Verdict Sets Off New Free-for-All for Novack's Millions - Miami-Dade
Miami Police Falsely Arrest Man, Break His Arm In Prostitution Sting
Woman Speaks on Ex's Accidental Jail Release
MIAMI (WSVN) -- A woman is still living in fear after the man who tried to kill her was accidentally released from jail, days after his recapture.
On Tuesday, the Miami-Dade County Jail accidentally released 36-year-old Dexter Davis from jail, one day after he was convicted of attempted murder.
Back in June 2009, Davis tried to kill his then-girlfriend, Robin Jones, inside her Opa-Locka apartment. Davis repeatedly stabbed Jones, nearly killing her.
"I just felt my body going weak, and I remember falling to the floor, and he walked over me and said he loved me and left out of the house, and when I looked over, and I looked down, there was blood everywhere," Jones recalled. "I remember calling my daughter and telling her that I needed her help, and she got up, and she just started crying."
On the morning of Davis' accidental release, the State Attorney's Office called Jones and informed her that her ex-boyfriend was released from jail. "How could this be? Where is he?" Jones wondered after she received the news.
According to Jones, the State Attorney's Office told her, "We have to think about your safety, because we don't know if he knows where you live."
Jones and her children immediately went into hiding. "Victims are scared enough to come and testify, and then, you tell them that the person that harmed them was accidentally released?" Jones asked, with tears in her eyes. "It doesn't make sense."
Police tracked down Davis 12 hours later, when someone spotted him at the University of Miami Hospital and recognized him from a story on the news. That person called police, who took the 36-year-old into custody.
The Miami-Dade Department of Corrections released the following statement: "Public safety is of the utmost importance, and we regret any concerns that this incident has caused the citizens of Miami-Dade County."
Jones said, "A mistake is considered something happening once. I don't know if it happened before. It's scary. It's so scary."
"If it was negligence, then it was gross negligence," said the victim's lawyer, Frank L. Hollander.
Hollander would like for federal investigators to look into the matter in order to ensure that no other prisoners are accidentally released from jail again. He is also considering filing a civil lawsuit.
On Friday, a Miami-Dade County Jail official said that the jail is conducting an internal investigation.
Carmel on the Case - Bad Business
More than a quarter of a million dollars vanished in an investment deal that went south here in South Florida. Was it bad business or was it funny business? Investigative reporter Carmel Cafiero is on the case with this exclusive report.
WSVN -- Carmel Cafiero: "I'd like to talk with you about the civil theft lawsuit that is pending against you."
Ayda Young: "I have nothing to say, call my attorney."
Forty-seven-year-old Ayda Young didn't know it then, but she was just days away from being hit with a big judgment for her part in a questionable real estate deal.
Morella Sosa, Investor: "I thought it was a good investment at that time."
Morella Sosa, who talked with us from her home in South America, says she thought young represented Miami-Dade County.
Morella Sosa: "Yes. I always believed I was doing business with Miami-Dade County."
That's because Ayda Young did business through a company called Miami-Dade County short sales. Sosa says she wanted to buy two foreclosed properties in South Florida, so she sent young two checks, one for $250,000 and another for $81,000.
Frank L. Hollander, Attorney: "This was her life savings."
Attorney Frank L. Hollander says Sosa got nothing for her money. He filed a lawsuit against young claiming fraud and civil theft.
Carmel Cafiero: "Did she claim to be representing Miami-Dade County?"
Frank L. Hollander: "She had documents that said Miami-Dade County and she signed documents that she represented the court as well in terms of the foreclosure auction by the County."
Part of the evidence, this hand written note signed by Ayda Young last September. In it she promised to pay back the $330,000 in ten days.
Morella Sosa: "I did not get anything except health pains and sickness."
Ayda Young: "I have nothing to say, there is no civil suit against me. That's totally not true."
When I tried to talk with her, Young denied the lawsuit even existed.
Ayda Young: "Leave me alone."
Carmel Cafiero: "You told this lady you would pay her her $330,000 back. Why haven't you paid her?"
Judge Ellen Sue Venzer found Young at fault in the case. She asked if Hollander knew what happened to the money.
Frank L. Hollander: "We only know that from our information the money went to Mexico, but we don't know exactly how it went there."
And the judge questioned Ayda Young's attorney about the possibility of a criminal case.
Judge Ellen Sue Venzer: "Is there a criminal proceeding?"
Israel Encinosa: "There is no criminal proceeding, but apparently there is a criminal investigation."
Judge Ellen Sue Venzer: "I would think so."
Israel Encinosa: "Plus if Mrs. Carmel Cafiero is on the case you are going to see that police is not far behind."
After damages and costs Ayda Young now owes Morella Sosa $1,228,329.10. She admits collecting could be a challenge . Frank L. Hollander: "We know that she's driving around in a Mercedes, so we feel she does have assets."
Carmel Cafiero: "Earlier an associate of Young's who was also involved in the business had a judgment entered against her in the same deal also for more than a million dollars."
