of Law.

Social reformist Henry Ward Beecher succinctly stated: ” Taking all the robes of all the Judges that have lived on the face of the earth, and they would not be large enough to cover the iniquity of one corrupt Judge.”

Lawdiva aka Georgialee Lang

Internet Lothario

He dressed like a successful executive and showed up with his driver and Bentley automobile, all in his quest to con women across Canada into investing in his venture capital business. But not before he wined and dined them and popped an engagement ring on their fingers.

He met his girlfriends/victims through a popular dating website and charmed them and their family members into investing over $1.5 million between 2007 and 2010. Women from Vancouver, Montreal and Halifax tell a similar story about Arvind Sanmugam, 49 years old, who was recently arrested in Toronto for fraud over $5000. None of the women have received any return on their investments.

His six victims agree that he wooed them, schmoozed them and then took their money. His schemes financially devastated his victims, with one woman selling her home to survive. Another of his victims, who says she is his fiance, still does not believe she has been duped. The police contacted her as she was traveling in the Philippines, ostensibly on business for Mr. Sanmugam.

He appeared today in a Toronto courtroom with his wife and one girlfriend in attendance. The Toronto police believe there are more victims, particularly in the Toronto area and hope to bring more charges.

An internet search shows that an “Arvind Sanmugam” is a member of Linkedin, a popular world-wide business network. He describes himself as a “market commentator, venture capitalist, public speaker on entrepreneurship, charities and capitalism… the Chairman of the World Police Academy and Chez Leeloo”. The websites for the Police Academy and Chez Leeloo are perfect examples of puffery. His Linkedin site says he has structured his businesses so that he can donate 90% of his income to the poor.

Other internet sites associate him with other activities and organizations, all of which look highly suspicious. The simple fact is if any of his victims had googled Mr. Sanmugam it would have been easily apparent that he is a con artist.

Arvind Sanmugam is a leech who needs to be locked up.

Lawdiva aka Georgialee Lang

SEC Busts Insider Trading with Help of Ex-Wife

Karen and David Zilkha’s marriage ended in messy divorce proceedings that included spousal abuse, restraining orders, an ongoing battle over their nine year old twins and a SEC investigation.

The marriage began in 1998 in Washington State where Mr. Zilkha worked for Microsoft. By 2001 the family had moved to Connecticut and a new job for Mr. Zhilka as a trader with hedgefund Pequot Capital Management. By 2003 their marriage was over and the divorce wars began. Eventually the financial aspects of the divorce were completed with Ms. Zilkha receiving $750,000.00 in assets including the family home.

The conflict started up again when in 2008 child support was to be reviewed. Mr. Zilkha filed updated financial information which included disclosure of a sum of $2.1 million. His ex-wife and her lawyer were mystified about the emergence of this asset, but then Ms. Zilkha remembered that before the collapse of the marriage, her husband had told her that he was negotiating a payment from Pequot.

Ms. Zilkha’s attorney knew that her client had kept the family computer and wondered if there was information about this money in old emails. What she found turned the case from a high conflict divorce case to a Securities Exchange Commission investigation of insider trading.

Emails retrieved from the computer hard drive provided proof that Mr. Zilkha had obtained confidential information from a former colleague at Microsoft that led to Pequot selling Microsoft shares with a payout to Pequot of $14 million.

Investigators at the SEC had long suspected that Mr. Zilkha had been involved in insider trading but with no “smoking gun” the investigation had languished.

CEO of Pequot, Arthur Samberg and Pequot paid fines and penalties to settle the case amounting to $28 million. Mr. Samberg, once the world’s largest hedgefund manager, sold the assets of Pequot and shut it down. Mr. Zilkha faces adminstrative charges with respect to his role as “tipper”.

Did Ms. Zilkha eventually get her child support? Don’t know, but under new legislation she received a reward of $1 million from the SEC for providing the evidence that was needed to convict.

Lawdiva aka Georgialee Lang

Roger and Me (With Apologies to Michael Moore)

Thank goodness for billionaire friends! Without them, I’m not sure that Conrad Black would have been in a financial position to post the $2 million bail set today by Chicago trial judge Amy St. Eve.

