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3 Truly Weird Legal Cases

  • Posted On November 16, 2018
  • Categorized In News
  • Written By

It is safe to say that human beings get themselves into all sorts of trouble.  From faking their own death to committing crimes with their twins to throw off police, nothing should surprise us anymore. Let’s take a look at three of the strangest recent legal cases.

Pseudocide in Alaska

A man from Alaska was recently convicted for sexually assaulting a woman who was incapacitated.  He went on to receive a 15-year sentence to be served in state prison.  He posted bail and subsequently went home with his girlfriend.  This man did not intend to go to prison.  He and his girlfriend came up with a plan to fake his death (pseudocide).  Currently, in Alaska, it is not illegal to fake your own death.  One day this man, a commercial fisherman by trade, got on a boat and did not return to harbor on that boat.  His girlfriend reported him missing.  The plan was for him to take a different boat to harbor and hide in a house close to his girlfriend’s.  His girlfriend could not stomach the tears of the man’s grieving parents so she told them he was still alive.  The police were notified and the man is now in prison.

The Sex Offenders of Grovetown, Georgia

Every year, before Halloween, you see article after article about how to keep your kids safe.  Well, the Mayor of Grovetown, Georgia took the issue to heart.  In Georgia, sex offenders are required to meet their parole officers whenever and wherever they are told to do so.  The Mayor teamed up with the local parole officer to hatch a plan.  The plan was to require all 25-30 of the town’s sex offenders to meet at City Hall from 6pm to 9pm on Halloween to “shield” kids from them.  It should be noted that, in 2009, a study concluded that there is no increase in the rate of sexual assaults on Halloween.

 The Identical Twin Jewelry Heist

The DNA of identical twins is…identical.  In 2009, a German jewelry store was robbed by three men.  Two of the men were identical twins.  They descended from the ceiling as if they were in Mission Impossible and made off with $6.8 million worth of jewelry.  It was very well-done, but one of the brothers left behind a drop of sweat on a latex glove.  Using DNA testing, the German police were able to identify the two brothers, but they were unable to say which one it was and they were unable to prove both brothers were at the crime scene.  In the end, the brothers went free.

If you find yourself in a bind, you need help.  Elias Dsouza has the knowledge and experience to help you through financial, immigration, business, and many other legal issues.  Contact Elias today for a free consultation.

The “El Chapo” Trial is Under Way

  • Posted On November 14, 2018
  • Categorized In News
  • Written By

One of the most notorious drug-lords in history is finally facing trial in New York today.  He is facing 17 charges that could lead to a life sentence.  His defense attorney claims the Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman is the fall guy for the real king pin who is still operating in Mexico.  He continues to claim that people in the Mexican government, all the way up to the current president, have accepted bribes to pin the blame on Guzman. Let’s take a look at what (allegedly) landed “El Chapo” in court today.

Background

Joaquin Guzman lived in Sinaloa, Mexico from birth.  His father said he was a cattle rancher, but many people believe he was actually a poppy farmer.  Joaquin dropped out of school in 3rd grade to work with his father.  His father was abusive and, as a teen, Joaquin stood up to him.  Eventually, Guzman was kicked out of his family home so he went to live with his grandfather.  After a time, he went to live with his uncle, Pedro Perez who was a pioneer in the Mexican drug trade.

It did not take long for “El Chapo” to make a name for himself.  In the 70’s and 80’s, Guzman spent time working his way through the ranks until, in the 90’s, he was able to seize power when the leader of the cartel was arrested.  From the 90’s to around 2013, Guzman (allegedly) ran the Sinaloa Cartel with an iron fist.

The Charges

“El Chapo” is facing 17 criminal charges including:

  • Distribution of massive amounts of narcotics. It is estimated that over 230,000 pounds of cocaine have crossed the border into the U.S.
  • Unlawful distribution and use of firearms. In 2014, he claimed he was responsible for the murder of 2,000 – 3,000 people.
  • International money smuggling. The amount totaling in the area of $14 billion.

Interestingly, as part of the extradition agreement, the Mexican government made the United States agree to take the death penalty off the table.  Mexico does not agree with capital punishment.  Recently, Mexico denied Guzman’s request for extradition as the drug lord has escaped prison several times in the past (most recently in 2013).

Today in Court

Opening statements were made today in a New York court.  Guzman pleaded “not guilty” to all charges.  His lawyer claimed that he was being used as a scapegoat by the Mexican government.  He went on to say that the Mexican government was bribed by the current cartel leader to blame Guzman for the crimes.  The identities of all jurors are being concealed during the duration of the case due to safety concerns.  The trial was delayed because of juror anxiety.  Additionally, an enormous security operation was in place to mitigate any chance of an incident.  This trial is expected to take at least four months.