Carmel on the Case - Foreclosure/ Fraud Arrest
Four people are facing years in prison tonight after being busted on charges. They ran a multimillion dollar real estate scam. It's a scam first exposed by 7 News investigative reporter Carmel Cafiero has the story.
WSVN -- Miami-Dade State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle says a real estate scam that operated for two years took more than two million dollars from 15 victims.
Katherine Rundle: "And today we are announcing the arrest of four individuals who used sheer audacity, sheer audacity to rip off unsuspecting investors."
Investors who thought they were buying foreclosed and distressed properties from Miami-Dade County, but got nothing for their money.
Now facing a laundry list of felony charges: Zoraida Abreu, who could go to prison for 13 years. Yahaney Garcia is facing 11 and a half years. Johnny Bounassar, a possible 18 and a half year penalty, and Ayda Young facing as much as 21 years.
Young is no stranger to 7 News viewers.
Ayda Young: "Leave me alone."
Carmel Cafiero: "You told this lady you would pay her her $330,000 back. Why haven't you paid her?"
Last August, we first reported on Young after a grandmother in South American said Young took her for her life savings. She did so through a company called Miami-Dade County Short Sales.
Morella Sosa: "I always believed I was doing business with Miami-Dade County."
The state attorney says Young and her fellow fraudsters used that deceptive name and dummy documents to make their victims think they were doing business with Miami-Dade County.
They also falsely claimed to have someone on the inside of county government.
Christopher Mazzella: "Although it looked a little bleak in at the beginning we were happy to see that the county was not part of this scheme."
Prior to her arrest, Ayda Young lost a civil case and was ordered to pay Morella Sosa more than a million dollars but she hasn't paid a penny.
Carmel Cafiero: "So what happened to the money? Authorities aren't sure. They can't find it. They suspect the $2.4 million was either gambled away or simply squandered."
Miami Woman Accused of Scamming Real Estate Investors
Top Stories - Narconon Settles Lawsuit with Full Refund
March 14, 2009 Daily Pilot By Brianna Bailey
The Newport Beach-based drug and alcohol rehabilitation home Narconon agreed to refund a Florida man’s money on Friday after he sued, claiming his brother was sexually molested, forced to scrub pots and pans and take unspecified pills that made him ill at the treatment center.
“The parties are settling for a full refund. Any allegations in the lawsuit are never going to get to trial,” Frank L. Hollander said, an attorney for the two Florida brothers. “The parties are amicably resolving their differences. All we wanted was the refund.”
Seeking help for cocaine addiction, Miami-Dade County, Fla., resident Pablo Mendoza claimed he attended treatment at Narconon’s West Ocean Front triplex in Newport Beach for three days in September 2008, according to the lawsuit, filed March 6 in Miami-Dade Circuit Court.
The lawsuit described the Newport Beach treatment center as “freezing,” “filthy” and “smoke-filled” with “dirty walls, dirty rugs and an unbearable odor.”
Pablo Mendoza immediately wanted to leave the treatment center, but Narconon representatives refused to let him use the phone to call home, according to court documents.
The lawsuit went on to claim Narconon representatives forced Pablo Mendoza to take unspecified pills that made him vomit and have diarrhea.
He also was forced to sit on a “ripped up and broken couch” for most of the three days he spent at the treatment center, according to the lawsuit.
Pablo Mendoza also claimed a male instructor at Narconon rubbed his crotch on his hand during a massage.
Narconon representatives forced him to clean pots and pans in the treatment center’s kitchen, according to legal documents. They also tried to get Pablo Mendoza to clean the bathroom, the lawsuit claimed.
“Pablo Mendoza refused because he realized they were discriminating against him on the basis of race as he was the only Hispanic student,” according to the lawsuit.
Pablo Mendoza’s brother, Adonis Mendoza, paid $29,000 to Narconon for his treatment, according to legal documents.
Narconon agreed to give Adonis Mendoza a full refund on Friday, Hollander said.
As part of the agreement, Narconon admitted to no wrongdoing, he said.
Narconon declined to comment on the lawsuit on Friday.
“We can neither confirm nor deny the presence of any person at our facility at any time; past or present,” Catherine Savage, a spokeswoman for Narconon said in a written statement.
July 27, 2004 Daily Business Review By: Pat Dunnigan
Hollywood company that sold Internet kiosks to investors is the target of several Broward Circuit Court lawsuits alleging fraud and racketeering, and has been ordered to repay investors in at least three arbitration cases.
In June, Fort Lauderdale tennis coach David McBrayer filed suit in Broward Circuit Court against Nationwide Cyber Systems Inc., its president and chief executive officer Farris L. Pemberton, its executive vice president Paul S. Pemberton and four other employees, alleging the company used false and misleading promises to lure him into paying $26,870 for two Internet terminals.
Earlier this month, an arbitration judgment was entered against the company.
Nationwide Cyber Systems executive vice president Paul S. Pemberton did not respond to telephone messages left on the company’s toll-free phone line.
