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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.

 

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ISO: Stability

Bear with me as I reflect on some out of the way things here, like the connection between Daytona and God.  I’m still unsure which led me to which, but here I am, borderline homeless in Daytona (defined soon) and wondering why after such fervent prayer, life keeps throwing me one backhand after another just trying to knock me down – which, admittedly, it has a few times in the past five months – and keep me from getting back up.

After losing my job in January 2013 due to the death of the owner of the company and subsequent company closure, I spend the next 8 months looking desperately for work that would pay enough to cover my basic expenses: rent, utilities, transportation, food… I’d taken a couple temp jobs in that time frame because they were all that were offered, but it was still nowhere near enough to cover even rent.  After my tax return had run out, rent of course fell behind.  I had given up numerous comforts (if you can consider a proper diet and asthma/heart medication comforts) in order to start paying a little over each week on my rent to catch up.  By August, I was essentially destitute. Knowing I couldn’t continue to pay rent, I gave my landlord 2 weeks notice and moved in with the man next door for a couple weeks.  That turned out to be a nightmare, as he was an ex felon and was extremely controlling and cruel.  He was also just plain disgusting as a person.  His treatment of me made living there unbearable and so I got out before I got into a situation that I wouldn’t be able to escape.

In September, someone I used to date back in 2010 contacted me from Daytona and offered to let me move in there.  It took a lot of very difficult decision making as this would put me 3 hours away from my daughter of whom I have shared custody.  Seeing her 4 days a week would then mean seeing her only once every 4-8 weeks due to miles, gas, funds, etc.  Without work and without a place to live however, I had to make the decision to relocate to try to get back on my feet.  You may as well have ripped my heart out of my chest and taken my last breath away because that’s what it felt like as I started heading to Daytona without my baby girl.  There was no work, unemployment had run out, my tax return and savings had run out, and I was without shelter.  What else could I do?

I get to Daytona and just as I arrive at the house, I find out the water has been shut off.  Not a good omen.  Ex is scrambling to find the funds and we are out of water for days.  It goes ok after that for a couple months, I learn my way around town but never quite feel welcomed. These people have a completely different set of ethics (or lack thereof) from the way I am.  I find work within a week of arriving, but instead of being helped to get on my feet as was promised, I end up financially supporting a household of seven people, sometimes in full, on bills, food, gas, cigarettes, personal supplies, household supplies… The ex… he makes a decent sum of money, netting far more than I ever have in a month, but spends it all as soon as it comes in. As many times as I asked him to sit down and create a household budget with me, he changed the subject. Soon, the money I was making was running out, leaving me with nothing at the end of the week for having to support everyone but myself.  That’s December, about the time his whole personality changed.  He began to withdraw, to push me away, then one of his own exes came back into his life. He stopped coming to bed, started staying up all night on the phone with her, spent nights out (taking personal supplies that made it obvious it was a planned “sleepover”), and started becoming emotionally abusive. Then mentally abusive, eventually moving into screaming, cussing, threatening and being all out vicious toward me.  At that point, I was scared as I’d been through this before and each time it only escalated. This man was becoming completely unraveled and was getting progressively and rapidly worse.

Come January, he’d left me for the third time.  The final time he broke up with me, he did so online without telling me, then told me finally and had the nerve to immediately ask me for gas money. Upon refusing to give it to him because – well – he’d just left me, he threw me out, first with 30 days notice, then with 3 days notice.  I came and went, sleeping where I could but the room he had just haphazardly thrown my few remaining belongings into was unlivable – it is a storage room, full of junk and mold, there is no door, no privacy, no bed, only a bare box spring, and a filthy couch that made me sick to sleep on one night. I felt like an unwanted dog being banished to a filthy kennel, only I think he’d have treated a dog better than he was treating me.

My dad being my angel, he ended up providing a clean, safe place while I looked feverishly for a roommate but Friday will be my last night there.  In the interim, a woman I’ve known for several years and used to work with ended up offering a room to me with her in Sebastian. We talked about it, sorted out the details, and I was to move in with her this coming Saturday, the 8th.  Trusting that my friend was acting honorably, I gave my daughter the good news that I would only be 45 minutes from her now instead of the impossible 3 hours and that I’d get to see her every week like normal again.  She was ecstatic, as was I as we miss each other terribly.  Well I don’t know what happened, but 3 days before I was supposed to move in with her, I noticed she’d deleted me from Facebook.  I called, no answer. I texted, no response. An hour later, I tried to go to her page to message her and it turns out she had blocked me.  There was NO warning or reason as to any of this.  I left her several voice mails yesterday and still no response, so my dearest William sent her a message on my behalf asking her what was going on and still has not heard back. 

Still have no idea why a friend of several years who so happily offered to have me move in with her, saying I’d done so much for her over the years, would – without any warning – delete me from Facebook, block me, refuse to answer her phone, return a text or a voice mail.  Why would someone do that? She knew what I had at stake. She knew I’d already told my daughter that I was moving back to the area, she even offered to come up to Daytona to help me bring some of my things down. The last conversation we had, she gave me the new address and we were making plans for the move this coming Saturday. It was all a go and she said she was happy to help, that I owed her nothing.  I would really love to know what is behind all this, why someone who was always so sweet would out of the blue do this to me.  Does anyone have any insight to offer as to why someone would do that?

So thank God I did not turn in my resignation at work, as I would have had to do had this move gone through.  Something stopped me from doing it, “Just in case.”  I returned to my search for a roommate and happened to call on a listing last night for a room for rent in the area… a little more than I was budgeting, but I will have to work something out if it goes through.  I spoke with the homeowner last night for a solid hour and she was very friendly, an older lady, who really seemed to resonate with me.  In exchange for helping her around the house, she offered to drop the deposit and pay for half the internet that I would be transferring over. I will be meeting with her tonight and am praying to God that everything works out and I can move in Saturday.  At this point, I have no other options so if anyone reading this would please join me in that prayer that I find a place to move into this Saturday, between my faith and your intercession, God can do some amazing things.

The other question bothering me so much is why does God continue to test my faith by allowing me to come into worse and worse situations?  I mean I have lost everything over the past 18 months, including access to my child who is the single most important person in my life.  I’d go as far as to say she IS my life.  Every time I have prayed on this, I have received the same answer:  “I do this to draw you nearer to me.  If you see that I can raise you from nothing, then you will have everything.”  But how much more pain and loss can I take?  I realize God knows my limits, but life has become unbearable far too often, especially in the past five months. In RCIA, they discuss depth of faith often.  It’s so difficult to have faith when all you’re doing is futile even down to your most basic needs being stripped away and the longer it takes to get an answer – or see a miracle – the further that faith sinks.  This becomes a vicious cycle as God detests the lack of faith and puts the person in an even lower situation, pressing the faith to return.  It’s a Catch 22 – how does it stop?  As life – and faith – elude me, I will leave off here, hoping some answers come in the way of a safe place to live with my meeting of this seemingly nice woman tonight.  Thank you for listening, and please – keep me in your prayers.

 

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.