El Segundo Ponzi Scheme Targets Latinos
Headline Legal News | 2009/04/15 21:02
An El Segundo woman took $23 million in a Ponzi scheme that targeted Latinos, the SEC says in Los Angles Federal Court. Clelia A. Flores and her business, Maximum Return Investments, took the money from more than 150 people in seven states, by "guaranteeing" 25 percent returns in 45 days, the SEC says.
Flores roped in customers by offering high-yielding investments in oil, gold, and real estate, the SEC says. It claims she spent more than $3.5 million of it on herself, $443,000 to buy a home, and almost $1.5 million to finance MRI's operations and pay for a lavish party to celebrate the company's alleged success.
Flores promised "guaranteed" returns of up to 25 percent within 45 days, according to the complaint. But she allegedly used only $5.6 million to invest in high-risk ventures and start-up companies that never paid MRI any returns. She allegedly ran the scam from 2006 through 2008.
The SEC seeks an injunction, disgorgement, and fines.


Tainted Chinese drywall shows up in Katrina homes
Headline Legal News | 2009/04/14 17:57
Thomas Stone and his wife rebuilt after their home was flooded by sixfeet of water during Hurricane Katrina, never dreaming they would facethe agony of tearing it apart all over again.

They tapped Lauren Stone's 401(k) retirement savings and saved $1,000by installing Chinese-made drywall throughout their two-story home. Nowthe Stones are among hundreds of Katrina victims facing another, thistime unnatural, disaster.

Sulfur-emittingwallboard from China is wreaking havoc in homes, charring electricalwires, eating away at jewelry, silverware and other valuables, andpossibly even sickening families.

"The bathroom upstairs has acorroded shower-head, the door hinges are rusting out," said50-year-old Thomas Stone, the longtime fire chief of St. BernardParish, outside New Orleans. And then there's the stench, like rotteneggs, that seems to get worse with the heat and humidity.

"It makes me wish there would be another flood to wash it out," said his wife Lauren, 49.

Chinesemanufacturers flooded the U.S. market with more than 500 million poundsof drywall around the same time Katrina was flooding New Orleans, anAssociated Press review of shipping records has found.



Man Jailed for Dodging Child Support
Legal Topics | 2009/04/13 17:53
Authorities in Michigan say a man fathered 14 children with 13 different women and owes more than $530,000 in unpaid child support.


The Flint Journal reports 42-year-old Thomas Frazier was jailed Thursday. Court records say he hasn't made a support payment in six years.

The newspaper says the unemployed man could be held for 90 days if he doesn't pay $27,900.

Frazier says he thinks he fathered only three of the children and that it's unrealistic for authorities to expect him to pay child support that was $3,000 a month at one point.

Frazier remains held at the Genesee County Jail. It wasn't immediately clear if he had a lawyer who could speak for him.


Michigan insurance rate court fight continues
Legal Topics | 2009/04/11 17:25
A Barry County judge has ruled that Michigan regulators must stop their practice of denying auto and home insurance rate filings that are based in part on credit scoring.

Friday's ruling by Circuit Judge James Fisher is a victory for the insurance industry in an ongoing dispute with the Michigan Office of Financial and Insurance Regulation. But it may just be temporary because the overall case likely is headed to the Michigan Supreme Court.

Gov. Jennifer Granholm's administration implemented rules to ban the use of credit scores in rate setting in 2005. Insurance companies sued to keep those rules from taking effect.

Insurers and regulators have been fighting in court since.


Differing Views in GOP Voting
Headline Legal News | 2009/04/11 17:25
The GOP's struggle over its future and the party's fitful steps to attract minorities are on full display in the differing responses of Republican governors to a major Supreme Court case on voting rights.


The court will hear arguments April 29 about whether federal oversight of election procedures should continue in 16 states, mainly in the South, with a history of preventing blacks, Hispanics and other minorities from voting.

In 2006, as Republicans sought to improve their standing with minorities in advance of congressional elections, the GOP-controlled Congress extended for 25 years the Voting Rights Act provision that says the Justice Department must approve any changes in how elections are conducted. Republican President George W. Bush signed the extension into law.

But some Republicans said the extension was not merited and that some states were being punished for their racist past. A legal challenge has made its way to the high court.

GOP Govs. Sonny Perdue of Georgia and Bob Riley of Alabama have asserted in court filings that the continued obligation of their states to get advance approval for all changes involving elections is unnecessary and expensive in view of significant progress they have made to overcome blatant and often brutal discrimination against blacks.

Perdue pointed out that President Barack Obama did better in Georgia than did Democratic nominees John Kerry in 2004 and Al Gore in 2000.


Texas Court Upheld Civil Verdict
Headline Legal News | 2009/04/09 17:24
A Texas appeals court has upheld a multimillion dollar civil verdictagainst a Florida private prison company in the beating death of aninmate.

The 13th Court of Appeals ruled last week that Wackenhut CorrectionsCorp., now known as The GEO Group, and Warden David Forrest have to pay$42.5 million to the family of Gregorio de la Rosa Jr.

Thecompany was accused of allowing two inmates to beat de la Rosa withpadlocks stuffed in socks. He died in 2001, four days before hisexpected release from a facility in Raymondville.

A WillacyCounty jury had ordered the company to pay de la Rosa's family $47.5million in a 2006 civil judgment. The Brownsville Herald reports thatthe appeals court reduced the judgment because a family member had died.



Christian Filmmaker Fights for Fair Use
Legal Topics | 2009/03/23 16:34
An independent Christian filmmaker says Rock Solid Productions tried to prevent him from releasing a documentary on the record company's evangelical Christian founder, singer-songwriter Larry Norman, by threatening to sue him for copyright infringement. The company wants to silence "aspects of Norman's life and career that Norman's family apparently finds unpalatable," filmmaker David Di Sabatino claims in Federal Court.
The plaintiff says he is also an evangelical Christian and "possibly the leading expert on Norman's life and creative work," outside Norman's immediate family. Di Sabatino's 2007 documentary "Frisbee: The Life and Death of a Hippie Preacher" was nominated for an Emmy.
Di Sabatino claims he first interviewed Norman in his quest to document the "Jesus freak" movement of the 1960s and 1970s. At the time, Norman was the movement's Bob Dylan, according to the lawsuit.
The plaintiff says Norman was "a bona fide rock star presenting an evangelistic message to his listeners to live their spiritual lives in a radical manner and spurn 'worldly' success."
Di Sabatino made and funded a 1.5-hour documentary film about Norman, using music, video clips and photographs owned by Rock Solid Productions.
The plaintiff says his use of the material constitutes fair use, and that Rock Solid threatened litigation in order to protect Norman's image as a Christian musical prophet, rather than "an 'outlaw' who conned the faithful," as some Christians purportedly believe.
Di Sabatino says the company is now mainly controlled by Norman's brother, Charles Norman, who "expressed an implacable hostility toward the documentary."
The plaintiff seeks a court declaration that he neither violated the defendant's copyrights nor Norman's privacy rights.
He is represented by Lincoln Bandlow of Lathrop & Gage LLP.


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