In an interview last year, he insisted that the company — which he said was owned by his brother Farris Pemberton, a resident of Tennessee — would prove itself in time. The company had “a lot of happy customers,” he said.
According to numerous accounts by unhappy customers related in interviews, posted in Internet forums and described in complaints to the Florida Division of Consumer Affairs, Nationwide pitched its terminals for use in public Internet access kiosks at 25 cents per minute. Its representatives led customers to believe that investors who purchased the machines would pocket revenues of at least $1,000 a month per machine, according to numerous accounts, including more than 100 complaints filed with the state Division of Consumer Services.
Representatives of the computer kiosk industry say Nationwide Cyber Systems’ marketing campaign lured hundreds of people around the country to invest in its terminals. But in many cases investors found that the terminals didn’t work as promised, the revenues were barely enough to cover overhead, and company support was little or nonexistent, according to the lawsuits and consumer complaints.
Miami attorney Frank L. Hollander represents three groups of Nationwide Cyber Systems investors who have sued the company and its principals in Broward Circuit Court. They allege deceptive business practices, fraud, unjust enrichment, violation of the state’s fraudulent practices act and violation of the state Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act.
A second corporation, Transnet Wireless, also is named as a defendant in the suits filed by Hollander. The suits describe Transnet as a subsidiary of Nationwide Cyber Systems incorporated to hold its “ill-gotten gains.”
Man Alleges Assault, Unwanted Pills at Narconon in Newport
Friday, March 13, 2009 The Orange County Register
By JEFF OVERLEY
The Narconon triplex on the Balboa Peninsula is scheduled to shut down in February 2010 under an agreement with the city of Newport Beach.
FILE PHOTO: THE REGISTER NEWPORT BEACH A Florida man is suing Narconon Southern California, saying a brief stint in its Newport Beach drug rehab house subjected him to sexual assault, unwanted medication and demeaning work.
Pablo Mendoza checked into the company’s Balboa Peninsula triplex in September seeking help for cocaine addiction and found the oceanfront house to be “filthy” and filled with an “unbearable odor,” according to the lawsuit filed against Narconon Southern California on March 6 in Miami-Dade County Court..
“He immediately wanted to leave and go back home to Miami, but the facility representatives refused his request to call his family to complain and request that he come back home,” the lawsuit says. “He was prohibited from using the telephone.”.
Soon after, Mendoza says he was given pills that resulted in nausea and diarrhea. “He asked not to take the pills anymore,” the lawsuit says. “The facility said he was obligated to ingest these pills, (four) times per day.”.
Over the next three days, Mendoza says he suffered an array of “horrendous and outlandish mistreatment,” such as a male masseuse rubbing his crotch, and being the only client forced to clean the kitchen, a duty Mendoza attributes to his race..
Later, after a fellow client targeted him with a vulgar sexual comment, Mendoza “told the student he would throw him off the balcony” because he is a “proud Hispanic Cuban and this violated his cultural norms,” according to the lawsuit..
In the suit, Mendoza also complains about Scientology being practiced at Narconon. “It was never revealed that Narconon is a Scientology facility. Pablo Mendoza is a Catholic,” the lawsuit says..
Mendoza says he left the home after three days having finished only “1 (percent) of the program.” .
Several hours after being asked for comment Friday, a Narconon official e-mailed a reporter asking about the inquiry. A link to an online story about the lawsuit was sent back, and five minutes later, Mendoza’s attorney - Frank L. Hollander - phoned the reporter, saying he’d received a call from Narconon offering a $29,000 refund to his client and admitting no wrongdoing..
“They haven’t admitted anything,” Hollander said. “The parties have fully resolved their differences.”
In a follow-up e-mail, the Narconon official declined to comment..
The home in the 1800 block of West Ocean Front has been used for drug rehab since the mid-1980s, but Narconon didn’t move in until the mid-1990s..
Resident complaints about noise and constant deliveries at the 27-bed home have been heavy at times, and under a previous agreement with the city stemming from a new law on rehab homes, the Narconon house has agreed to close in early 2010.
Internet Company Problems
Tonight complaints are flying coast to coast over a company that used to be based in Hollywood. The company was promising big profits from computer kiosks offering internet access. But investors claim they were mislead and got less than they paid for. Investigative Reporter Carmel Cafiero is on the case.
(WSVN) Donald Garcia is about to unveil a $26,000 dollar investment that is being kept under tarps in a garage.
The two computer kiosks represent a failed investment that has left him and wife victoria with only $120 dollars in the bank.
Donald Garcia: We're on the verge of bankruptcy.
Victoria Garcia: "Yeah."
Donald Garcia: "It's cost us every penny we had."
The Garcias did business with nationwide cyber systems after seeing a late night infomercial about the computer kiosks.
For 25 cents a minute, Nationwide Cyber Systems said its machines would offer consumers internet access, video e-mail - even phone cards.
Ncs promised investors prime locations for the public internet terminals.
