Lawyer Falls for Nigerian Scam, Loses His Law License

GeorgiaLeeLang059Albert Einstein’s quotes are legion, but one of his most pithy is:

“Two things are infinite: the universe and human stupidity; and I’m not sure about the universe.”

Along the same line, Judge Judy once remarked  that “Beauty fades, but dumb is forever”. 

Both quotes are apropos for a lawyer from Iowa who actually believed he could receive millions from a Nigerian Prince, and worse yet, dragged a client or five along for the ridiculous ride!

Lawyer Robert Allen Wright Jr. represented Floyd Lee Madison in a criminal matter in 2011. Mr. Madison presented lawyer Wright with documents which allegedly showed that Madison was entitled to a huge inheritance from his long-lost cousin in Nigeria. He asked Mr. Wright to help him get the funds transferred to him, a sum of over $18 million dollars, in exchange for 10% of the money. There was, however, one catch. To obtain the funds Madison needed to send the sum of $177,000 to Nigeria to cover the inheritance taxes.

At the same time, Mr. Wright was acting for Linda P. in a worker’s compensation suit. She received a payout of $25,000, whereupon Mr. Wright asked if she would loan $12,500 to Floyd Madison, as he needed the money to obtain an “anti-terrorism certificate” in order to complete the Nigerian transaction. She did more than that: she gave her entire WCB payout to Madison. He then enlisted several other clients to “loan” monies to Madison, in hopes of reaping great rewards from multi-millionaire to-be  Mr. Madison.

Meanwhile, lawyer Wright was busy dealing with representatives of the Central Bank of Nigeria, the African Union, and even the President of Nigeria. As scams go this one was a good one. He spoke with the Nigerian lawyer who purportedly witnessed the will of Madison’s cousin, and had discussions with a lawyer in England, Jonathan Walker, who told Wright he had travelled to Nigeria and attested to the legitimacy of the inheritance.

You already know how this ends…no inheritance received, no legal fees paid, and no repayment of Mr. Wright’s clients. But it wasn’t over yet.

Wright was inundated with disciplinary charges from his discipline body for incompetence, failure to disclose or secure client consent to conflicts of interest, and assisting a client in dishonesty or fraud. (The latter charge was not made out, as Mr. Wright was not devious, just stupid!)

The Iowa Supreme Court Disciplinary Board found that Mr. Wright “honestly believes–and continues to believe that one day a trunk full of one hundred-dollar bills is going to appear upon his office doorstep.”

The Board described Mr. Wright’s conduct as “delusional” but not fraudulent, and he was suspended for a period of one year.

It may be hard to believe but according to Ultrascan Global Investigations who operate in 69 countries, the profits earned by Nigerian 419  scam artists amounted to over $12 billion dollars in 2013. They say there are more than 800,000 organized perpetrators globally and many of them are Nigerian. Section 419 is the  section of the Nigerian Criminal Code dealing with fraud.

Ultrascan also reports that in 2002 the United States government was given authority to open all letters mailed from Nigeria to the U.S.  Government authorities found that 70% of the letters were scams. Today, the Nigerians rely mainly on email to induce unsuspecting victims.

Bottom line: If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is!

Lawdiva aka Georgialee Lang

New York Rabbi Ousted from Synagogue After His Fifth Divorce

BarristerIn 2007 Newsweek magazine reported that Rabbi Marc Schneier was one of the top 50 Jews in America, renowned for founding the Hampton Synagogue in tony West Hampton Beach and the New York Synagogue in Manhattan.

A media darling and interfaith leader,he was also the Vice-President of the World Jewish Congress and President of the North American Board of Rabbis. As a star in the Jewish firmament, he had one major problem. He couldn’t stay married.

His first marriage took place in 1981 while he was studying at Yeshiva University, a union that ended after less than one year. He married again to Esther Melamed, but divorced her in 1992. It was during this marriage that he initiated the upscale Hampton Synagogue, catering to the well-heeled Jewish community of the Hamptons, including celebrities like Steven Spielberg and Revlon’s Ron Perelman.

In 1993 he wed Oregonian Toby Gotesman at Gracie Mansion in New York, a coupling that produced a son, Brendan. But again it fell apart after Ms. Gotesman learned in 2005 that her husband was cheating on her with divorced fashion designer Tobi Rubinstein.

