Missing Seniors and the Real Estate Scam

It’s shocking how much can happen over the course of two weeks. These last two weeks in my life have been highly stressful and emotional, and it all went down with a single phone call.

 

The Phone Call

 

On Monday, June 26, 2017, I began receiving numerous phone calls and text messages from someone asking if I knew a Brenda Gibson. Not recognizing the number, I was hesitant to answer but the person kept persisting. Finally that evening, I texted the number back asking, “Who are you and what do you want?” I received an immediate reply of, “This is Zohar. Do you know Brenda Gibson?” My first thought: What the fuck is a Zohar? I replied, “That is my estranged mother.” After a pause, the phone rang, the caller ID the same number.

 

Upon speaking with this Zohar, he informed me that he was a real estate broker and had seen a listing of a house up for auction. The address he gave me was the house I grew up in down in Fort Lauderdale. He informed me that he was trying to locate my mother and grandmother, whose name was listed as the owner, because the house had been foreclosed and was going to auction the next morning at 10 a.m. He also said he’d interviewed the neighbors who said they hadn’t seen either of them in at least a year.

 

As I was trying to process all this information, he also informed me that neither party could be located and told me I had 16 hours to locate both my mother, the owner, and my mother, her power of attorney. Not only that, I had to be in Fort Lauderdale at 10 a.m. to appear in court and stop the sale so that he could buy the home, refurbish it, and re-sell it, allegedly to split the profits with my mother and grandmother. This guy immediately threw my red flags up as being an underhanded real estate shark looking to prey on the elderly.

 

I told him first of all, I do not live in the area so there is no way I am jeopardizing my job to take off, go out of town, and go to court on the word of someone I have never even heard of. I asked him to provide me any proof of what he was claiming and he did not provide any, only further pushing me to do the impossible within just a few hours time. This utterly pissed me off and I hung up on him, beginning my own research.

 

The Search

 

The first thing I did was to look up this person who called. All I had was a first name and a phone number, which turned up a real estate sales license to a Zohar Gazit with a home office in Hallandale, FL. The license was only issued at the end of May this year, so that was another red flag. His phone number also came back as a Google Voice number. Red flag #3. He’s also associated with a relatively new LLC called Florida State Trust LLC, Premier Mortgage Lending (as a sales person, which is where the Google Voice number answers), as well as President of Nahar Investment Corp. There are eight company associations altogether, the most recent being formed only 5 months ago.

 

Putting this agency/broker to the side, I then called on a friend in my grandmother’s area to help me do some research. We turned up the auction listing and other documents, including an affidavit from the foreclosing bank’s attorney in which they hired a process server to locate and serve my grandmother the foreclosure papers however the statement from December 2016 showed she could not be located and her death could not be verified. So there was one mystery. The second mystery is that my mother was afraid to leave the house and did not go out, so where could she be? I knew she was diagnosed paranoid schizophrenic, so the first place I started checking was area hospitals, none of which would confirm her presence. Next, I tried assisted living facilities, psychiatric facilities, and hospices for both women, and still came up with nothing.

 

After the area facilities were exhausted, I moved on to the Broward Sheriff’s Office. I received a response e-mail from them advising me to reach out to one of two contacts, which I called the next morning. To my utter shock, the Lieutenant told me he couldn’t file a missing person’s report because it had “been too long” since they were last seen. Since when does that matter? I told him these were two seniors, both mentally and physically disabled, and were MISSING since their home got foreclosed a year ago. He said all he could do was run their names through a database but he wouldn’t file a missing person’s report. I still can’t believe how uncaring he was but for my own protection, I will not give his name here.

 

On to some better resources I hoped, I also reached out to the Sun Sentinel and Channel 7 News, neither of which ever responded to me. I then reached out to numerous elder-centered organizations in the area and left voice mail after voice mail, as I was trying to do all this research outside my working hours, which left me very limited in actually reaching offices that were open after I got off work.

 

Dead Ends

 

I was not getting anywhere. The time for the auction had come and gone and the house was sold to the highest bidder. Along with the house, everything in it, including 60 years of family history, now belonged to a corporation who purchased it to flip it and make some quick money. I thought my dealings with Zohar were over at that point, but this was only the beginning.