But the Garcia's say their machines - which the company placed in two small hotels - never made the kind of money they expected.
Carmel Cafiero: And what did you make?
Donald Garcia: $70 dollars, $10 dollars.
Carmel Cafiero: "Every month?
Donald Garcia: No some months we didn't make anything."
Victoria Garcia: "Some months we didn't make anything."
The Garcias are not alone.
Other investors - like the owner of this broken kiosk in a broward hotel - believe natiowide cyber systems did not deliver what it promised.
Brodie White: "We have 90 complaints on file at this time."
Brodie White, President of the Better Business Bureau says his colleagues went undercover to investigate Nationwide Cyber Systems.
The BBB compared promises by the company and the fine print of the contracts.
Brodie White: "The company misrepresents its program upfront verbally. Verbal promises are not worth the paper they're not written on bottom line."
Complaints are also being logged in on the Internet.
The consumer website the rip off report has forty four - From coast to coast.
New York Victim: "Over a year later we're still waiting for our terminal to be placed."
Washington victim: "We're out $32,000 dollars."
California Victim: "They won't return phone calls. They won't return e-mails."
Frank L. Hollander: "They promised excellent customer service and support after the sale and that was totally false."
Attorney Frank L. Hollander represents still more - unhappy investors.
He has filed a lawsuit that accuses nationwide cyber systems, officers and employees with everything from deceptive and unfair trade practices to fraud.
Frank L. Hollander: "These people did guarantee you would get your money back if you requested it. Carmel Cafiero: Did they give it back? Frank Hollander: They absolutely did not."
So what does nationwide cyber systems think about all this?
We don't know. The office is empty. And we haven't been able to reach paul pemberton...Nationwide's vice president who participated in the company's promotional videos.
A fax to Pemberton's Weston home didn't generate a response either and his lawyer didn't return calls.
The garcia's meanwhile say - they can't afford to hire an attorney but are convinced they have been mislead.
Vivian Garcia: "They would talk the paint off the wall - they were so smooth."
Seven News has learned there is now a criminal investigation of what went on here. The State Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services - which has 93 open complaints - has opened a criminal investigation of Nationwide Cyber Systems. It is looking at possible violations of Florida's Business Opportunity Law.
From the Courts: Justice Watch: 'Biz Op' scams: a quick way to get fleeced
September 11, 2006 Daily Business Review By: John Pacenti
In the world of South Florida schemes and cons, there is always a new way to dress up the same old pig.
These days it's peddling “business opportunity investments” in DVD vending machines, dial-up ATMs, mobile check-cashing units and Internet kiosks to those susceptible to the get-rich-quick American myth.
The scam artists have been keeping the U.S. attorney's office for the Southern District of Florida busy.
Federal prosecutors nickname these types of crimes “biz op” — short for business opportunity fraud. U.S. Attorney Alex Acosta said his office is cracking down on scams that have robbed millions of dollars from thousands of victims.
Since February 2005, the USAO's Economic and Environmental Crimes division estimates it has filed charges against about 40 people involved with about a dozen companies. They promised people a way to earn big-time income with relatively little effort in mostly turnkey businesses.
Federal prosecutors say members of the public are targeted when they bite on advertisements — television, Internet or others — for a generalized business opportunity. These leads are then passed on to boiler rooms, where skilled phone sales staff peddle the “once-in-a-lifetime” opportunity. The technique has been working for decades.
Prosecutors say the companies have defrauded more than 4,000 victims of $60 million.
In August, a federal jury in Miami convicted Scott Rose of North Miami Beach on mail fraud, wire fraud and conspiracy for his role as a salesman for CheckMate Financial Inc.
CheckMate told investors that it had mobile check-cashing vans, accompanied by two off-duty police officers, that would visit construction sites, hospitals, cruise ships and large factories to cash paychecks. Investors were told that routes were established.
Investors, who were promised 18 percent on their investment, lost $2.5 million. Rose's attorney, Richard Douglas Docobo of Miami, said the defense felt it had to prove through testimony that there was no conspiracy to defraud.
“These are sad cases,” said Alicia Valle, spokeswoman for Acosta's office. “There are some horror stories out there. Retirees, who lost their life's savings, people who had to change their lifestyle, parents who can't send their kids to college.”
The scam du jour
A few years ago, South Florida's ubiquitous telemarketing boiler rooms were focused on selling foreign exchange investments. Now it looks like the turnkey “biz op” is the scam du jour, solidifying the area as one of the nation's capitals for silver-tongued thieves.
“It's kind of the wild west down here,” said David R. Chase, a former Securities and Exchange Commission prosecutor now in private practice in Hollywood. “Not everybody knows each other. It's a great area for people to come in and commit crimes like this.”
The Securities and Exchange Commission and the Federal Trade Commission also have gone after these companies to shut them down. And a few individuals have successfully sued in civil court to get back their money. More have been left destitute, however.
“Most of these scammers spend their income very quickly,” said Michael Davis, an FTC attorney in Washington, D.C. “They buy nice things for themselves. So often, the return for consumers is just pennies on the dollar.”
