There’s a Sucker Born Every Minute

GEO#1PT Barnum of circus fame is credited with saying “There’s a sucker born every minute”, and that’s just what hucksters and fraud artists count on.

Here’s the email I received today…

“I hope you get this email on time, I made a trip to (Philippines) and had my bag stolen from me with my passport and credit cards in it. Went to the embassy and they are willing to help me by issued me a temporary passport but i have to pay for a ticket and settle my hotel bills with the Manager here. Unfortunately for me, I can’t have access to funds without my credit card, i was wondering if you could loan me some few $ through western union money transfer easy for me to cash here and pay bills and get back home, I will definitely refund it back to you as soon as i get back safely.

let me know so I can forward you the details to wire it to me. Susan”

Oh, yes, I think I’ll contact Western Union right now!

I also recently received an email from a woman in Japan who wanted to retain me to assist her to collect a large sum of money from her ex-husband who happened to live in Vancouver. She asked me to begin by writing to her ex to determine if he would pay the sum he owed voluntarily or whether it would be necessary to commence a court action.

From the get-go it smelled like a scam, so in return I sent her an email advising her that in British Columbia we have “know your client” rules which require that she provide picture ID to show who she was.

Not a problem. Within a day I received a copy of a passport and an official ID card in her name with a photo of her. Her emails were all unfailing polite and to a less suspicious individual she appeared to be an ideal client as she informed me that upon my successful collection of the monies owed I would be paid my legal fees in a generous amount.

At this point her scam was no longer amusing to me and I ended the email conversation. She contacted me several times thereafter wondering why her Vancouver lawyer had not been in touch.

Had I carried on with her she would have excitedly told me that my letter had served its intended purpose and that I should expect to receive a large cheque from her ex and would I kindly deposit it to my trust account and send her my trust cheque for the monies, less my generous fee.

Had I complied, she would have received her money from my account and I would be left owing my bank a large sum of money once it became obvious that the deposited cheque was worthless. The financial consequences to me would pale in comparison to the humiliation of being so thoroughly scammed.

This scenario is just one of the hundreds of internet swindles floating through cyberspace.

Have you heard of the “grandma” scam where a young adult posing as your grandchild, obtains enough information from Facebook and other social sites to pepper her email solicitation with accurate family information. She is in trouble and needs money to either get out of jail or purchase an airline ticket to fly home to escape a dangerous situation.

The “Nigerian” scam is so old it is truly surprising that it still nets internet crooks millions of dollars a year. If you could only send money to this Nigerian diplomat, he could obtain millions of dollars that belong to his family and share it with you!

The FBI reports that between 2000 and 2009 internet fraud accounted for $1.7 billion in financial losses to unsuspecting consumers. The best way to avoid being the victim of internet fraud is to assume that every email overture concerning money involves a criminal looking for a victim. Don’t let it be you.

Lawdiva aka Georgialee Lang

Bruce Jenner Gender Bender

DSC00507 (2)You can’t open a newspaper or magazine today without reading about Olympian Bruce Jenner’s sex change. At first I didn’t believe it, but with his longer hair, nail polish, adam’s apple and facial surgery, together with his mother’s remarks to the media, I now believe it’s true. I also understand that he remains sexually attracted to women and so will live as a lesbian. I can’t imagine the courage it takes to commit to this transition so late in life.

His story, however, reminds me of an article in the New York Post about a gender change involving prominent ABC network news editor and producer, Don Ennis.

One morning in 2013 Mr. Ennis arrived at the ABC New York studios wearing a tight black dress and a long brown wig and advised his colleagues he was transitioning to a female. He asked to be called “Dawn”.

“Please understand,” he said in a statement, “this is not a game of dress-up, or make-believe, it is my affirmation of who I now am and what I must do to be happy, in response to a soul-crushing secret that my wife and I have been dealing with for more than seven years, mostly in secret.”

He left his wife of 17-years and began living as a woman however, the “change” lasted only three months when he realized he had made a mistake. He was a man.

Apparently Mr. Ennis was a child actor whose mother gave him female hormones to extend his modest acting career. Over the years he felt like a man trapped in a woman’s body and eventually had a breast augmentation.