 

Zohar placed several calls to me that day with a new plan: Find my grandmother, get a lawyer, declare the sale invalid because there was now an heir, let him buy the house, flip it, and split the profits with me. He said he was going to send me a contract of our “partnership” that I should sign and overnight to him. More deadlines, he needed this done right away. Needless to say, no contract ever showed up.

 

When questioned about this alleged contract, he changed his story again, saying he was going to have his associate “Richard” draw up a contract, drive it up to me, have me sign it and get it notarized, and drive it back down to him. We’re talking a 4 hour round trip and I work during the day. I thought: Who in their right mind does business like that? I told them both on the phone if you’re sending me anything, just send a PDF that can be signed electronically. Why would they go through all that trouble when e-mail is instant and secure? Another red flag. Zohar then wanted a copy of my ID to “verify my identity.” Hah – NO. Sorry, but NO. Another red flag.

 

Once again, no paperwork arrived. I still couldn’t get any information out of Zohar, including any attorney information or Richard’s last name or phone number. So for the third or fourth time, Zohar’s story changes and now he tells me that this Richard associate of his has secured an attorney who specializes in foreclosures and probate and that this attorney would work the case on contingency, requiring zero funds from me and that Zohar would pay for everything needed to have the house put in my name as heir and that we would not split the proceeds of the flip between Zohar, myself, and the attorney. Um…. it doesn’t work that way. Again, I was waiting for an e-mail from the attorney and again, no documents ever arrived. Are we surprised?

 

At this point, I’m done with Zohar and I just want to find my grandmother. I accept that the house is gone. It’s not the first time I’ve lost everything and my mother and grandmother had no way to upkeep the house anyway, as it needed too many major repairs, including electrical, plumbing, and roofing. My mother and I have never had a relationship and in her last letter to me, she blatantly told me never to contact her again (this is all over my being close to my father and their own personal issues that she cannot separate me from). So, all that remained was finding my grandmother.

 

The break came the next Friday morning, July 7. I received a call from the Aging and Disabled Resource Center. They were more than willing to help me and within just a few minutes, they were able to provide me with both my mother’s and my grandmother’s forwarding addresses and contact numbers. Their last known addresses showed that my mother was in assisted living in Lauderhill and my grandmother was in a nursing home in Tamarac. This is odd because it’s the first time in their lives that they’ve been separated. My friend called both places while I was at work (silently freaking out), and let me know on my next break that she was able to verify both of them at the locations given. She even provided some additional information.

 

I immediately called both places and asked to be put on their emergency contact lists. I then was able to speak with my grandmother by phone who, even at 89 years old and after several years, still remembered me and my daughter and wanted to see us. Heartbreakingly, she informed me she had lung cancer and had been in the nursing facility for a year. The good news is her mind is still sharp as a tack and she only has little lapses of short term memory loss now and then. Otherwise, she’s mentally good.

 

She also told me that people were there in her room to talk to her about the house. Now this was a real red flag. Regrettably, I’d given both their forwarding addresses to Zohar under the stretch of an idea that he actually was going to do something to reverse the sale. He knew however that my mother was my grandmother’s power of attorney and that my grandmother could not deal with any of this on her own. Within two hours of having the address, people were there in person harassing and confusing my grandmother before I’d have a chance to get down there. I sent Zohar a text and a voice mail and got no response.

 

The Reunion

 

Saturday morning, July 8, my daughter and I along with my sister in law began the two hour drive to my grandmother’s nursing home. Once we got there, she recognized us instantly and we spend 3 hours talking with her. She caught us up on what was happening with my mother, who was not there at the time, but she was unable to tell me who was in her room yesterday about the house. I hope she didn’t sign anything – she doesn’t remember.

 

This all goes back to Zohar because he is the ONLY other person who had her address. Currently, I am drafting a formal request to the Department of Business and Professional Regulation, Division of Real Estate with a full account of the situation, his associates, his associated companies, and his license number to be investigated and prosecuted in the attempt to defraud my elderly grandmother by bypassing her power of attorney and her heirs regarding the foreclosed home that she owned since circa 1960. I also have my own legal support system involved, so this will be done right. To date, he still has not returned any phone call, text, or e-mail but I am following this matter very closely. I vow to protect my grandmother against underhanded dealings by any means necessary.