You do not have to be a drug lord to require the services of an experienced attorney.  If you are having trouble making ends meet, your business needs tax advice, or your family needs legal advice, contact Elias Dsouza of Dsouza and Strachan Lawgroup Group today.

Megyn Kelly vs. NBC

  • Posted On November 12, 2018
  • Categorized In News
  • Written By

Megyn Kelly has faced controversy in the past.  She left Fox News because she did not like the “snake pit” of prime-time cable and Donald Trump often criticized her publicly.  She never considered herself a political person and still managed to find herself amidst battles with political players.  She moved to NBC to talk about issues with a more holistic approach.  Her viewership numbers were not great especially when her contract is considered.  The final blow for Megyn was her comment on air regarding the correctness of people including a “blackface” in their Halloween costume.

Megyn Kelly’s Comments Regarding “Blackface”

In late October, on her show, Megyn Kelly made this comment:

“But what is racist?” Kelly asked on her show. “Because you do get in trouble if you are a white person who puts on blackface on Halloween, or a black person who puts on whiteface for Halloween. Back when I was a kid that was OK, as long as you were dressing up as, like, a character.”

She faced immediate backlash on social media and people called for her termination.  NBC immediately took her off the air to let the dust settle.  They were not quick to terminate her and many people believe it is because her contract is worth about $20 million per year.

Andrew Lack

The Chairman of NBC News and MSNBC, Andrew Lack had this to say, “There is no other way to put this: I condemn those remarks; there is no place on our air or in this workplace for them.”  Many believe Lack had to act more decisively with Kelly than he did with Matt Lauer.  Lack was accused of being soft on Lauer before firing him.  Andrew Lack was also criticized because he turned away Ronan Farrow, the reporter who was working on the Harvey Weinstein story.  Farrow eventually went to the New Yorker with the story.

Kelly’s Contract

Megyn Kelly still has over a year on her contract and she is not going away without the money.  According to the Daily Mail, Kelly’s contract is a “non-break deal” so she may be able to walk away with the full $69 million.  Other sources report that she is in talks with Fox News negotiating a potential comeback.

Sometimes jobs do not pan out like they were supposed to.  When this happens, you may have trouble making ends meet.  If you are in this position with bills piling up and you are having trouble getting back on your feet, you may have options.  Elias Dsouza is an experienced credit counselor and debt negotiator.  Contact Elias today to get a free consultation.

The “Coming Storm of Broke Elderly”

This phrase was coined in a paper published by the Social Science Research Network in August of this year.  According to the paper, from 1991 to 2016, the bankruptcy rate for people over the age of 65 has risen 204%.  Explanations include low income, scarce or failing pensions, and the furious rise in health care costs. 

What is Causing the Increase in Bankruptcy Rate?

There are many factors that cause debt to pile up and make bankruptcy the only option, but for people 65 and older, three of the main factors are:

  • Low income – According to aarp.org, in 2012, the average income for people 65 and older was $31,742. The Kaiser Family Foundation reported that out-of-pocket health care costs consume about 41% of the income of people over 65.
  • Failing pension plans – The Society for Human Resource Management projects that 114 major multi-employer pension plans will fail in the next 20 years due to lack of funding. The Federal Government’s own pension plans are looking at a $7 trillion deficit and Congress says it may be too late to fix it (com).
  • Rising health care costs – Fidelity Investments released a report that stated “A Couple Retiring in 2018 Would Need an Estimated $280,000 to Cover Health Care Costs in Retirement”. According to com, the average 401k balance for individuals 60-69 was $167,700 in 2017.

Why Do People over 65 Wait to Seek Help?

Most people 65 and older were raised by parents who lived through the great depression.  Asking for help is not easy and often not even considered.  They throw minimum payments at the credit card bills over and over again because they believe paying their bills is the honorable thing to do even though they are not reducing their principle balance.  Then, a medical emergency happens and they have to stop paying their bills.

Some Quotes from People in the Study

When speaking to the authors of theGraying of U.S. Bankruptcy: Fallout from Life in a Risk Society” study, subjects said:

  • “My wife developed medical problems and had to leave her job, resulting in a loss of income. About two years later, I developed medical problems and was not able to continue working,”
  • “We got to a point where we simply could not handle the debt load. The constant calls from bill collectors forced us to contact an attorney for help.”