By now Rabbi Schneier was a wealthy man, earning a salary of $800,000 a year, with a posh $3 million residence in Westhampton Beach, and eager to embark on his pending nuptials to Ms. Rubinstein. The rabbi was 50-years-old and to commemorate his 50th birthday and his 4th wedding, his new wife gifted him a 400 lb. endangered Asian lion to be housed at the Jerusalem Biblical Zoo.

But Ms. Rubinstein was not as naive as his former brides. She hired a private investigator to look into her husband’s activities and discovered that on a so-called business trip to Israel  he was accompanied by synagogue member, Ginny Leiner. A divorce followed in 2010.

In 2013 Rabbi Schneier married Ms. Leiner, who was wife number five. She gave birth to a baby girl, just before another infidelity ended that marriage in 2015.

At this point, the rabbi’s congregation could take no more. In a concerted effort to force him to leave, they withheld their payments and pledges, money that was required to carry on church life. He resigned in April of 2016, but his randy ways continue. He is said to be squiring a 30-something Israeli blonde around  New York social circles these days. He is 57.

With another wedding in the offing, it is apparent the Torah means nothing to the rabbi, for in Malachi 2:16 it is written:

“For I hate divorce,” says the Lord, the God of Israel, “and him who covers his garment with wrong,” says the Lord of hosts. “So take heed to your spirit, that you do not deal treacherously.”

Lawdiva aka Georgialee Lang

Tough Judge Fines Lawyer $4,000 for Being 8 Minutes Late

GeorgiaLeeLang025A three-day murder trial in Arkansas was aborted this week when defence counsel , Jim Morris, showed up eight minutes late, and failed to telephone the court to advise he was on his way.

Judge Bynum Gibson had requested that counsel appear at 8:30 am to deal with several preliminary motions. The trial was set to commence at 9 am with the selection of a jury. At 9:08 when  Mr. Morris arrived, the potential jury members and witnesses, numbering 60 to 70, had been already been dismissed by the judge.

Counsel Morris told the Court he had to drop his daughter off at camp in Little Rock and was unable to call the Court due to bad cell phone reception. Judge Gibson,  who was also an AT&T subscriber, didn’t believe him.

Judge Gibson said: “I would have given you some lee-way, if you had called,” adding that 60-70 jurors had to be paid, and multiple witnesses had to be reimbursed.  “I’ve had defendants not show up, but never had attorneys show up after 9 o’clock. It’s killed 3 days of court time.”

Judge Gibson levied a fine of $4,000 against Mr. Morris, despite his protestations that he couldn’t pay such a large fine. Judge Gibson told him that initially he had considered jailing him, but decided a fine would suffice. Lawyer Morris replied “I merely made a bad decision, trying to be a good father.”

Demarcus Veasey’s first-degree murder trial was adjourned to July 2016. While Judge Gibson’s treatment of Mr. Morris was harsh, what is most notable is that accused Mr. Veasey, who allegedly committed the crime in January 2016 was set for trial only 6 months later, and the trial was set for a mere 3 days. I’d say the State of Arkansas knows how to get down to business, wouldn’t you?

Lawdiva aka Georgialee Lang

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Child Custody Dispute Leads to Hitman

GeorgiaLeeLang100Dan Markel worked hard and led a blessed life, until he didn’t. Toronto born and raised, the 41-year-old graduated with a degrees from Harvard, Hebrew University of Jerusalem, and Cambridge, capping his academic achievements with a  Juris Doctor degree from Harvard Law School. He practiced white-collar criminal law and civil litigation before he became a tenured professor at Florida State Law School teaching criminal law. He wrote for academic journals and crafted controversial opinion pieces for  prestigious publications including the New York Times, Slate, and The Atlantic. Mr. Markel was an impressive man who was revered by his colleagues.

He was married to Wendi Jill Adelson, also a lawyer and professor at Florida State, and had two young sons. But his happy life began to crumble when his marriage  floundered, followed by a bitter divorce in 2013.  But the worst was yet to come.