After suffering from what he describes as two days of “transient global amnesia” he realized he was not a woman and had been misdiagnosed. His letter to friends and workmates to announce his second gender reversal read:

“I am writing to let you know I’m changing my name . . . to Don Ennis. That will be my name again, now and forever. And it appears I’m not transgender after all.

I have retained the much different mind-set I had in 1999: I am now totally, completely, unabashedly male in my mind, despite my physical attributes,

I’m asking all of you who accepted me as a transgender to now understand: I was misdiagnosed. I’m already using the men’s room and dressing accordingly.”

Mr. Ennis sought professional help at the National Institute of Health in Bethesda Maryland to understand why his mind and body changed from male to female. He was told he had a hormone imbalance. After his bout with amnesia he suffered a “drastic loss of memory” and could only remember himself as a man, hence the second gender reversal.

Medical literature describes the amnesia suffered by Mr. Ennis as related to emotional instability triggered by a phobic or challenging precipitating event.

Unfortunately for Dawn/Don, he changed his mind again and showed up at work in his female attire. It may just have been bad timing, but shortly thereafter he was fired from ABC for “performance issues”.

Not hard to understand that his mind may not have been on his work! Hopefully for Dawn/Don he will receive the support and treatment he so sorely needs.

The statistics on sex change reversals are highly controversial. The transgender community asserts that reversals are rare, however, website SexChangeRegret.com disagrees.

While in the past the media rarely reported on these stories, more recently they have been making news, including the fate of the transexual Belgian man who was permitted by Belgian authorities to participate in legal euthanasia.

Lawdiva aka Georgialee Lang

Judge’s Child Support Ruling Goes Viral

_DSC4179 - Version 2Life isn’t always fair, but Carnell Alexander expected that a judge in Michigan would right the wrong. As he described it:

“How can you start a case with a lie? The mom lied. The process server lied. Now I have to pay for it.”

In 1987 a young woman gave birth to a child. In order to get welfare funds from the government she was obliged to fill out a form indicating who the father of her child was. She named Carnell Alexander as her child’s father.

She then filed a court action alleging he was the father and sought child support.

A process server was hired to personally deliver the court documents to him, as was required by law.

A court hearing took place but Carnell Alexander wasn’t there. He was in jail serving time for a juvenile offence.

Later in the early 90’s Carnell was checked in a routine traffic stop and advised there was a warrant for his arrest. The police officer told him he was a “deadbeat dad”.

You can imagine his surprise…he had never received notice of the paternity hearing as he was behind bars at the time, and he swore he had no children.

He began searching for the woman who had named him as father so he could prove he was not, through DNA testing, but his efforts failed until 2013 when a paternity test was administered.

With his grade 8 education and no assets or income, he could not afford a lawyer, but each occasion he went to court he repeated the refrain that he was not the child’s father.

But the government wanted him to pay arrears of child support of $30,000, so he showed up in court on his own expecting that justice would prevail. Boy, was he wrong!

Judge Kathleen McCarthy said she was “outraged that Mr. Alexander for two and a half decades failed to take this matter seriously.”

She said that Mr. Alexander should have filed documents protesting paternity years ago and because he did not, he must pay the support.

Yes, even though he had no notice, was not the father, and the child’s biological father was in his life, he must pay.

Feeling helpless, Mr. Alexander went to Michigan radio station WXYZ who broadcast his story.

And yes, Judge McCarthy was outraged about that too saying:

“I am outraged at the media for the willful misrepresentations of the facts of this case. Casting this court in a negative light.”

Due to the media exposure Carnell Alexander now has a pro bono lawyer, Cherika Harris, who has vowed to continue the fight for him.

As for Judge McCarthy, it is not the radio station that has cast a negative light on her court. She did that all on her own.

Lawdiva aka Georgialee Lang

Family Law Lawyer’s “Social Media Strategy” Leads to Suspension From Bar

10950859361151CDPEven the best lawyers don’t win every case they take on. While a client deserves the best defence or offence possible, sometimes the facts cannot be marshalled in a client’s favour, despite a lawyer’s competence and zeal.