If you, your parents, grandparents, or any other loved ones are being harassed by creditors, you are not alone.   Circumstances are often out of our control and sometimes bankruptcy can actually be a good option.  To utilize this tool, you need the experience of a skilled bankruptcy attorney.  Elias Dsouza of Dsouza and Strachan Lawgroup Group is dedicated to helping people regain control of their life and finances.  Contact Elias today for a free consultation.

Foreclosures on New York’s Billionaire’s Row

Of the over 2,000 billionaires in the world, 82 have a residence in New York City.  One57 (aka “The Billionaire’s Building”) is a tower near Central Park.  The identities of the residence of One57 are held secret, but two individuals were revealed because they stopped paying their mortgage.  Billionaires have bills too!

Foreclosure #1 – Mr. LLC

Mr. LLC is named as such because he shielded his identity behind an LLC when he bought a 3,466 square foot condo in One57.  Mr. LLC paid $21.4 million in 2015 for the property.  Apparently, things did not go according to plan.  Mr. LLC had rough couple of years and ended up with a lien on the property for $20.9 million plus fees and taxes.  The owner put the property on the market for $22.5 million, but it remains on the market over 500 days later.

Foreclosure #2 – Nigerian Oil Tycoon

Kolawole Aluko bought a 6,240 square feet apartment on the 56th floor of One57 in 2015.  He paid $50.9 million and $35.3 million of that was borrowed.  He also put up his 213-foot yacht, Galactic Star, as collateral.  The terms of the agreement stated that Mr. Aluko had to pay off the balance by the end of 2017.  The problem?  No one knows where the oil tycoon is.  Many believe he is living on his yacht.  Why?  In 2016, Mr. Aluko was suspected of stealing money from the Nigerian government.  In addition, he is thought to have made much of his money in international money laundering schemes.

Just for Fun

The most expensive residential apartment purchase in New York City history took place in One57.  In 2014, for $100.5 million, Michel Dell, Founder and CEO of Dell Technologies, bought a penthouse.  That penthouse is just under 11,000 square feet and has 6 bedrooms and 6 bathrooms.  Unlike the two afore mentioned billionaires, Mr. Dell is paying his mortgage.

Sometimes paying your mortgage is impossible.  Circumstances beyond your control can put you in a terrible position.  You might be fielding calls and letters from creditors and those communications can feel intrusive and threatening.  If you want the communication to stop, you need help.  Elias Dsouza of Dsouza and Strachan Lawgroup Group has the skills and experience to get you out of creditor’s crosshairs and back on track.  Contact Elias for a free consultation.

5 of the Worst Business Decisions Ever Made

If your business is having a tough time and you feel like it is your fault, this might make you feel better.  Some bad decisions can cost a small business a few thousand dollars.  Imagine how you would feel if your decision-making cost your business millions?

 1 – The Record Company That Declined to Sign the Beetles

In 1962, Decca Records said to then Beetles manager, “Not to mince words, Mr. Epstein, but we don’t like your boys’ sound. Groups are out; four-piece groups with guitars particularly are finished…The Beatles have no future in show business.”  This was after a 15-song recorded audition.  The producers at Decca went on to sign Brian Poole and the Tremeloes.  Needless to say, that was a swing and a miss.  In 2012, the tape from the Beetles audition was sold for 35,000 Euros and is now believed to be owned by Apple.  By 1964, the Beetles sold over $50 million in records in the United States alone.

2 – The Company That Passed on Google

It is estimated that Google is worth $132 billion.  How would you like to be the guy who was too cheap to buy the company for $1million?  Well, that guy is George Bell.  He was the CEO of Excite when the founders of Google approached him with the offer.  This may be the biggest missed opportunity in business history although we do not know if George Bell would have grown Google into the monster it is today.

3 – Blockbuster Thought Netflix Was a Fad

In the early 2000’s, the CEO of Netflix approached executives at Blockbuster to try to develop a mutually beneficial arrangement.  Blockbuster would advertise Netflix in their brick and mortar stores and Netflix would advertise Blockbuster online.  Executives at Blockbuster were not having it.  It is estimated that Blockbuster would have gained $50 million in market share.  10 years later, Blockbuster filed for bankruptcy.  Netflix is worth $13.5 billion.

4 – Ross Perot Says “No” to Buying Microsoft

When Bill Gates approached Perot to sell Microsoft, Perot was interested.  Gates wanted around $60 million.  This was in 1979 so that was no small chunk of change.  Perot felt that the price was too high because Microsoft hadn’t reached its peak.  Perot later admitted that was the worst business decision he ever made.  Microsoft may be the next member of the $1 trillion club (market value).