 

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Catching Up (PerBlog 2017-06-17)

What a whirl of a week this has been. Summer is in full swing and with it, the heat and the storms that I so love about Florida. Even living a stone’s throw from the beach, I still haven’t had the opportunity to get out much. When I can, I enjoy every second of the scent of the salt water, the wind, and the sounds that make Vitamin-Sea such a vital part of a healthy spirit.

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Photo on Hutchinson Island, Florida, credit: Heather Noel (LifeInPawPrints).

Summer plans have gotten off to a slow start, mainly due to finances and unstable hours at work. It’s the slow season so where I was hoping for overtime, there hasn’t been any and there’s always a chance of being volunteered to go home early, so that make it hard to plan some things, not knowing how much a paycheck will be when it’s all said and done. BUT… I’m working on other financial fixes, they’re just being stalled by a very slow legal process which is driving me mad. I always found it ironic that it costs SO MUCH to fix money problems. Perfect example: Bankruptcy. Hundreds of dollars to file, yet if you’re truly bankrupt, you don’t have hundreds of dollars to file, or you wouldn’t be bankrupt. The legal system is twisted and distorted to work against the people, not for the people, but that’s a whole ‘nother rant altogether.

My daughter had wanted to get a job this summer at Publix but even after applying and following up, she was not not called back. They will hire at 14 but she may have a better chance when she turns 15 in a couple weeks. She’s already worked there unofficially, bagging for her grandmother who worked as a cashier, so one store’s staff already knows her. That’s always a plus. But until something comes through for her on employment, she is enjoying the first weeks of summer with me and my partner, his mother and sister. We keep her busy with the art studio, the gym, DIY projects… there’s always something to do. Plus, she gets to sleep in to her heart’s content 🙂

Projects for me include getting some flowers planted (though I’m a couple months late in doing so!) and building a container garden that won’t fall apart like the last attempt. Aside from the seaside, gardening is good medicine for my often bitter spirit. It takes me out of the world and back into the basics of life. I like sowing, I like producing, and I like the idea of making something useful out of nothing. Growing things does that for me. Trouble is finding a place to grow where all the animals won’t destroy my work. Chickens and raccoons are great at getting onto and into places they shouldn’t be!

Suppose that’s it for now. This heat is making me grouchy. Normally I love this house (basically an open-air wood cabin type historic house – no AC – central or window shakers) but summers are a real bitch. There’s no escaping the heat. Even the shade is brutal.

PerBlog 06-04-2017

Hi kids! Today we take a moment to remember that quiet, alone time can be a GOOD thing! It means not having to wake and work around 4 other schedules, being able to watch TV (specifically a documentary on minimalism) until 2 a.m. because I wasn’t tired yet. It means sleeping in til 9 a.m. and having the cats forgive me the moment I gave them milk with their breakfast. It means being able to listen to Ani DiFranco on iHeartRadio while I take my time going through the morning news.

Coming Up
Our father who art in a penthouse
Sits in his 37th floor suite
And swivels to gaze down
At the city he made me in
He allows me to stand and
Solicit graffiti until
He needs the land I stand on
In my darkened threshold
Am pawing through my pockets
The receipts, the bus schedules
The matchbook phone numbers
The urgent napkin poems
All of which laundering has rendered
Pulpy and strange
Loose change and a key
Ask me
Go ahead, ask me if I care
I got the answer here
I wrote it down somewhere
I just gotta find it
I just gotta find it
Somebody and their spray paint got too close
Somebody came on too heavy
Now look at me made ugly
By the drooling letters
I was better off alone
Ain’t that the way it is
They don’t know the first thing
But you don’t know that
Until they take the first swing
My fingers are red and swollen from the cold
I’m getting bold in my old age
So go ahead, try the door
It doesn’t matter anymore
I know the weak hearted are strong willed
And we are being kept alive
Until we’re killed
He’s up there the ice
Is clinking in his glass
He sends me little pieces of paper
I don’t ask
I just empty my pockets and wait
It’s not fate
It’s just circumstance
I don’t fool myself with romance
I just live
Phone number to phone number
Dusting them against my thighs
In the warmth of my pockets
Which whisper history incessantly
Asking me
Where were you
I lower my eyes
Wishing I could cry more
And care less,
Yes it’s true,
I was trying to love someone again,
I was caught caring,
Bearing weight
But I love this city, this state
This country is too large
And whoever’s in charge up there
Had better take the elevator down
And put more than change in our cup
Or else we
Are coming
Up
If I’m lucky, my own urgent napkin poetry may happen today, only it won’t be urgent, but it will be spilled out on any scrap of paper I can find. Who knows where inspiration will come from today but I’m not feeling it yet. Right now I’m just going through the motions of gut-wrenching period cramps and enjoying the clouds floating past, praying for (more) rain and waiting for the Tylenol to kick in so I can get on with my day. At my own pace.

