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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.

 

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.

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 🙂

Scenes from Saturday Morning

Some camera-phone video taken at the Saturday morning market, downtown Fort Pierce, FL.

That Kitten Sprawl (Perblog 5-27-13)

Four gruesome months of unemployment finally came to a close in May when I started a job as a Paralegal.  It pays very little (net has been about half what I need to meet my bills, which have already been trimmed down to the bare minimum) and it’s practically out of town for me, but it’s work.  I’m only hoping that I do well enough for the promised raises to come through as indicated when I started otherwise I don’t know how I’m going to make it.  Well, the truth is, I’m not.  So hopefully those raises come through!

I’ve started a 9-part pre-RCIA line of coursework with the Catholic Home Study Service in preparation for my RCIA classes starting in October.  William has been a wonderful guide to me in my studies though I quietly wish he’d give me a little more crap when I don’t go to mass.  No nun-pun intended, but I’ve got to work harder on getting into the habit.  It would be easier if my church had services on Sunday nights, but there’s really no excuse for me to miss the 10AM mass.  I’ve slept in the past two Sundays though.  Shame on me.

A couple weeks ago, a new kitten came into my life, a very friendly little long-haired silver kitty.  We named her Bellamina – the name is bigger than she is, but not bigger than the ball of energy that she brings into the house.  She’s a bit codependent which is fine by me as she lays sprawled across my lap as I type, hugging my leg and just purring away.  The big silver and white pouf of a tail reminds me of a squirrel, all fluff that constantly looks as if it’d been rubbed by a balloon and static took over.  The cutest thing about her is when she’s being petted, she blows kisses.  It’s not a post-weaning suckling kind of thing, she literally just smacks her lips and blows kisses as a person does when calling a cat.  It’s more of a mimicry, and I’ve never seen another cat to do that.  She’s also got enormous paws which give her a comical lope during play, like a puppy who hasn’t grown into his feet yet.  She truly is a treasure.

This Memorial Day, I’m not sure I’m doing anything.  It would be nice to have a cookout or something but I don’t have anyone to invite or join at one.  Going to the beach would be a full on nightmare with the traffic.  I tried in vain yesterday, couldn’t even get close.  Actually had to back my car out of a parking lot because there wasn’t even enough room to turn around where all the spots were full and people had parked in non-spots essentially gridlocking the entire lot so that no one could pass through or out.

We’ll see how this day pans out.  I’d hate to spend it just doing housework!

Working For Free – Oyster Reef Volunteer

Having been out of work for some time now, the cabin fever was setting in pretty hard.  Between having no income yet still spending gas to get to job interviews, there was no gas to just get away for pleasure, a break from the monotony and certainly no funds for entertainment.  I needed to feel useful again, productive.  That is when I came across a request in the local paper for volunteers to help that coming weekend on a project to build an artificial reef in the area.  I’m a nature lover and have always been interested in (and often active in) conservation efforts – how cool was that?

After e-mailing the listed contact for details, I was excited to get to work – even if it was for free.  I let a friend of mine know about the project and he was on board as well.  That Saturday, he picked me up early and we went out to Harbour Pointe on the inlet where several tons of oyster shells were ready in large barrels and on sheets of plywood in huge piles.

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About 20 other volunteers showed up and we were given a brief primer on the task at hand.    We organized ourselves into each area – shoveling, bagging and tying off.  I shoveled shells into smaller buckets while my friend bagged and tied them.  They were then loaded onto a truck to be moved to their final resting place in Wildcat Cove.  

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During a break in which bottled water and other drinks were provided, the leader of the operation and a colleague commended us all on our efforts which far exceeded their expectations.  In just about 2 hours, we’d already assembled about 400 20-pound oyster bags for deployment.  My friend and I stayed for a 20-minute informational lecture about oyster reefs, their local benefits, lots of statistics and zoological info as well.  We broke for lunch then and would meet up at low tide a few miles up the coast at Wildcat Cove.

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Upon arrival at Wildcat Cove, we found the oyster bags in a neat pile in front of the canoe launch.  Another 100 bags had been assembled and brought up in two deliveries.  It took a little brainstorming as to how we were going to get the bags to the reef area, but one adventurous girl with her own kayak said she could pull floating tubs of about 30 bags per load out to the location.  There was some interesting trial-and-error in getting the system going, including one thankfully good-humored man getting impossibly stuck in the thick muck at the bottom of the river.  It took more than ten minutes to get the river to release his legs and he lost a shoe, but we got him back safely!  Note to self: Don’t go into the water without a boat here!

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Once we got the production line going, the rest was – pardon the pun – smooth sailing.  Bags were floated out to a mangrove area where a 4-foot high oyster “wall” was built staggered around the mangroves.  Once settled and cemented, these artificial reefs will provide settling places for new oyster spawns, as well as providing habitat for young fish and feeding grounds for birds such as herons, ibis, loons, cormorants, anhingas and more.

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I remain in contact with the organizer of this effort who works for the county in coastal restoration and he is helping me network with other people in the field so that I may actually find work in conservation or a related field.  Even if it is a desk job, it would be a great opportunity (and has been) to do something productive in a field I really enjoy.  Another reef build is coming up in two days.  This time my daughter will also be involved, getting her hands dirty and having a positive impact on our local, unique and delicate ecosystem.

Pardon Me While I Go Postal

Disclaimer: If you’re one of those sensitive types who get all uppity about people who bitch about their government benefits (likely because you’ve never been in the position to need them yourself) then turn back now because this is about to get ugly.