5 – Western Union Passes on the Telephone

In 1876, Alexander Graham Bell tried to sell his invention to Western Union for $100,000.  Western Union felt that the telephone would not take off and would fade.  Western Union then hired Thomas Edison to devise a similar invention.  Bell later sued Western Union and won.  Bell communications was born and would remain the largest telecommunications company in the United states for the next century.

If you made a mistake and your business is paying for it, you may be facing bankruptcy, foreclosure, or even abusive creditors.  If this is the case, take control of the situation.  Elias Dsouza has been helping business owners stop the harassing phone calls from creditors and climb out of debt for over 15 years.  Contact Elias for a free consultation.

Martin Scorsese’s Upper East Side Home May Face Foreclosure

Marting Scorsese has directed blockbusters such as “Goodfellas” and “The Departed”.  He has a reported net worth of around $100 million.  Unfortunately, he has found himself in a legal battle with a contractor who was working on his $12.5 million townhouse in New York’s Upper East Side.  He is claiming he paid the contractor.

The Case

A company called Extech Building Materials is suing Martin and his contractor, Smith Restoration Inc.  Extech is claiming that Scorsese and Smith owe over $18,000 for materials used to renovate Scorsese’s $12.5 million townhouse.  Scorsese says, while he has the money to pay, he will not because he gave the money to the contractor up front.  Extech placed a mechanic’s lien on the property in 2015 and is demanding that Scorsese sell the home to offset the cost of the materials.  Scorsese’s attorney released a statement stating, “Mr. Scorsese fulfilled all of his obligations under his contract with Smith, and paid Smith in full, but allegedly Smith failed to pay the material supplier.”

Past Money Problems

Scorsese has had money issues in the past.  In 2010, he fell behind on paying taxes and the IRS put a $2.85 million lien on one of his properties.  About a year later, he paid the IRS in full.  Many believe his money issues stem from his recent difficulty finding commercial success for his movies.  In 2011, he went $56 million over budget while creating “Hugo”.  In 2016, he spent $40 million of his own money to produce “Silence”.  The project only yielded $7 million.

Even with these recent flops and Scorsese’s refusal to pay $18,000 to Extech, it is highly unlikely that foreclosure will be ordered by a judge.

You do not have to be rich or famous to get into a dispute with a contractor or fall behind on taxes and mortgage payments.  If you are having trouble paying your taxes or mortgage, you need guidance.  Elias Dsouza has been helping people get back on track financially for over 15 years.  Contact Dsouza and Strachan Lawgroup Group for a free consultation.

China’s Most Popular Actress Facing Tax Fines in the Millions

  • Posted On October 25, 2018
  • Categorized In News
  • Written By

You may not have heard of Fan Bingbing, but she is China’s most famous actress.  She has also appeared in American films such as “X-Men: Days of Future Past” and “Air Strike”.  This worldwide celebrity is the latest to get caught “cooking the books”. 

Income Tax in China

China’s current tax bracket breakdown can be seen below:

 

Monthly taxable income (CNY*) (1) Net income (2) Tax rate (%) Quick deduction (CNY)
Grossed income
0 to 1,500 0 to 1,455 3 0
Over 1,500 to 4,500 Over 1,455 to 4,155 10 105
Over 4,500 to 9,000 Over 4,155 to 7,755 20 555
Over 9,000 to 35,000 Over 7,755 to 27,255 25 1,005
Over 35,000 to 55,000 Over 27,255 to 41,255 30 2,755
Over 55,000 to 80,000 Over 41,255 to 57,505 35 5,505
Over 80,000 Over 57,505 45 13,505

 

Fan Binging has a net worth of over $100 million (USD) so we are assuming she is in the 45% tax bracket.  80,000 (CYN) is equivalent to about $11,500 (USD) per month. She would be in the 28% bracket in the United States.

Accusation of Tax Fraud

The Chinese government is accusing Fan Bingbing of purposefully dodging taxes.  Specifically,

  • She only paid taxes on $1.1 million (USD) of the $7.5 million (USD) contract for her role in Air Strike.
  • Fan’s companies evaded $36 million (USD) in taxes.

The Chinese government has not released more details just yet.

Penalties

The Chinese government does not mess around when it comes to tax evasion.  While they are not demanding jail time since this is Fan’s first criminal conviction, she will have to:

  • Personally, pay $70 million (USD) in taxes and fees.
  • Her companies must pay about $60 million (USD) in taxes and fees.

The total owed in taxes and fees: $130 million (USD).  Compare that to some of the famous tax evasion fines for American celebrities:

  • Wesley Snipes – $7 million
  • Nicolas Cage – About $12 million
  • Willy Nelson – About $16 million

In response to the judgement, Fan released an apology, I’m ashamed of my behavior and I apologize here to everyone.”  Also, “Every bit of my achievement is inseparable from the support of the state and the people. Without the good policies of the Communist Party and the state, without the love of the people, there is no Fan Bingbing.”