The Future of Cybersecurity is Virtual Reality

The Future of Cybersecurity is Virtual Reality

Cybersecurity professionals may soon add a new level of telecommuting to their work description. Thanks to a company called ProtectWise, a cutting-edge startup company based in Colorado, a new type of software would allow cybersecurity personnel to roam through networks in a 3-D, virtual reality setting. Think of real-world applications for scenes from the Matrix. Their Immersive Grid tool could utterly change the way security gets done.

ProtectWise Co-Founder and CEO Scott Chasin imagines a major corporation or government entity – any large organization – employing a room full of security analysts who wear augmented reality or VR headsets to traverse networks that closely resemble a metropolis. Every physical asset connected to the network, whether it is a server, desktop computer, laptop, mobile phone, etc., would show up “in-world” as a building. Each building could be customized and designed with distinguishable features, making it easy to identify what type of asset it is. They could then be zoned just like a real city, with blocks of assets making their own neighborhoods, cities, etc. The organizational possibilities are endless.

Visualizing the Immersive Grid

The way the Grid is currently designed, each building’s shape (round, square, and so forth) would identify the type of device on the network. The taller the building, the more network traffic is happening at that given moment. The width of a building is indicative of how much bandwidth the device is currently using. To make visualizing potential problems easier, buildings (devices) that turn orange or red would let an analyst know there is a high or unexpected risk level with that device or that it is engaging in unusual activity.

ProtectWise hopes this visualization technology will make cybersecurity professionals more productive and hopes it helps them identify and contain problems quicker and easier than ever before. The company wants to aim the Grid’s usage at younger professionals who may not have extensive experience in python or shell-script as this generation will be the majority user.

Further, younger security analysts will tend to have more useful experience with the mechanics of virtual game worlds than the older set does. The Grid will come more naturally, they think, to the younger professionals. Moreover, human beings are naturally 3-D thinkers and information processors. The scenarios envisioned for the Immersive Grid will tap into these natural abilities and greatly accelerate our ability to manage the real world in virtual space.

FitBit Leads Wearables Market but Improvement Still Needed

While the FitBit brand leads the market in wearable tech, leaving Apple in a close second, much improvement is still needed before wearable gadgets become a real habit for most consumers. Even with current advancements – wearables being available in glasses, bracelets, even footwear – such devices are still seen as bulky, due to battery or screen size, cumbersome, or just not useful. The excitement of purchasing a new piece of technology of this caliber – from Google Glass to FitBits – typically wears off after about a two to six months of use.

 

To counteract this fast lifespan, wearables developers need to focus on those things that the consumer needs in such a device. As a consumer of these products, it is vital that the device gives you something you actually need on a daily basis. Apps and functions that will keep you coming back to it, rather than fating it to life in a sock drawer. Sure, it’s great to know your pulse rate if you’re exercising but do you really need that information if you’re working at a desk all day? Likewise, is a footwear-based step counter really going to be effective if you kick off your shoes the minute you get home?

 

Consumers want information relevant to their life. News, weather, scheduling, and messaging come in at the top of these desires but they must be delivered in an unobtrusive manner. Another major issue is the bulk of such gadgets. You want more information at your fingertips but such luxuries come at the cost of a bigger screen.