But Roger came through, big time. Roger Hertog, that is. He is a wealthy American philanthropist who is part of the conservative intelligentsia that includes Lord Black.

There is much speculation about Black’s current net worth after five years of litigation.
The mainstream media reports that he no longer owns his home in Palm Beach Florida, however, Black’s lawyer advised the Chicago Court that Black is in a position to recover the home upon payment of certain liens against it.

There is also the matter of the IRS’s claim that Black owes the United States government $71 million in income taxes for the benefits he received from Hollinger over the years. Black’s attorneys maintain that this claim is bogus, since Black did not reside in the United States and therefore had no obligation to pay taxes in the US.

So what’s next? Black’s current bail terms do not permit him to travel outside of the United States. However, he has been granted liberty to file an updated net worth statement which may persuade the Court to amend his bail conditions to permit him to travel to Canada. It is reported that his wife, Barbara Amiel, spends her time between Toronto and Palm Beach.

Word is that there are already plans in place to invite Black to speak at the prestigious Massey Lectures in Toronto and while several Canadian private clubs have expressed their disdain for his continued membership, it is noteworthy that he still holds his Order of Canada and likely will retain it.

I predict that Lord Black will make a triumphant return to Canada, even if it is just for the book tour for his new book due to be released this fall entitled “The Fight of My Life”.

Lawdiva aka Georgialee Lang

The Triumphant Conrad Black

Today the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeal in Chicago ordered that Lord Black be granted bail pending the trial court’s review of his fraud convictions. For Black “groupies”, you will know that the United States Supreme Court found that the charges he faced under the rubric of “honest services fraud” could not be sustained unless his conduct included bribes or kickbacks. It did not. The Supremes found that the law was overly broad and that behavior amounting to no more than aggressive business practices could be caught by it.

This turn of events leaves Mr. Black with only a conviction for obstruction of justice related to his removal of 16 boxes of documents from his office. The nub of the obstruction charge was that Black was under investigation and his removal of documents interfered with the investigation.

So what now? Criminal law pundits have a number of theories, including the observation that he will never go back to jail, as his time served is sufficient punishment for the obstruction conviction. He has served 28 months. Others opine that this case is too hard to predict. After all, the only person who continued to believe that he would be found innocent of the serious fraud charges was Lord Black.

Black’s prophetic utterances in 2003 and 2004 include the following:

” I urge you, (the press) no matter how addicted you are to representing me as having
been shamed, disgraced and chased out as a scoundrel, to contemplate the possibility
that there’s just a chance I may be innocent. As time will prove, I am.”

“When everyone is finished dancing on my grave, they may be disconcerted to find that I
am not in it.”

Black’s pursuit of justice is equally matched by his articulate and charming banter.

Lawdiva aka Georgialee Lang

Justice Delayed is Justice Denied

No system of justice is perfect, but Canadians are becoming increasingly perplexed and even angry about the speed (or lack thereof) of Canada’s trial process.

Case in point: Garth Drabinsky, the theatre impressario who mounted extravagant productions of Broadway musicals across Canada was arrested for fraud and forgery in 2002. By this time his productions had amassed 19 Tony awards and he was a member of the Order of Canada. It took years for his trial to begin. Finally in August 2009 he was sentenced to seven years in prison. He was released on bail to await the outcome of his appeal, however, the appeal is nowhere close to being heard as his lawyers have not even filed their written argument with the Ontario Court of Appeal. White-collar criminal Drabinsky still enjoys his freedom and the luxuries provided by his ill-gotten gains.

Had Drabinsky been tried in the United States, like Conrad Black, he would have been charged, tried, and sentenced within a couple of years.

An even starker example of systemic failure is the debacle known as the Air India trial. Bagri and Malik were charged with over 300 counts of first degree murder in 2000, some 15 years after the explosion of Air India flight 182 off the coast of Ireland. They were not tried until 2003 and it took a further three years to conclude the process. The pair were acquitted in 2006.

Swift, measured justice is necessary if one wishes a justice system that is revered and respected. I’m not suggesting that speed should trump careful deliberation and fairness, however, Canadian courts must recognize that the administration of justice is debased in the face of trials that seem to never begin and never end.