From the daily archives: Monday, March 22, 2010

-Attorney General Edmund G. Brown Jr. today announced that California Department of Justice agents arrested a former nursing home administrator, Concepcion “Connie” Pinco Giron, 51, of Richmond, who “callously stole” more than $50,000 from six of her elderly patients, one of whom she kidnapped and held for nearly a year in order to take her pension and social security checks.

Giron faces one count each of kidnapping to commit another crime, false imprisonment and elder abuse, and six counts of theft from elder or dependent adults by a caretaker. If convicted, Giron faces up to 12 years in prison. Giron is being held at Alameda County Jail, and bail has been set at $365,000.

“Giron callously stole thousands of dollars from elderly and sick people, even going so far as to kidnap an elderly woman with Alzheimer’s and steal the woman’s social security checks,” Brown said. “This is a shocking case of nursing home abuse and a gross violation of trust.”

In August 2009, agents from Brown’s Bureau of Medi-Cal Fraud and Elder Abuse (BMFEA) received a complaint against Giron, who at the time was the assistant administrator of Elmwood Nursing and Rehabilitation Center in Berkeley.

Brown’s office began an investigation and discovered that Giron had kidnapped an 85 year-old woman with Alzheimer’s and moved her from the nursing home to Giron’s own home. To kidnap the woman, Giron falsified the discharge paperwork and told her employer that the patient was transferring to a licensed facility. Giron held the victim in her home for almost a year and cashed her monthly pension and social security checks to pay Giron’s own bills and rent. The victim, who was not harmed, was later taken to a licensed facility.

As the investigation continued, agents from Brown’s office also found that Giron had opened bank accounts for several of her patients and had transferred funds from those accounts into her own bank account. Giron wrote checks to herself from the patients’ accounts, used their ATM cards and stole cash from patients’ trust accounts that were maintained by the nursing home.

In addition, Giron convinced the son of a full-time patient that he needed to pay an extra $600 a month in cash to keep his mother in the facility. Giron pocketed these payments, which the son made for 18 months.

In total, Giron stole more than $50,000 from six of her elderly patients and their families.

Brown’s Bureau of Medi-Cal Fraud and Elder Abuse protects patients in nursing homes and other long-term care facilities from abuse and neglect. The Bureau also investigates and prosecutes those who cheat taxpayers out of millions of dollars each year and divert scarce healthcare resources from the needy.

Last year, Brown’s Bureau of Medi-Cal Fraud and Elder Abuse returned more than $12 million to victims of elder abuse and secured 47 criminal convictions in elder abuse cases. Although elder abuse can take many forms, the majority of cases involve abuses at California’s skilled nursing facilities. Brown’s office uses its civil, administrative and criminal enforcement powers to bring poorly performing care facilities into compliance with federal and state laws.

To report cases of elder abuse, please contact the Bureau of Medi-Cal Fraud and Elder Abuse hotline toll-free at 1-800-722-0432 or visit: http://ag.ca.gov/bmfea/reporting.php.

 

Effective January 4, 2010, a diagnosis of HIV infection will not render a person traveling into the United States as inadmissible under Section 212(a)(1)(A)(i) of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA). Thus, HIV-positive travelers seeking entry to the United States no longer need a waiver of inadmissibility to travel to the United States.

This includes travelers who successfully obtained a waiver of inadmissibility for HIV infection in the past and those who were denied admission into the United States based on HIV infection and the lack of a waiver of inadmissibility thereof.

Travelers from Visa Waiver Program (VWP) countries who were previously denied an approved Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA) based solely on HIV infection would not be barred from re-applying for travel authorization and their HIV infection would no longer bar them from receiving an ESTA authorization.

Additionally, effective January 4, 2010, CBP officers shall not consider a lack of HIV test results when making a determination of admissibility on an arriving immigrant or refugee.

HIV-positive travelers who have any other grounds of inadmissibility under Section 212(a) of the INA must continue to obtain a waiver of inadmissibility.

CBP strives to treat all travelers with respect and in a professional manner, while maintaining the focus of our mission to protect all citizens and visitors in the United States.

CBP admits over 1 million individuals into the United States at 327 air, land and sea ports of entry on a daily basis.

 

Attorney General Edmund G. Brown Jr. today shut down two fraudulent foreclosure-assistance companies and secured a court judgment that prohibits three individuals from working in the real estate industry and provides more than $1 million in restitution for victims left with “false hope” after paying upfront fees for nonexistent loan-modification services.