 

One solution to this is found with the Cicret (pronounced “Secret”) bracelet. Currently, this item is in the “working prototype” stage and there is already a waiting list for folks who cannot wait to have this Android based gadget. The bracelet itself is wire thin and contains a projector that sends an image of a smart screen right to your arm. The image is fully interactive and acts just like your familiar smart phone. There are not many details out on this yet so keep an eye on it.

 

Other wearables, including virtual and augmented reality headsets are beginning to find their place in the market and by 2020, CCS Insight, a marketing analyst, predicts sales of these product to quadruple. This can only happen however if tech developers are willing and able to hear and meet the consumers’ demands and essentially allow the market to shape future designs.

Source: FitBit Leads Wearables Market but Improvement Still Needed

Western Australian Telescope Captures 12 Billion Year Old Explosion

You may have never heard of the Zadko Telescope at the University of Western Australia before now but chances are, you won’t soon forget it. This month, the Zadko captured the unimaginable, an event that occurred before our earth and sun were even in existence. 12 billion light years away (and to put that into perspective, just one light year is equal to 5,865,696,000,000 – that’s 5.8 trillion – miles!), a massive black hole was born from the remnants of a dying star.

 

The resulting explosion, one so distant that it took 12 billion years for its light to reach our telescopes, was one so unfathomably powerful that the light was equivalent to roughly a billion of our suns huddled together for just a blink in time. Over the course of several minutes, UWA Professor David Coward says he and his team observed a quickly brightening star where nothing but blackness was seen prior to that moment. Then, as soon as it appeared, it was gone.

 

The moment the anomaly occurred, the Zadko Telescope was alerted by a NASA orbital satellite and researchers were lucky enough to see the event as it occurred so long ago. The telescope provided a highly detailed recording of the event, now named GRB170205, and proceeded to monitor the area for 24 hours. The images captured are a vital new piece of evidence in helping researchers to understand more about the physics that occur with the explosion of a massive star.

 

Source: Phys.org

Source: Western Australian Telescope Captures 12 Billion Year Old Explosion

To the Moon and Back! SpaceX Plans Passenger Moonshot for 2019

It has been nearly half a century since humankind set foot on the moon but as of Monday, February 27, 2017, that wait will soon come to an end. Space tech superhero Elon Musk teased the world in a tweet that read: “Fly me to the moon… OK.” This came immediately following a news conference where he released information about two as yet unnamed people who approached him with a considerable sum of money to send them on a one-week journey to the moon (or rather just a loop around it) and back.

 

Musk will not, for privacy reasons, divulge the identity of the pair or any financial specifics on the cost of the trip but did state they [the clients and SpaceX] are “very serious” about making this happen. Based on the timing of the planned moon shot, the pair of adventurers (whom Musk insists is no one we know) will most likely be taking their flight on or near the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 8 mission at the end of 2018. The flight would use a Dragon crew capsule and be launched with a Falcon heavy rocket from Florida’s Kennedy Space Center.

 

Space flight is not yet for everyone however. Musk advised Reuters that the traveling pair of people were made aware of all the risks involved and that they are entering into this mission with open eyes and open minds. Although the risk is small, they know there is a chance they may not return to earth or that something else will go catastrophically wrong with any part of the flight. Musk is deeply serious about their safety and promises they have had long discussions and will receive extensive training prior to the flight.

 

This is a massive step toward the future of commercial travel and, though it is not without risks, companies like SpaceX consistently gain experience in minimizing those risks with each successful launch and landing. Musk’s ultimate goal: To fly a yet-in-progress Red Dragon ship to Mars by the year 2020 and eventually establish a thriving human colony on the revered red planet.Source: Phys.orgFile photo of SpaceX Dragon capsule (c) 2015 SpaceX.

Source: To the Moon and Back! SpaceX Plans Passenger Moonshot for 2019

Working Sick: Where’s the Line?

​Recently (meaning a couple months ago), NPR did a report featuring workers who go to work sick. For the majority, it was mainly older employees who tended to stay home while the younger workers were more apt to push through their illness to not miss work.

