We need to go online!
By George Capsis
Dusty got a call from an anxious landlord that offered that a retail shop tenant of hers had received a very legal looking “Summons and Complaint” document that offered that because the shop did not have a proper handicapped ramped entry they were being sued by a disabled person, but allowed they could settle out of court by paying damages and of course legal fees…
This same landlord checked with the shops around her location and discovered that the Sandwich Shoppe on Greenwich Avenue had also been hit so we went over and talked to the very nice owner Gretel Rameriz and her brother Manuel who had paid their lawyer $3000 to look at the document and he was asking for a further fee before taking action.
Dusty then made her way up from the Sandwich Shoppe to 7th Avenue and discovered almost every shop had been served with the same document, including Elephant and Castle.
I called Erik Bottcher, the chief of staff for Councilman Corey Johnson, and he was genuinely alarmed and gave me two very good contacts, the first being a non-profit legal organization that identifies crooked legal scams. The legal organization offered me a news article that seemed identical to this scam and reported that the lawyer had been disbarred and fled to Florida where he evidently got another lawyer to front for him, and started the racket up again. Now here he was just two blocks away walking down Greenwich Avenue handing out fraudulent summonses (hey, wait, wasn’t this a crime in process—shouldn’t the police know and stop this guy?).
I called our 6th Precinct Community Affairs officer, the very nice James Alberici, and caught him almost speechless. I mean standing in the Chase bank with a revolver and a plastic bag to scoop up the cash is a crime in process but a guy handing out nine pages of nearly undecipherable legal language is not a crime until we get the details.
The news clipping said the crooked lawyer has to start with a for-real handicapped person, and in the case cited it was a gentleman who because of an injury had been confined to a wheelchair. When the authorities discovered him he was quite well and greeted them standing and explained he got a fee of $500 for every case they filed on his behalf.
The handicapped association was also very helpful and really knew of these cases and corrected me several times, saying that they use “disabled” rather than “handicapped” and told me that currently there were 10,000 such fraudulent cases going on in the country as we spoke.
Now, I got agitated here—was this paid process server for this crooked lawyer walking through the Village handing out sticky legal fraud traps while the cops were doing nothing? Then I got the idea that maybe, just maybe at police headquarters there was a department that kept track of these more elaborate and protracted scams, so I called the Police Press Office and asked for a “humanoid” and got a less than human voice telling me I had to write an email explaining what I wanted and then maybe somebody might call back—I hung up.
So here was a slow spreading nasty expensive insidious shake down being committed as I sat there and I could do nothing about it. For the police it was not a crime and never would be—indeed it was and is a perfectly legal crime.
And then I thought—if only WestView were online—if only we had the email addresses of all the people who liked and read our paper and I could just write what I have just written above and “click”… it goes out to thousands of West Villagers, some of whom are shopkeepers who just got served “your entry way is not in legal compliance—give us money and we will go away.”
OK, that is what I am determined to do—first with your help and permission: acquire your email address and then send you “hot news” as soon as we know it. We will also send you a reminder of important meetings that are happening that day.
What I would like you to have on your screen every morning is something like:
“Good Morning from WestView. Today will be sunny, with a high of 71, low of 61. Community Board Number 2 has a 6:00 PM meeting at PS 41 to discuss support of community newspapers.”
So now read what I just wrote above and see if this is what you might have written to me:
“I think it is a good idea for WestView to have my email address and send me really valuable information about the Village as it happens…” To achieve this, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Up until now, WestView has been a monthly publication but things happen all the time and we have to catch that nasty lawyer that is serving his “got you now” fake lawsuits as you read this. We all individually “View” the West Village. Now we can collectively offer our views.