Friday, June 13, 2008

Maryland Couple Indicted in Fraud Probe

Scam Allegedly Cheated Lenders And Homeowners

By Ovetta WigginsWashington Post Staff WriterFriday, June 13, 2008; B01

Federal authorities charged a Prince George's County couple yesterday with running a $35 million foreclosure rescue operation that duped lenders and unsuspecting homeowners facing foreclosure, in what prosecutors described as one of the largest mortgage fraud schemes in Maryland history.

Joy Jackson, president of Metropolitan Money Store of Lanham, and her husband, Kurt Fordham, were arrested yesterday in North Carolina, U.S. Attorney Rod J. Rosenstein said at a news conference at U.S. District Court in Greenbelt. Jackson, 40, and Fordham, 38, are charged with conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud, six counts of money laundering, and 15 counts of mail fraud to obtain money and property from homeowners and lenders. (link)


I hope they get the book thrown at them! The maximum sentence they could get is 30 years in prison and a million dollar fine. These scum bags deserve the maximum sentence. This story was not carried in our local paper, and I have not read of any similar prosecution here in Tennessee. That's too bad. Every scam artist in the country should be living in fear of prosecution. If these stories were more widely published, it may have a deterrent effect.

There is plenty of blame to go around for the mortgage crisis. Investors, mortgage companies, loan officers, appraisers, and borrowers are all at fault. A lot of mortgage companies made loans that should never have been made. Loan officers filled out fraudulent documents, and borrowers signed them unaware of what they were signing. Borrowers did not exercise caution and purchased much more house than they could afford and did not care about the details of their loan products. There were a lot of inflated appraisals. A lot of people committed fraud and many were irresponsible.

Now that we have the housing crisis, a new kind of fraud is occurring. The way the scam worked in this story is that the Money Store would use a "straw buyer" to purchase the home and tell the owners that they could continue living there and then buy it back after a year. Instead the scam artist in this story would borrow as much as possible against the home, stripping any remaining equity out of it, then stop making the payments and let it get foreclosed. The owner never got to buy it back.

I have heard of the same thing happening here. Another fraudulent occurrence is when "investors" buy homes at rock bottom prices from homeowners who are in default. Many times the homeowners would not have had to sell their home; There may have been workout options that would let the homeowner keep their home. Even if the homeowner could not keep the house, they may have been able to get the mortgage company to give them additional time to sell it. They could have then sold it at a reasonable, market price and at least gotten their equity out of it. The homeowners, however, are desperate and don't know there are other options are available.

Another thing occurring is there are a lot of phony counseling services. These false organizations contact homeowners who are in default. They tell the homeowners they are entitled to workout options, which can save their home. The organization then convinces the customer that they know how to negotiate settlements with mortgage companies, and for a fee, they will do so. They may charge $800 to open a case! Then, they do nothing at all for the customer. The next month, they call the customer and say they need another $600. The desperate customer pays the "counselor" the last money they have. This is money which could have gone to the mortgage company as part of a legitimate workout, or at least helped the customer move and find a place to rent.

Do not fall victim to these scam artists! I work for a HUD-approved, non-profit, housing counseling agency. If you live in Tennessee, call me and I will help you for free. If you live in another state, go to the HUD website and find a housing counselor in your area. If you have friends or family that may be facing mortgage default, don't let them be scammed. Help is available.

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Thursday, June 12, 2008

That NAFTA Superhighway

If you get any of your news from any source other than the mainstream press you have probably heard about the NAFTA super highway. For the last couple years bloggers have been blogging about it and almost any political chat group has been chatting about it. I never took it seriously and dismissed it as mere fantasy from the tinfoil hat crowd. I reasoned that if a new roadway connecting Mexico, the US and Canada was being build to facilitate increased trade between our nations, that that would probably be a good thing and was nothing to get upset about.