Other times, the law simply does not support the position advanced by counsel on behalf of a client. In cases like these, most lawyers are smart enough to tell their clients, in writing, that their chances of success are dim and the cost of pursuing a weak claim may be unjustifiable.

Remarkably, many clients continue to pursue a case even in the face of such an opinion and that is certainly a client’s prerogative.

Family law lawyer Joyce Nanine McCool acted for mother, Raven Boyd, in a difficult custody case that included allegations that the children’s father had sexually abused them.

After rounds of litigation before two different judges, Judge Deborah Gambrell and Judge Dawn Amacker, of Mississippi and Louisiana respectively, Ms. McCool was disappointed with her lack of success in proving her client’s claims and decided to implement an out-of-court strategy.

She initiated an online petition that implored potential supporters to:

“Sign our petition telling the judges that there can be no justice … if the law and evidence is ignored, Ask yourself, what if these were your daughters? … Horrified? Call the judges and let them know.”

The website promoting the petition also contained information that was not to be made public due to a sealing order. As well, Ms. McCool linked audio recordings of her client questioning the children about the alleged sexual abuse, again contrary to an order made by the Court.

But there was much more…the website provided misleading and inflammatory statements about Judges Gambrell and Judge Amacker and their alleged refusal to listen to recordings of the children accusing their father of molestation:

“Now consider that no judge has ever heard those recordings. Why? Because for 4.5 years, they have simply refuse (sic) to do so. On August 16, 2011, Judge Deborah Gambrell in the Chancery Court of Marion County, Mississippi, once again refused to admit all of Raven’s evidence, including these recordings, and ordered that H (REDACTED) and Z (REDACTED) have visits with their father in the house where they both report having been molested by their father in the past.”

However, that statement was completely false as Ms. McCool later admitted she did not bring the recordings to court and did not seek to enter the recordings as evidence at any time, either before Judge Gambrell or Judge Amacker.

Ms. McCool’s media campaign also included the posting of misleading articles online, and twitter rants with links to the online petition:

“Judge Gambrell at it again – turned a 4 YO child over to a validated abuser – PLEASE TELL ME WHAT IT WILL TAKE FOR EVERYONE TO SAY ‘ENOUGH’.”

“Make judges protect H (REDACTED) and Z (REDACTED) from abuse by their father!…”

Judge Gambrell brought a formal complaint about Ms. McCool’s behaviour to the Bar Association after receiving a barrage of telephone calls from members of the public and multiple copies of the petition and assorted tweets.

The disciplinary panel determined that Ms. McCool knowingly, if not intentionally. resorted to a campaign intended to “intimidate and influence the judges’ future rulings in pending litigation…and threatened the independence and integrity of the judiciary…causing the judges to be concerned for their personal safety”.

An aggravating factor was the use of the internet, a medium that would display Ms. McCool’s unprofessional tactics for a long time to come.

Her punishment? A suspension of one year and one day, together with a mandatory ethics program.

Clearly a stiff penalty, to lose one’s source of income for a year, but Ms. McCool’s lack of remorse and lack of understanding as to the consequences of her behaviour contributed to the panel’s decision.

Her zeal to win her client’s case made her lose sight of her obligations as an officer of the court, a mistake that will be costly for her.

Lawdiva aka Georgialee Lang

Witty Judge Pens Acerbic Judgment

GEO CASUALMr. Justice Joseph Quinn of the Ontario Superior Court well-deserves his international reputation as a clever intellect, a raconteur of immense talent, and a really funny scribe.

In one of his latest judgments, The Hearing Clinic (Niagara Falls) Inc. v. 866073 Ontario Limited, et al., 2014 ONSC 583, his acerbic wit shines as he records his fond memories and legal findings of a 72-day trial, spread over three years, that dealt with the allegedly fraudulent sale and purchase of a hearing aid business in Niagara Falls, Ontario.

The star witness in the case was Stefan Fridriksson, an audiologist who purchased a hearing aid business from the corporate defendant. While his lawyer referred to him as “Dr.”, Quinn J. put an end to that designation upon learning that the title was prohibited by the College of Audiologists and Speech-Language Pathologists of Ontario.