In July 2014 Dan Markel pulled into the driveway and garage of his upscale Tallahassee, Florida home, just about to end a call on his cell phone, when he advised the caller that another vehicle was in his driveway. Those were likely Dan Markel’s final words before he was shot in the head. He died the next morning.

At first the police believed his death was related to online criticism he had received or from his legal consulting practice.  Almost immediately rewards totalling $125,000 were announced for information leading to the arrest of Mr. Markel’s assailant, but the case went cold, until last month.

On May 26, 2016 Tallahassee police arrested Sigfredo Garcia in connection with Dan Markel’s death. A “probable cause” affidavit unsealed by the Court indicated that Garcia did not act alone and that as a “hitman”,  his involvement likely stemmed from the contentious child custody matters that lingered from the Adelson/Markel divorce. Court proceedings were pending which could have prevented Ms. Adelson’s parents from carrying on with their grandparent relationship with the couple’s children, based on allegations they were badmouthing Mr. Markel. As well, Ms. Adelson’s desire to change the children’s residence from Tallahassee to Miami was at issue.

Authorities have not yet suggested that Wendi Adelson is a suspect in her ex-husband’s murder, but have indicated that further arrests should be expected. Friends of Dan initially refused to speculate on Ms. Adelson or her family’s involvement in his tragic death, but news of the arrest has prompted several to confirm that all along they believed the high-conflict custody dispute played a part in his murder.

 

Lawdiva aka Georgialee Lang

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Depravity of Child-Sex Tourism

DSC00280With a significant increase in global travel, impoverished young girls and boys in Laos, Vietnam, Thailand, Costa Rica, Cuba, Haiti, Dominican Republic, and other third world countries, are the innocent victims of men and women who prey upon them, leaving their upstanding lives behind to indulge in their perversions.

ECPAT International,  a non-governmental organization that stands against the sexual exploitation of children, released a report last week that  reports that Canada and the United States, traditionally countries where abusers come from, are now becoming destination countries for sexual offenders.

Montreal is said to be a “hotspot” for child sex tourism, a fact attributable to its close proximity to the US border, and its reputation for year-round festivals and events.  Other Canadian locations include those that are close to transportation hubs, convention centres, and remote work places, like the oil sands in northern Alberta. Sex entrepreneurs are in the business of providing children to welcoming customers, an avocation exacerbated by the internet.

But no longer is the sex tourist a white, western, wealthy, middle-aged male pedophile who plans a trip for the purpose of child sexual encounters. Now the majority are “situational” offenders, local or domestic travellers who find themselves presented with an opportunity to engage in child sex, and take advantage of it. The report indicates that the abusers are business travellers, migrant workers, and people who volunteer to help the afflicted in third-world countries.

A prime example of the latter category is Matthew Andrew Carter, a Floridian senior who travelled annually to Haiti where he established a group home for poor, orphaned children,  called Morning Star. Florida’s Assistant Attorney General Mythili Raman described Carter’s criminal modus operandi:

“For 15 years, Matthew Carter, under the guise of serving as an international humanitarian, sexually abused more than 50 Haitian children..He held himself out as a savior to vulnerable children in Haiti, but in fact cruelly forced those children to choose between poverty and submitting to repeated sexual abuse…”

Testimony at the trial came from 16 young victims who described how they were forced to exchange sexual acts for food, school tuition monies, and  permission to live at Morning Star.

Carter was a repeat offender having been tried, but acquitted in Egypt, England, and the United States. However, this time justice was not elusive. He was sentenced to 165 years in prison.

The only way this desperate international problem can be  successfully tackled is for governments, private business, and non-governmental agencies to band together to condemn and eliminate child exploitation. Canadians have been assisted by the Harper government’s enactment of stiff child sexual abuse laws. But more must be done…

Lawdiva aka Georgialee Lang

 

 

No Child Support as Free Pizza Will Suffice

DSC00275_1Italians have given the world many gifts including opera, the jacuzzi, liposuction, and Roman law, which fostered the foundation for many of the world’s legal systems. However,  some say Italy’s greatest contribution (apart from pasta) is PIZZA.

As Tiger Woods once said: “And I don’t cook…not as long as they still deliver pizza”.