Tax lax is complicated.  You do not have to be a celebrity to have tax problems.  If you find yourself under the scrutiny of the IRS, you need help.  Elias Dsouza has been defending people with tax problems for over 15 years.  Contact Dsouza and Strachan Lawgroup Group for a free consultation.

Claire’s: A Bankruptcy Success Story

In March of this year, Claire’s began to crumble under the weight of just over $2 billion in debt.  With stores in nearly every mall in America, the ear-piercing giant was feeling the decline of the mall as we know it.  Unable to pierce ears over the internet, Claire’s has suffered the same reduction in foot traffic as most of the stores in malls have these days.  Chapter 11 bankruptcy became inevitable. However, this particular bankruptcy story may have a successful ending.

Chapter 11 Filing

Claire’s has pierced over 100 million ears around the world.  Unfortunately, they hitched their wagon to thousands of malls that are seeing less and less traffic every year.  However, many believe the real reason they are over $2 billion in debt is that, in 2007, a private equity firm called Apollo Management bought the company for $3.1 billion and took them private.

As this happened just before the market plummeted in 2008, debt piled up for a few years and the company could not find its way out of the rubble.  Claire’s leadership said they believed they could rid themselves of about $1.9 billion in debt and the bankruptcy filing would position the company to grow in the near future.

Escaping Bankruptcy

After only a few months, Claire’s has managed to reorganize under chapter 11 and:

  • Obtain $575 million in new capital.
  • Close about 5000 stores.
  • Franchise over 600 stores to private companies.
  • Pass control of the company from Apollo Management to their creditors.
  • Expand its concession locations to further stimulate growth with reduced future risk.

There are always those that lose out when a company files for bankruptcy.  Thousands of employees were laid off.  While this is unfortunate, Claire’s leadership is hopeful that it opens doors for the company to hire again in the future.

If you or your company find yourself in a no-win situation, you need help.  Navigating the bankruptcy process is complex and stressful.  You need the skills and resources of an experienced bankruptcy attorney.  Elias Dsouza understands the process of bankruptcy and can guide you and your company back to the path.  Contact Elias Dsouza for a free consultation.

Any Chance for Mattress Firm to Avoid Bankruptcy Has Been Put to Bed

Mattress Firm is the largest bed store in America.  They have over 3,500 locations after merging with their largest competitor.  Unfortunately, this merger and the rise of online bed-in-a-box shopping has eaten up the company’s market share and taken customers out of their stores.

About Mattress Firm

According to their website, Mattress Firm has over 3,500 store locations in 49 states.  At their peak, in 2015, they reported over $3.5 billion in sales.  Over the last 30 years they have absorbed companies such as:

  • Sleep Train – purchased for $425 million in 2014, this company was huge in the west and northwest.
  • Discount Mattress Barn – was purchased and rebranded in 2014.
  • Sleep Country USA – also a large chain in the pacific northwest, this company changed their brand name after being purchased by Mattress Firm in 2015.
  • Sleepy’s – in 2015, this company was bought out for $780 million.

The last purchase left Mattress Firm with over 3,500 stores.  While this can be indicative of a strong successful company, sometimes it is too much growth to be sustainable.

Mattress Firm’s Problems

As previously stated, too much growth can be a killer for a company.  The CEO of Mattress Firm admitted that they had too many stores competing with one another.  In 1990, the company tried its hand at selling furniture which was a complete failure. However, the companies biggest mistake was waiting to create an online presence.  Casper may be personally responsible for changing the mattress industry and burying Mattress Firm.  Casper is known for great customer service, a sleek website, and shipping (for free) a high-quality mattress-in-a-box.  Even today, Mattress Firm’s website is not as modern and inviting as Casper’s.

Mattress Firm

mattress firm

Casper

casper

Every year, dozens of companies are failing because of their refusal to invest in their online presence.

Details of Mattress Firm’s Bankruptcy

After filing for chapter 11 bankruptcy, the company plans to:

  • Close 200 stores immediately.
  • Close 500 more stores by the end of the year.
  • Exit bankruptcy within two months.
  • Open stores in new thriving markets.

Another note, Casper plans to open 200 brick and mortar locations in the near future to catch customers who prefer to feel the mattress before they purchase it.

Bankruptcy is a valuable tool that can be used to get you or your business back on track.  It is also a very complex process.  To use this valuable tool, you need the experience and skill of a licensed attorney.  Elias Dsouza has the experience and skill you need to get back to business.