Miami attorney Frank L. Hollander, who said he has represented dozens of those ripped off in biz op scams, said many of his clients are retirees. One lost close to $400,000. Others have lost their homes and had their marriages fall apart in the wake of financial ruin.
Hollander said he was able to get injunctions to drive the fly-by-night firms out of Miami. “We took care of that cancer on society,” he said.
Hollander said he still is pursuing a man he calls the “kingpin” of one of these companies to pay a $100,000 judgment. “He's living in a mansion,” Hollander said. “He's driving around in a Lamborghini and has a Swiss bank account.”
Why do seemingly intelligent people part with their hard-earned savings without conducting greater due diligence? Kendall Coffey, a former U.S. attorney in Miami, said part of the reason is the all-American appeal of entrepreneurship.
“They take a simple formula of promising huge profits from an investment and add on to that entrepreneurship,” Coffey said. “It's more than simply buying a passive investment in swampland or ownership in the Brooklyn Bridge. These scams say you can farm the swampland.”
The newer type of scam has kept investigators for the FBI and U.S. Postal Inspection Service busy. Their work is coming to fruition.
On Aug. 31, the former operator of one of these biz op schemes, Leonard Needelman, was sentenced to 97 months in prison for mail fraud. His attorney, Allen Katz, could not be reached for comment.
Needelman's company, Cash Link Systems Inc., peddled “cashless” ATMs in which the public could swipe their debit cards and receive a receipt that could then be taken to a store for credit or cash. The machines sold for $12,000 apiece. It is charged with fleecing 800 people out of $15 million by saying they would earn their investment back in a year or less.
In July, the first of eight defendants in another case was sentenced to 33 months in prison after pleading guilty in connection with a fraudulent scheme to sell DVD vending machines.
Thomas R. Kling worked for Hollywood-based American Entertainment Distributors Inc. (AED), which prosecutors say exaggerated profit projections, falsely promised good locations and as references, gave prospects the phone numbers of people who supposedly prospered in the business opportunity.
His attorney, Hector Dopico of the federal public defender's office, declined to comment.
AED sold more than $19 million of its DVD vending machines in 2003 and 2004.
The phony phone reference is a traditional con right out of David Mamet's play and movie “Glengarry Glen Ross,” which depicted the ruthless boiler room environment.
“To sort of close the deal, they say, ‘By the way here are names of people who have purchased the machines,' “Valle of the U.S. attorney's office said. “What they are not telling you is the reference is somebody they paid to lie to these folks, to tell them ‘Yes, I'm a satisfied consumer.' ”
In a May indictment against a firm called Pantheon Holdings, nine defendants are accused of running a scam involving Internet kiosks. Four defendants associated with Pantheon have pleaded guilty.
Pantheon promoted its business to consumers across the country in TV ads. It claimed that for a mere $18,000, Pantheon would perform all the legwork for the business operator. The only thing the business operator needed to do was plug in the Internet kiosk, wipe it down occasionally, and collect the cash.
Pantheon's take: $17 million from 700 investors. It no longer exists, but four of its former employees have pleaded guilty to fraud and the company's territorial manager — Jay Mayne — is scheduled for sentencing today. Mayne's lawyer, Martin A. Feigenbaum of Miami, did not return a call for comment.
“The product may be different but the trickery, deceit and the means they swindle people's money don't change,” said Chase, the former SEC prosecutor. “At the end of the day, it's the same wolf in sheep's clothing.”
Alex Acosta photo by Aixa Montero
Crime Wave: Scams Use Leased Radio Time To Target Immigrant Listeners
Cut and Run. Hundreds of mostly poor investors taken for millions? Say it ain't so.
In June 2006, U.S. District Court Judge K. Michael Moore ordered two of the companies' principals, Montinard and Max François, to pay "disgorgement of ill-gotten gains" to the tune of $5.9 million plus interest. This past November, Moore also found a third man, Aiby Pierre-Louis, liable. To date, none of the trio has admitted wrongdoing, nor has anyone been charged criminally in this case.
"His only crime is trusting the wrong people," says Pierre-Louis's lawyer,Frank L. Hollander. "He has no criminal guilt.... He was a pawn."
Cover Story Seth Tobias trial likely to erupt in probate pandemonium
June 16, 2008 By: Bud Newman
Attorneys in the probate case announced that they have reached a confidential settlement. The Daily Business Review will update the story from a hearing today.
“I did not kill my husband, Seth Tobias.” That sworn statement by Filomena Tobias about the death of her wealthy hedge fund manager-husband in the pool of their Jupiter home last Labor Day weekend is at the center of a high-profile Palm Beach County probate trial set to begin today.
Her matter-of-fact denunciation will be balanced against an accusation by the late millionaire's half-brothers, New Yorkers Sam and Spence Tobias, who allege in court documents that she murdered the heavy-drinking, cocaine-using, hard-partying investor and CNBC stock analyst.