“George Escalante, Cesar Lopez and Adrian Pomery used their loan-modification companies to sell false hope to hundreds of Californians facing foreclosure,” Brown said. “This judgment shuts their companies down, locks them out of the real estate industry and pays back more than $1 million to the victims.”

On July 7, 2009, Brown filed suit against two affiliated companies based in Orange County, U.S. Foreclosure Relief Corp. and H.E. Servicing, Inc., as well as their executives, George Escalante and Cesar Lopez, and legal representative Adrian Pomery. The suit was filed jointly with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and the State of Missouri as part of “Operation Loan Lies,” a massive federal-state crackdown on loan-modification fraud.

The joint investigation, initiated in March 2009, found that the defendants used aggressive telemarketing tactics to convince distressed homeowners to pay $1,800 to $2,800 in upfront fees for loan-modification services that included reductions in principal and lower interest rates. In sales calls, H.E. Servicing, for example, claimed it had successfully negotiated 10,000 loan modifications. However, a full review of internal records found the company opened only 2,960 loan-modification files and completed only 311. It is estimated that California homeowners accounted for 15 to 20 percent of the company’s opened loan-modification files.

Brown’s judgment permanently shuts down U.S. Foreclosure Relief and H.E. Servicing and prohibits the defendants from ever working in the real estate and loan-modification industries again.

Additionally, the judgment will provide more than $1 million in relief to victims paid through frozen company funds and the sale of Escalante’s jewelry, 2007 Mercedes SUV, 2007 Mercedes sedan and 2009 Toyota Tundra. Separately, Lopez declared bankruptcy in June 2009 and relinquished possession of a 2007 Cadillac Escalade SUV and 2008 BMW S Series sedan as part of those proceedings.

Under the judgment, a court-appointed independent receiver will oversee the repayment program. Victims can access more information about this program by visiting the receiver’s website at www.heservicingreceiver.com, by calling: 1-866-243-8101 or by emailing: info@heservicingreceiver.com.

The FTC’s enforcement division will monitor the defendants’ compliance with the judgment, and if they are found to have misrepresented their financial condition and inability to pay, the judgment, in full, will become due immediately. The full judgment requires total payment of $8.6 million from Escalante, US Foreclosure Relief and H.E. Servicing as well as $3.3 million from Lopez and $3.4 million from Pomery.

While in operation, H.E. Servicing spent $70,000 a week on radio and television advertising in 100 media markets nationwide and had plans to spend an additional $10,000 to $30,000 a week with the goal of bringing in an estimated $270,000 a week in new business. A report prepared by an outside accountant found that in the first six months of 2009 alone, the company made $4.5 million in net income.

To learn more about how these companies operated, visit: http://ag.ca.gov/newsalerts/release.php?id=1774&.

The original lawsuit alleged that US Foreclosure Relief, H.E. Servicing and their executives violated:

– FTC Act, 15 U.S.C. § 45(a) for false or unsubstantiated loan modification and success claims;
– TSR, 16 C.F.R. § 310.2(a)(2)(iii) and (a)(4) for making false or misleading statements;
– TSR, 16 C.F.R. § 310.4(b)(l)(iii)(B) for violations of the National Do Not Call Registry;
– TSR, 16 C.F.R. § 310.8 for failure to pay national Registry fees;
– California Business and Professions Code § 17500 for making untrue or misleading statements;
– California Business and Professions Code § 17200 for unfair competition;
– Missouri Merchandising Practices Act § 407.020 for unlawful merchandizing practices; and
– Missouri Merchandising Practices Act § 407.938 and § 407.940 for unlawful foreclosure consulting.

Earlier this month, Brown filed an amended complaint naming Brandon L. Moreno and his law firm, Cresidis Legal, as additional defendants in the case. This comes after investigators found that Moreno served as the legal affiliate for H.E. Servicing after Pomery departed. These defendants are not part of the judgment announced today, and Brown will continue to prosecute the case against them.

By law, all individuals and businesses offering mortgage-foreclosure consulting, loan-modification and foreclosure-assistance services must register with Brown’s office and post a $100,000 bond. It is also illegal for loan-modification consultants and businesses to charge up-front fees for their services.

Non-profit housing counselors certified by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development provide free help to homeowners. To find a counselor in your area, call 1-800-569-4287.

Brown has sought court orders to shut down more than 30 fraudulent foreclosure-relief companies and has brought criminal charges and obtained lengthy prison sentences for dozens of deceptive loan-modification consultants.

For more information on Brown’s action against loan-modification fraud visit: http://ag.ca.gov/loanmod.

 
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