It seemed that the same people who were alarmed about the NAFTA super highway were the same ones who want us to return to the gold standard, abolish the Federal Reserve and are always worry about the Council of Foreign Relations, the Bilderbergs, and the Illuminati. I was not alarmed. The John Birch Society folks and the other paranoid super patriots are generally harmless, good intentioned, conservative folks who just kind of went off the deep end on certain issues. I don’t get too worked up about them. Then I noticed that the kooky left, the folks who believe 911 was an inside job, started talking about the NAFTA highway also. It is amazing how often the kooky right and the kooky left share a lot of the same concerns.

With the advent of the Ron Paul campaign, the NAFT Superhighway began getting more and more publicity. Ron Paul’s opposition to it became a major part of his campaign. Next thing you know other conservatives, including Duncan Hunter, and Tom Tancredo, were taking positions pledging to stop it. Then the established responsible conservative publication Human Events started reporting on it. Then, CNN’s Lou Dobbs started reporting on it.

According to opponents of this NAFTA Superhighway, a secret organization run by shadowy government figures is in cahoots with foreign corporations who are determined to undermine American sovereignty. This group is supposedly building a ten-lane highway the width of several football fields, with freight and rail lines and oil and natural gas pipelines and electric power lines running alongside the roadway. It will run from deep in Mexico all the way into Canada with feeder roads connected to it throughout. That is not the extent of what they have planned however. This superhighway is just part of a bigger plot to form a North American Union with a single currency and open borders. The North American Union would be similar to the European Union. The organization that it putting this all together is something called the “Security and Prosperity Partnership of North America,” or the SPP.
The SPP does exist but it looks like just another little agency with a small bureaucracy. The purpose of the SPP is to facilitate increased security and prosperity among the US, Canada and Mexico. Other than maybe wasting a little money it appears nothing to be too concerned about.

Another entity that is part of this plot to build this roadway and take away our sovereignty is the America's SuperCorridor Organization (NASCO), which is a partnership of public and private entities. The map you see is their map but it is not showing a new highway at all, but shows the location of existing interstates. NASCO had been referring to these existing highways for years as the "NAFTA Superhighway,” They advocate improvements and promotion of this corridor. You can think of NASCO as a kind of regional Chamber of Commerce.

The Texas legislature has approved the development of a big ten-lane limited access toll road called will Trans Texas Corridor, which would parallel I-35 and stretch from the Mexican border to Oklahoma. I am not so sure what is so sinister about that. It may be a bad idea, but the elected representatives of the people of Texas think it is good idea, so who am I to say they are wrong. Quite frankly, I like the concept of funding new roadways by toll revenue.

I am not going to provide links to document this, if you are interested, just Google the terms, “NAFTA Superhighway”, “SPP”, “North American Union”, “NASCO” and “Trans Texas Corridor” and you will get about a half million hits. Read them. I see no evidence that there is anything to be concerned about. There is not a NAFTA Superhighway. There is nothing to be alarmed about. There is no grand plan to divide America by a roadway that is under the authority of a non-American entity. I do not see a threat to American sovereignty.

With a war in Iraq and the accompanying concern about mid-East stability, with a faltering economy, concern about global warming and energy security, and a housing crisis, I have more important things to worry about other than a fantasy highway.

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Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Smoke Smoke Smoke That Cigarette

City of Loma Linda bans smoking in most public places

LOMA LINDA, Calif. (AP) -- Smokers soon will have far fewer places where they can light up in Loma Linda. Council members on Tuesday passed an anti-smoking law that prohibits tobacco use in most of the city's public places.

The ordinance bans smoking on Loma Linda's public streets and sidewalks, in parks, restaurants, theaters and hospitals, as well as most of the city's motel and apartment units. The fine for a first offense will be $100 or less. The city of nearly 21,000 residents in San Bernardino County was founded in 1905 by Seventh-day Adventists. They typically abstain from alcohol, caffeine and meat.


When cigarettes are outlawed, only outlaws will have cigarettes.