The major difference between these two groups were the ones who tended to stay home were those who had tenure and got paid sick time off or would otherwise not be punished for taking time off. This was the older set. Of those interviewed in the younger set, they told the reporter they almost always went to work sick because they did not have paid (or even unpaid) sick time that they were allowed to use. Illnesses ranged from painful migraines to colds, flu, and other contagious illnesses that involved vomiting and diarrhea at work. Those who went to work sick said they did so because they could not afford to lose the pay or their jobs.
I was reminded of this radio spot as I forced myself to go to work sick today out of the same fear. I’d called out the past two days with severe bronchitis but could not afford a write-up for missing any more time, so I stuck it out. I ended up getting worse throughout the day because I wasn’t able to rest or take the medications that I have been at work – they put me to sleep. Upon returning to work today, I also heard from several others that they’d had to call out sick this week too for the same thing and I know where it came from. One person who came in sick 2 weeks ago coughing up a storm and even bragging about having the flu and still working.
The question is: where does someone who lives paycheck to paycheck draw the line between going in sick and staying home for their own health and others? Is it worth losing money or even your job to keep others safe? How do you handle it? Comments are welcome.

Election 2016 Afterthoughts

election-2016

 

Just a quick disclaimer: I am the most non-political person I know. I do not claim to have a scholarly understanding of politics, government, or how it all works. Even so, I still cannot believe what I woke up to Wednesday morning.
Maybe it didn’t seem real because for the past two days I’ve been sick as a dog and in a cold-medicine-induced head-fog but Donald Trump as president? Seriously? He’s not a politician, he’s an actor at best. Granted, one with a boatload of money, but that doesn’t qualify him to be president. Honestly, I voted for someone other than both Trump and Clinton because neither of them are really fit to hold office. But still.
Then I start reading the news. Both parties may as well have been tied in the popular vote but Hillary still had the lead. Even so, Trump got the electoral votes needed to claim the title. And now, our nation has lost its collective mind.
Social media (no, I don’t trust everything I read) is exploding even now with shouts of “A Nation Divided” and reports of riots (sorry, “peaceful protests”) from one side of the country to the other. And then it gets ridiculous. California wants to secede the Union, or at least its tech founders do. Immigration lawyers’ phones are ringing off the hook. Women are flocking to get IUDs implanted before their abortion rights get taken away. Immigrants are in a stir because they think they will immediately be deported away from loved ones.
Let’s just put the brakes on all this for a moment, shall we? I’m an open-minded person.
If you voted for Trump, congrats, your candidate won. Don’t be a dick about it.
If you didn’t vote for Trump, I’m sorry your candidate lost. Don’t be a dick about it.
Regardless of how our opinions are split, we are all still “One Nation.” We are all in this together. Remember, the President is a talking head who, as the face of the nation, does NOT carry all the power of the nation. That office still has to go through other channels to have things approved. All these radical claims of “building a wall” and flushing out the “illegals” will probably NOT happen. At best, we may see some changes in the economy for the better. Remember, any changes that happen will be slow.
Whether you love or hate the outcome of this election, please be human first. I call for unity over division. I call for love to suppress all the hatred. I call for us to remain ONE NATION, no matter who is in the White House. We are all still brothers and sisters under one American flag and we need to look out for each other.

Down Time

When is the last time I had a vacation? I can’t remember. So 3 months ago, when my job finally made me permanent and assigned some PTO for me (paid time off), I requested a 4-day stretch off work. To my surprise, it was approved so as I write this, I am enjoying my first little non-working vacation in I don’t know how long. Can I tell you how good it feels to NOT have to set the alarm? To be able to go to sleep when I’m tired instead of when I have to? This is much-needed down time for mind and body, especially since the busy season is about to start at work and not only will time off be difficult to obtain, we’ll start seeing mandatory overtime as well. It’s about to get stressful.
So what am I doing with my time? Lots and lots of reading and relaxing for one. Some self-pampering. Today looks to be a day that involves nothing more than a long soak in the pool, followed by basking in the sun with a book, then the jacuzzi. Then dinner with my hunny and curling up to watch some TV, just us.
I wanted to stay local while still being far enough from home for it to feel like a getaway, so we booked a lovely inn that is a little out of town and right down the road from my second-favorite Downtown area and the artisan community interlaced with it. Tomorrow looks like window shopping and browsing at the many antique stores and art galleries. Best way to spend a Monday 🙂