The drowned man's brothers claim his wife put ground Ambien, a prescription sleep aid, into pasta sauce, served it to her husband and lured him to the pool where he died after passing out. She flatly denies it.
The accusation is based solely on an uncorroborated claim that Filomena Tobias confessed to a confidant. And the brothers are trying to use the state's slayer statute to block her from inheriting her late husband's estate as his surviving spouse.
The slayer statute is intended to prevent killers from benefitting financially.
The biggest obstacle for the brothers may be that law enforcement has not reached the same conclusion — that the wife killed the husband.
The Palm Beach County state attorney's office has not charged Filomena Tobias or anyone else with a crime in Seth Tobias' death, which attracted national media attention including a CNBC documentary and New York Times and New York Magazine articles.
“Based on the evidence available at this time, including the autopsy and toxicology reports, there is no indication of criminality in the death of Mr. Tobias,” Assistant State Attorney Mary Ann Duggan wrote in a Feb. 11 statement.
The autopsy report dated Feb. 6 said Tobias, 44, drowned, and a contributing cause of death was “acute intoxication due to the combined effects of zolpidem, cocaine and ethanol” in his system. Zolpidem is sold under the trade name Ambien, and ethanol concentrations in autopsies are a measure of alcohol consumption.
The report listed his manner of death as “undetermined.” It did not venture into how the sleep aid was ingested, stating, “The particular circumstances regarding the consumption of zolpidem remain unknown.”
The slayer statute has apparently never been used successfully in Florida against anyone who was not charged in a killing.
If the brothers prevail using the statute absent even a criminal charge, it apparently would set a precedent.
Estate law experts said it is possible the brothers could win because “the greater weight of the evidence” threshold in a civil case is well below the “beyond a reasonable doubt” standard needed for a criminal conviction.
“The standard of proof is so much lower in a probate case than in a criminal case,” said veteran Miami probate attorney Frank Hollander of Hollander & Associates. “The trier of fact has to determine the credibility of the witnesses.”
Probate experts said the lack of a criminal charge against Filomena Tobias is not an insurmountable obstacle — just a difficult one.
The slayer statute does not require any criminal proceedings. The Legislature dropped a conviction requirement in 1982.
Miami criminal defense attorney Neil Nameroff, who works with Hollander, does not expect the Tobias brothers to win.
There is a lot of money at stake. Two knowledgeable sources who requested anonymity said the estate is valued at a total of $35 million, or about $25 million after taxes and other obligations.
Budget Cuts Court workers doing more with less
October 13, 2008 By: Bud Newman
Veteran Miami probate attorney Frank Hollander remembers when the impact of the latest round of court layoffs hit home at the Miami-Dade County Courthouse.
“They laid off a substantial portion of the ex parte clerks,” Hollander said of the clerks who review probate case filings for errors or problems before paperwork goes to judges. “A pall came over the whole probate division. ... It was almost like we were in the Depression. These people were there forever, and all of a sudden, they're gone. It was a shock.”
Other probate attorneys he spoke with called the firings “a nightmare.” Four of the county's nine ex parte clerk positions disappeared July 1 to meet state-ordered layoffs. Hollander expects judges to become frustrated as they spend more time checking filings that clerks once reviewed.
“In Miami, there are less eyes and ears of the court available to make sure everything that needs to be done is being done,” he said. “There's going to be corners that are going to be cut.”
But he said he hasn't seen a backlog yet.
“They've got it under control at this time,” he said. “I'm happily surprised.”
Eunice Sigler, a Miami-Dade court spokeswoman, said two of the four eliminated positions were vacant, and two clerks serving as case managers were fired.
They were among 222 positions cut statewide in circuit and appellate courts effective July 1, causing ripples throughout the court system. In South Florida, entire offices were shut down, longtime court employees were sent packing, services were reduced, and some courthouse tours for schoolchildren were halted. Judges, attorneys and the public are getting fewer or slower services.