Blessed with an orderly mind, Justice Quinn set out a Table of Contents with headings that include:

“Is There a Doctor in the House?

“Fridriksson plays Lieutenant Columbo with Inspector Clouseau results”

“All the Madness That’s In Your Head”

“….Nor Hell A Fury Like an Audiologist Scorned”

“Fridriksson The Fabricator”

While trial counsel usually turns to the back page of Reasons for Judgment to see the results of a trial, in this case, the Table of Contents gave it all away.

Yes, the trial got off to a shaky start, described by Justice Quinn in his first paragraph:

“Leave an untruthful man in the witness box long enough and he will reveal himself to the world. Here ends the lesson, but not the story.”

Unfortunately, the first witness was Dr., no make that Mr. Fridriksson who according to Quinn J. “sub-let the witness box for 26 days” with dire results:

“He entered the box as an articulate professional with impressive academic credentials, displaying what appeared to be a sound and comprehensive recollection of events. When he stepped down, after more than 14 days of withering cross-examination, he was noticeably dazed, his credibility was reduced to existential confetti and he even appeared to be physically shorter than when the trial began.”

Fridriksson turned out to have a less than credible curriculum vitae. Where he noted he was a professor he wasn’t, when he said he was an adjunct professor, he wasn’t that either. What was he? An unpaid lecturer!

But that was the least of his problems. The Court identified the often troublesome task of determining credibility:

“We have no special powers in that realm and, wherever possible, avoid reliance upon darts, dice and Ouija boards. However, rarely, has a witness generously offered up so many reasons to be disbelieved. Fridriksson was an evidentiary gift who kept on giving. He ignored rule number one
in the Litigants’ Credo: “Know thyself, because others soon
will.” Enough of this preamble. Come with me now on a visit to the phantasmagorical work of Fridriksson. Pack light.”

But the quips keep on coming, like an avalanche:

“For Fridriksson truth is like a spandex undergarment:he can stretch it to fit anything.”

“Readers must never forget. This is a key witness for a plaintiff alleging oral false misrepresentations.”

“I do not know who enjoyed this cross-examination more, me or (defendant’s counsel). The only thing missing was popcorn.”

“His testimony deserves a special descriptor, coined for the occasion: “incredibull.”

This judgment tickled me so much that I recommend you read all 326 pages…it’s a laugh a minute. Oh, yeah, Fridriksson was awarded $423.00 in damages.

One last zinger:

“Fridriksson has taken everyone on a hideously time-consuming and obscenely expensive journey down his private yellow brick road to the outskirts of the Emerald City where, it appears, he has a residence. It was not a worthwhile adventure,” the judge writes.

Lawdiva aka Georgialee Lang

Attorney Uses Forged Power of Attorney to “Pull the Plug” on Her Wealthy Father

Elder abuse is a world-wide phenomenon that has only recently received the attention and research dollars that it deserves. For our senior citizens who are victims of caregivers or family members, the emotional and physical damage and financial exploitation is often hidden behind closed doors.

Such is the case in an elder abuse case in Missouri that has been exposed by authorities who have charged Kansas City lawyer, Susan (Liz) Elizabeth Van Note, age 44, with first degree murder and felony forgery.

Liz Van Note’s 67-year-old father and his long-time girlfriend, who he intended to marry, were attacked by an intruder in their Ozarks vacation home. Mr. Van Note’s girlfriend, Sharon Dickson, age 59, did not survive her gunshot wounds and died at the scene.

Mr. Van Note survived and was transported to hospital, but died four days later, after his only child, Liz, gave his medical team a durable power of health care attorney, that authorized her to determine whether or not to “pull the plug”. She decided that life support should be terminated. With the death of her father and his fiance, Liz Van Note became the beneficiary of his multi-million dollar estate.

Authorities later determined that the power of attorney was a forgery.

A September 2012 criminal indictment against Ms. Van Note says that she “knowingly caused the death of William Van Note by shooting him… either acting alone or by knowingly acting together with or aiding another or others” and used a forged power of attorney to deny him potentially life-saving treatment. No charges have yet been brought against her in respect of the death of Sharon Dickson.