Fast forward to 21st century Italy where an Italian court in Padau this week ordered that a divorced father and former pizza restaurant owner, who had fallen on hard times, could discharge his child support obligation by providing free pizza to his daughter, who resided with her mother.

The former couple, Nicola Toso and Nicoletta Zuin divorced in 2002 and Mr. Toso faithfully paid his child support.  But with the world recession in 2008 he began to struggle financially. By this time he had remarried and had three children with his second wife. Between 2008 and 2010 Mr. Toso offered his ex-wife pizzas and calzones, instead of the 400 Euros he had contracted to pay.

She, however, eventually became fed up with the arrangement thrust upon her, and filed a criminal complaint against her ex-husband. By 2010 Mr. Toso had lost his restaurant after being unable to pay his suppliers and employees. He then found employment managing a pizzeria.

Toso’s lawyer advised the court that her client’s financial difficulties were legitimate, and that he was an exemplary father, as evidenced by his continuing relationship with his daughter and his successful efforts to welcome her into the life of his second family. Notably, his daughter provided evidence to the court in support of her father’s position.

The court also learned that by 2011 the child had left her mother’s home and had moved in with her father and his family. At that point, Ms. Zuin had been ordered to pay her ex-husband 300 Euros per month.

Judge Bitozzi ruled that given all the circumstances, Mr. Toso had not committed a crime by delivering pizza to his ex-wife, instead of 400 Euros,  and the criminal complaint was dismissed.

Lawdiva aka Georgialee Lang

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Divorce Lawyers Misunderstand Effects of Minority Shareholdings

GeorgiaLeeLang025The division of business assets between spouses in a divorce can be complicated and tricky. Elizabeth Berardi of New York found this out the hard way. She retained seventy-member law firm, Philps Nizer , in 2000 to draft a marriage agreement for  her, a document that would take effect if her marriage to Eugene Berardi failed to survive.

The negotiations led to an agreement that would give her 49% of her husband’s  interests in  several bus companies, while Mr. Berardi would retain 51%. It seemed like a very good deal.

Five years later the Berardis’ marriage collapsed and divorce proceedings were commenced. Mr. Berardi’s first tactic was to  challenge the marriage agreement, attempting to set it aside. Ms. Berardi reengaged Philips Nizer, who put 23 attorneys and 16 other professionals to work on her case,  appointing lawyer Helen Davis Chaitman as lead counsel.  After a trial in 2006, the court handed down their Reasons in 2009 upholding the agreement. Philips Nizer had achieved success for Ms. Berardi , despite Ms. Chaitman’s inexperience in family law, and after charging  legal fees of $1.4 million.

But all was not what it seemed. When Ms. Berardi attempted to liquidate her share of the bus companies, she found she had little power as a minority shareholder, particularly in the face of shareholder’s agreements  executed before 2000 that limited her ability to freely sell her interests. Her minority position also diminished the value of her shares in the company.

Ms. Berardi sued Philips Nizer for malpractice and professional negligence, asserting they either knew or should have known, and told her of the effects of her minority interest and the shareholders’ agreements. In particular, when her husband sought to overturn the agreement, they should not have opposed his application. Had the agreement been set aside, by consent of the parties, she could have negotiated a bargain that would see her receive liquid assets.

She also argued that Philips Nizer were in a conflict of interest by agreeing to act for her while seeking to uphold the agreement they had drafted. In a separate claim Ms. Berardi alleged she was grossly overcharged by Philips Nizer, as her ex-husband paid his lawyers only $395,000 in legal fees.

Naturally Philips Nizer sought to have Ms. Berardi’s lawsuits dismissed, suggesting she was simply attempting to escape payment of the funds she still owed the law firm, an amount over $700,000. However, this week Justice Nancy Bannon disagreed with Philips Nizer, refusing to dismiss the court action, paving the way for the litigation to continue.

Ms. Berardi’s new lawyers, Pollock & Maguire, believe that Philips Nizer pursued and obtained minority shareholder status for Ms. Berardi, never realizing the ramifications of their successful defence, until it was too late. Lead counsel, Helen Davis Chaitman is no longer with the firm and is not a defendant in the lawsuit.

Lawdiva aka Georgialee Lang