Fine Tune Your Will
Posted on Sun, Feb. 19, 2006
INHERITANCE FINE TUNE YOUR WILL TO PREVENT FUTURE HEADACHES ABOUT ASSETS, HIRE A LAWYER
MarketWatch BY MARSHALL LOEB
People are living so long these days that you might decide that your 90th birthday would be a good day to draft your will. Bad idea. Whatever your adult age, it's wise to have a will. Go to a lawyer as soon as you can and write a will, or update the one you have if it's more than 3 years old. Here are some do's and don'ts about wills: • Do hire a lawyer to draft your will -- and your spouse's. Yes, you can write a will yourself, but if you make just one slip, your will may be worthless. • Do get witnesses. Most states do not accept wills or trusts that have not been vouched for by witnesses. Don't ask a beneficiary to be a witness; the will may be legal, but the beneficiary could lose his or her legacy. In Florida, two witnesses are necessary, Miami probate lawyer Frank L. Hollander said. It's also best that the witnesses are not also beneficiaries. ''In Florida under the Carpenter Doctrine, if a claim of undue influence is made, the burden of establishing that there was not undue influence shifts to the beneficiary.'' • Don't put your will in a safe-deposit box. Some states require that a safe-deposit box be sealed when the holder dies, and it takes time to get the will released. Hollander agreed it wasn't a good idea. Placing a will in a safe-deposit box can create a catch-22, he said, because to open a probate process in court a will is needed, but the safe-deposit box can't be opened without opening the probate case in court. • Do review your will once every three years. Review it more often if there is major new tax legislation or a significant change in your family status. You may want to change some bequests. • Do revise your will if you move. This is important particularly from a common-law state to a community-property state, or vice versa. In a community-property state, almost any assets acquired during a mrriage are jointly owned by both partners except for gifts and inheritances. In a common-law state, assets are owned by the person who buys them. Florida, according to Hollander, does not recognize common law or community-property, but has an ''elective share'' law, which allows a surviving spouse to take 30 percent of the decedent's probate estate property. He recommends anyone who has moved to Florida from another state to rewrite their will. Miami Herald business writer Monica Hatcher contributed to this report.
(04-18-03) St. Augustine Record. Citing a family history of bipolarity and murder, the attorney for accused killer Terry Gray says Gray will rely on an insanity defense. Citing a family history of bipolarity and murder, the attorney for accused killer Terry Gray says Gray will rely on an insanity defense. Miami attorney Frank L. Hollander filed a notice of that defense in the St. Johns County Courthouse on Wednesday... The 49-year-old St. Augustine South man was arrested on a murder charge by the St. Johns County Sheriff's deputies after his wife, Jeannine Gray, was killed on April 1. Hollander, in an interview with The St. Augustine Record, said he will push for a change of venue once he puts all the facts together. He said he won't go into his defense strategies nor how the insanity pleading will affect them. He said he thinks the court would treat the accused fairly, but Jeannine was popular and well liked. Everybody seems to know everybody, he said. "It's just too tight knit," Hollander said. The area is nothing like Miami, where Hollander represented Gray's older brother in a recent murder trial. Jack Gray, 54 who slayed his aunt. Among Hollander's concerns are the connections that the Grays had to the St. Johns County Courthouse. Terry Gray was hired on Sept. 19, 2000, as a mail carrier for the clerk's office. He worked in part under Carlton Moore, the ex-husband of the woman Gray is accused of killing. Two months later, Gray's older brother Jack stabbed their elderly aunt to death inMiami. Jack thought she was hiding his pain-killer prescription, Hollander said. He is now a free man and is currently in "Loving Care," a facility in Miami Beach. "You're dealing with a disturbed family," Hollander said. Families and Histories The girl told deputies that Gray pointed the gun at her after shooting her mother, according to Hollander. She called 911 from a neighbor's home. Minutes later, Gray called 911 as well and was coached through an unsuccessful attempt at CPR, Hollander said. Deputies found him in the home. WhenHollander investigated the crime scene on Wisteria Street in St. Augustine South, he found Gray's unfilled prescription order for Tegretol in a car, he said. Gray hadn't been taking his medicine. Hollander said "the evidence is clear that he killed her," but he has not seen awritten admission. "You can't confess to a crime that hasn't been charged," Hollander said. Prior to the killing, Gray had been refusing to take medicine for his bipolarity, possibly because taking it caused sexual dysfunction, Hollander said. He had been seeing a psychiatrist for at least 10 years, he said. "I thought it was important for the state to know ... as early as possible, that he has issues. He's extremely paranoid," Hollander said. "I don't know why he had a gun in the house. He should not have had a gun," he said. Hollander was in Europe when he received a call this month from Larry Gray, the middle of the three Gray brothers. Larry got to know him while Hollander spentsome two years defending Jack in Miami. The family needed his services again.
A Hollywood company that sold Internet kiosks to investors is the target of several Broward Circuit Court lawsuits alleging fraud and racketeering, and has been ordered to repay investors in at least three arbitration cases. Miami attorney Frank L. Hollander represents three groups of Nationwide Cyber Systems investors who have sued the company and its principals in Broward Circuit Court. They allege deceptive business practices, fraud, unjust enrichment, violation of the state’s fraudulent practices act and violation of the state Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act. A second corporation, Transnet Wireless, also is named as a defendant in the suits filed by Hollander. The suits describe Transnet as a subsidiary of Nationwide Cyber Systems incorporated to hold its “ill-gotten gains.”
Frank L. Hollander: "They promised excellent customer service and support after the sale and that was totally false." Attorney Frank L. Hollander represents still more - unhappy investors. He has filed a lawsuit that accuses Nationwide Cyber Systems, its officers and employees with everything from deceptive and unfair trade practices to fraud. Frank L. Hollander: "These people did guarantee you would get your money back if you requested it. Carmel Cafiero: Did they give it back? Frank L. Hollander: They absolutely did not." Seven News has learned there is now a criminal investigation of what went on here. The State Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services - which has 93 open complaints - has opened a criminal investigation of Nationwide Cyber Systems. It is looking at possible violations of Florida's Business Opportunity Law.