Two high school friends of Ms. Van Note’s have also been charged with felony forgery and second degree murder. Desre and Stacy Dory also plead not guilty.

Not surprisingly, Ms. Van Note was removed as the executrix of her father’s estate and was ordered to relinquish control of the assets in her father’s estate. She did, however, manage to post cash bail of $1 million dollars after pleading not guilty, a situation that has caused concern because Ms. Van Note filed for bankruptcy the year before her father’s death, claiming assets of $250,000 against debts of $375,000.

The obvious inference is that Ms. Van Note has already helped herself to estate assets.

Ironically, Liz Van Note practices estate law touting her “compassionate representation of clients” and expertise in end-of-life issues.

UPDATE: Liz Van Note has now been charged with the murder of Sharon Dickson. She was also jailed for contempt of court when she failed to return monies she spent from her deceased father’s estate. Charges have been dropped against high school friends, Desre and Stacy Dory, who unwittingly witnessed the forged power of attorney.

Lawdiva aka Georgialee Lang

Law Firm Caught Up in Bogus Sunken Treasure Find

DSC00275_1Jay Miscovich was a bright man, with a medical degree in his pocket, but he preferred the world of business and real estate investments until, down-on-his-luck, he turned his talents to finding sunken treasure off the coast of Florida.

He told a story about running into an old friend in a bar in Key West, who showed him some salvage fragments which appeared to be from a Spanish galleon. He purchased a map from his friend for $500.00, where X marked the spot of a possible treasure trove of sunken artifacts and perhaps more.

He and a buddy, later a partner in the company they incorporated, began diving in the location marked on the map and lo and behold, they discovered over 80 pounds of emeralds on the ocean floor. But under Florida law they needed the admiralty court to confirm their find and legally recognize their ownership.

It was not to be as straight-forward as they hoped.

A well-established treasure salvage company, Motivation Inc., who in the 1980’s staked claims to two Spanish galleons that sunk in 1622 and rescued over $400 million dollars in booty, including gold and silver, challenged Mr. Miscovich’s claim, saying the area where the emeralds were found, was part of their salvage operations, 30 miles off the Key West coast.

Miscovich needed a lawyer and hired the well-respected firm of Young Conaway in Delaware. Young Conaway partner, Bruce Silverstein, ran the case and became an investor in the project as well. Silverstein engaged counsel in Florida to represent Miscovich in admiralty court. Young Conway’s legal fees would be paid from a percentage of the treasure, after sufficient monies were raised from investors to conduct the salvage operation.

Under the intense scrutiny of Motivation Inc., Jay Miscovich’s tale of treasure began to fall apart. Lab tests revealed that the emeralds were coated with a 20th century epoxy. But it was to get worse.

In later court proceedings a Florida jeweller testified that Mr. Miscovich purchased $50,000 worth of low-quality emeralds from him several months before the “find”.

Jay Miscovich committed suicide once the fraud began to unravel.

An investor’s group filed a $10 million dollar lawsuit against Silverstein and his firm, alleging that the goal of the enterprise was to extract money from investors and lenders, and conceal and perpetuate the fraud.

They also claimed that Miscovich fraudulently pumped up the value of the emeralds by causing Young Conaway to file false documents. Finally, they said Young Conaway’s litigation tactics were intended to “thwart and intimidate” the opposition by imposing “enormous litigation and investigation costs”.

Motivation Inc. had earlier brought a lawsuit against Young Conaway for fraud and bar sanctions against Bruce Silverstein, alleging that Silverstein aided and abetted Miscovich’s fraud, while deliberately delaying the legal proceedings by filing frivolous applications designed to overwhelm Motivation Inc.in a paper war.

This week a Florida court threw out Motivation’s fraud claims against Young Conaway, but agreed that Bruce Silverstein must face a sanctions hearing, not a trifling matter in the practice of law.

In the meantime, the investor’s claims are still alive, pending an upcoming trial.

As for attorney Silverstein, it is reported that he has an impeccable reputation with both the bar and the bench, and is highly offended by the allegations that he knowingly participated in the fraud. Young Conaway’s view is that they are innocent victims of their client’s treasure hunt scam.

Lawdiva aka Georgialee Lang