As a statistical introduction, I will say that I am a single mother with shared custody of my child.  Due to 5 years of swindling and dishonesty on the other side, I am the one who ended up having to pay child support to my ex (who enjoys a new house, two new vehicles and all the home amenities one could want).  I lost my job of almost 7 years when my boss passed away on December 28th, 2012 and the company subsequently closed as of January 1st, 2013.  Before this time, I had only required assistance for about 4 months out of my life when I first relocated to this area and was looking for work.  When I lost my job this year, I immediately applied for unemployment and food stamps and started looking for a new job.  My unemployment and food stamps were approved and even though it is hard to feed myself plus a growing pre-teen on $200 a month, I was making it work.  

Once my unemployment benefits kicked in (roughly 50% of my usual salary), Child Support decided they were going to take an additional 40% of that.  Pardon my cadence, but that is fucking criminal.  I was already struggling on a normal salary, but to cut my half salary further in almost half?  Bullshit.  My food stamps for February were late and I was out of food.  Upon calling 72 hours after they were supposed to hit, I get a message that due to “increased income,” my benefits will be cut from $200 to $16 effective March 1, 2013.  WTF? Increased income?  Try decreased!  I look on my card this morning expecting to see $200 on there and they’ve only deposited $16.   What… the fuck.  To add insult to injury today I get a letter in the mail confirming that my benefits will be cut from $200/month to $16/month – again – in writing – EFFECTIVE MARCH 1, 2013.  *looks at calendar* Gee, this is still February.  Where the %^&* are my food stamps that I need to feed a frikken pre-teen 4 days a week until I find work again??

The State of Florida is trying to fuck me sideways and I am NOT going to stand for it.  Tomorrow morning warrants a very nasty call to these “ACCESS” people to get this crap straightened out immediately.  $84 over the course of a month for food is nothing to most people but when you’re in my situation, it’s the difference between a family going hungry or not.  Try to cheat me?  You WILL get bitchslapped.  Screw Florida.  Time to take action.

 

 

Enough Nature!

As if the black widow in my flower pot the other weekend wasn’t bad enough… (hairspray and a lighter fixed that one…)

Alright so… Sunday, Alyn and I are out swimming in the Intracoastal. It’s coming up on dusk, lots of schools of fish are out feeding (and being fed upon)… i’m about waist-deep in the water but sunk down to my shoulders just relaxing… along comes a SWARM (not a school, a swarm!) of fish (the surface of the water was rolling) and they start nipping at me so I jump up only to feel something having a hissyfit in my bathing suit top! Yanked my top down (lucky Alyn) – a frikken fish propels itself out and takes off to go find his buddies. I said, “Ok! That’s enough nature for me!” and [quickly] made my way to shore squashing I don’t know how many crabs and sea slugs and God only knows what else under my feet on my way in because at that point I just didn’t care about looking where I was going.

Then!

Today after a very busy day at work and a NASTY virus hit that caused me to have to stay a couple hours late, by the time I got home all I wanted to do was put my feet up and RE-LAX. The sunset was getting pretty after a storm began to dissipate, so I took my book of crosswords outside and went to settle into my favourite porch chair. No sooner did I sit than I was swarmed by freakin’ wasps. I – BOLTED down my driveway, goosebumps head to toe, and waited for them to disburse. They didn’t. I managed to get a look at what they were concentrating on and there was a damned wasp nest attached to the underside back of my chair!!!

So I’m out in my driveway, completely befuddled and freaked out, BAREFOOT, my phone inside, very angry wasps swarming my front porch (and of course the front door was the only one unlocked) – and my only weapon was a crossword puzzle book. Yeh – time to die.

I tried for about 20 minutes to time a mad dash for the front door but they just kept circling and getting angrier. Finally, I walked over to Tracy’s apartment and after hiding my head in shame asked if they might have any wasp spray. NOPE. Todd thought it would be a good idea to go spray them down with the hose, so he did. The result? A hive of WET, pissed off wasps. After while, a flyswatter was acquired and Tracy covered me, managing to maim a couple of them while I dashed inside for my keys and whatnot. I ran back out spraying a cloud of Raid and ducked into my car and went straight to the store for a can of wasp killer. I’m inside now… 2 hours later… and luckily none got inside! Oh, and she was nice and gave me dinner again 🙂

Summary: I DON’T LIKE NATURE ANY MORE!!!!!

A Look At The Savannas

This is a collection of photographs I took at the Savannas Wildlife Preserve in St. Lucie County, FL  All were shot on a Canon EOS Rebel G using Fuji 35mm film.  Yep, that’s right:  I’m old-school.

A little history of this photo set… These were taken in 2005, shortly after my husband had filed for divorce and put me and my then 3-year old daughter on the street.  This is where I ended up living for some time, in my little tent while still holding a full time job.  This collection is truly a statement to finding the positive and the beauty in any situation we are given to handle.  I hope they inspire you as well to look around you, no matter what you’re going through, and try to find something beautiful to hold onto.  Even the smallest thing can be enough to keep you going when you’ve lost everything else.

 

Namaste,

Heather.

Good Freezy Goodness!!!

Just had to share some pics from Tuesday Morning… All that white iciness? Yeh – that was my windshield lol!!! I had to de-ice my frikken car – it was EPIC I so love the cold, don’t get near enough of it. But, now that it’s warming up, the giddiness has subsided and I’m all…. whaaa I want snow! Not like… tons and tons of it… just… enough to play in ^_^