The Scam Du Jour A few years ago, South Florida’s ubiquitous telemarketing boiler rooms were focused on selling foreign exchange investments. Now it looks like the turnkey “biz op” is the scam du jour, solidifying the area as one of the nation’s capitals for silver-tongued thieves. Miami attorneyFrank L. Hollander, who said he has represented dozens of those ripped off in biz op scams, said many of his clients are retirees. One lost close to $400,000. Others have lost their homes and had their marriages fall apart in the wake of financial ruin. Hollander said he was able to get injunctions to drive the fly-by-night firms out of Miami. “We took care of that cancer on society,” he said. Hollander said he still is pursuing a man he calls the “kingpin” of one of these companies to pay a $100,000 judgment. “He’s living in a mansion,” Hollander said. “He’s driving around in a Lamborghini and has a Swiss bank account.” In a May indictment against a firm called Pantheon Holdings, nine defendants are accused of running a scam involving Internet kiosks. Four defendants associated with Pantheon have pleaded guilty. Pantheon promoted its business to consumers across the country in TV ads. Pantheon’s take: $17 million from 700 investors.
The Wall Street Journal MIAMI -- ...WLQY-AM a Creole program on radio a "musical variety show." was actually part of a fraud, according to the Securities and Exchange Commission. Scam artists used the radio for two years to promote an investment scheme that ensnared 631 Haitian immigrants and cost them nearly $6 million, a federal court ruled after an SEC complaint.. The program run by a now-defunct Florida company called Focus Development Center Inc. offered listeners a "unique opportunity": Focus principal, Aiby Pierre-Louis, is contesting the SEC's allegations, and the case may go to a civil trial. Mr. Pierre- Louis's lawyer, Frank L. Hollander, says the other partners "stuck all this stuff in front of him and had him sign it."
Cut and Run In June 2006, U.S. District Court Judge K. Michael Moore ordered two of the companies' principals, Montinard and Max François, to pay "disgorgement of ill-gotten gains" to the tune of $5.9 million plus interest. This past November, Moore also found a third man, Aiby Pierre-Louis, liable. To date, none of the trio has admitted wrongdoing, nor has anyone been charged criminally in this case... "His only crime is trusting the wrong people," says Pierre-Louis's lawyer, Frank L. Hollander. "He has no criminal guilt.... He was a pawn."
Miami attorney Frank L. Hollander filed a notice of that defense in the St. Johns County Courthouse on Wednesday, prior to any indictment that might specify what charges Gray will face in court. The 49-year-old St. Augustine South man was arrested on a murder charge by the St. Johns County Sheriff's deputies after his wife, Jeannine Gray, was killed on April 1.Citing a family history of bipolarity and murder, the attorney for accused killer Terry Gray says Gray will rely on an insanity defense.
Jeannine was a lifelong St. Johns County resident. The mother of three was a former worker in the St. Augustine probation office and an administrative assistant in a federal probation office in Jacksonville. The 44-year-old was shot in the throat with a 9 mm handgun after intervening in a fight between her daughter and Terry Gray in their home on Wisteria Road, the sheriff's office said.
Hollander, in an interview with The St. Augustine Record, said he will push for a change of venue once he puts all the facts together. He said he won't go into his defense strategies nor how the insanity pleading will affect them. He said he thinks the court would treat the accused fairly, but Jeannine was popular and well liked. Everybody seems to know everybody, he said.
"It's just too tight knit," Hollander said.
The area is nothing like Miami, where Hollander represented Gray's older brother in a recent murder trial. Jack Gray, 54 who slayed his aunt.
Among Hollander's concerns are the connections that the Grays had to the St. Johns County Courthouse. Terry Gray was hired on Sept. 19, 2000, as a mail carrier for the clerk's office. He worked in part under Carlton Moore, the ex-husband of the woman Gray is accused of killing.
Gray was fired on March 28, 2001, after a public "verbal outburst," according to his personnel file.
"He was terribly angry, and he was filled with rage," wrote Sevie Gullette, director of Records Management for the clerk's office. Gray had not been picked to attend a seminar in Tampa.
Days later, he received a trespass warning from a deputy sheriff after showing up at Moore's apartment on April 1, exactly two years before Jeannine was shot. Gray had been fighting with Moore's daughters, Moore said.
"That night, everybody was afraid of him," Moore told The Record.
Two months later, Gray's older brother Jack stabbed their elderly aunt to death in Miami. Jack thought she was hiding his pain-killer prescription,Hollander said. He is now a free man and is currently in "Loving Care," a facility in Miami Beach.
"You're dealing with a disturbed family," Hollander said.
Families and Histories
Moore said his children, especially his 15-year-old daughter, were afraid of Gray. He described Gray as an "actor."
"He liked to blame people for things, too," Moore said.
Days before Jeannine's death, she met Moore in a parking lot at night and said she feared Gray