Last October a new rule went into effect in Nashville and now most of the honky tonks of Nashville are smoke-free. I smoke a pipe so I don't have a craving to smoke the same way a cigarette smoker does, but sitting in a bar, listening to live county music and drinking a beer is when I most want to light up. Since the ban went into effect I find I have a whole lot less desire to go out. Dim lights, thick smoke and loud, loud music just seem to go together.

If I would have still been in the Metro Council, I would not have supported the ban on smoking in bars. I think it should be left up to the individual bar owner to set his own rules about smoking and the the customer can decide if he wants to visit that establishment or not. Nevertheless, while I don't like it and wouldn't have voted for it, I can understand the second hand smoke argument for banning smoking in enclosed places. Prohibiting smoking outdoors, however, is punitive and discriminatory and I do not see the logic used to ban it, other than people just find it offensive. I don't think we should have the right not to be offended.

Some people just can't stand it if other people are having fun. People like banning activity of which they disapprove. Strip clubs are often banned under the guise of health and safety regulations. Zoning and permitting are often used to prohibit activity that is otherwise legal. Regulations supported by the Baptist and the liquor industry keep wine out of Tennessee grocery stores.

Where are the lobbyist for the merchants of death when you need them. If this ban can stand, then the good citizens of Loma Linda may next ban coffee drinking in public. If the tobacco industry will establish a non-profit entity to legally challenge irrational smoking bans like this, I will donate ten dollars. Maybe smokers ought to converge on Loma Linda and have a massive smoke-in.

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Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Republicans have a "Branding" Problem

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Monday, June 09, 2008

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    The great carbon bazaar

    By Mark Gregory Business correspondent, BBC World Service, India

    Evidence of serious flaws in the multi-billion dollar global market for carbon credits has been uncovered by a BBC World Service investigation. The credits are generated by a United Nations-run scheme called the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM).
    The mechanism gives firms in developing countries financial incentives to cut greenhouse gas emissions. But in some cases, carbon credits are paid to projects that would have been realized without external funding.

    The BBC World Service investigation found examples of projects in India where this appeared to be the case. Arguably, this defeats the whole point of the CDM scheme, set up under the Kyoto climate change protocol, as these projects are getting money for nothing. The findings reinforce doubts that the CDM is leading to real emission cuts, which is not good news for the effort to combat climate change. (Link)


    The Kyoto Protocol has been the world’s most ambitious effort to combat global warming and unfortunately it has been a dismal failure. The Kyoto Protocol was adopted in 1997 by the United Nations Framework on Climate change and since then 187 countries have ratified the treaty but not the United States.

    The Kyoto treaty requires each industrialized county that is a party to the treaty to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to a level specified for each of them. Collectively they must reduce their greenhouse emissions to 5% less than the 1990 level of emission. While some countries are on track to reduce their emissions to their treaty obligated level, many others are not and with China and India exempt from emission reduction requirements, greenhouse gas emissions continue to rise.

    Unfortunately even for some of those countries that are meeting their treaty obligations on-paper, their is reason to doubt that they are in actuality having any impact on greenhouse gas emissions. That is because many of them are meeting their reduction level by purchasing carbon offsets.

    The logic of this ability to purchase offsets, is that whether you reduce emissions in your own country or you help another country reduce their emissions, the effect is the same. Unfortunately, the Clean Development Mechanism has been riddled with scandal. If you will read the above article, it gives examples of how the program is working in reality.

    Carbon offsets sound good in theory. In practice most carbon offsets, whether the foreign CDM offsets or private sector carbon offsets, are a shell game, a scam and a con.

    When Congress was debating the recently defeated Cap and Trade legislation, Senator Bob Corker offered an amendment that would delete foreign offsets from the bill. Unless there is a major reform of the CDM, then any American Cap and Trade system must not allow foreign offsets. Before the US considers ratifying Kyoto, the CDM must be reformed.

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