I just want to thank Lifehacker for inviting me to their Ask an Expert Q & A regarding private investigators. I also want to thank the people who participated in the chat session. I hope you enjoyed it as much as I did.
To read the transcript of the chat session, please head to Lifehacker
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Construction Scam Hit Major Projects
By James Campbell
Construction giant Lend Lease has admitted to systematically cheating clients out of millions of dollars in an overbilling scheme, including fraudulent fees for work on Grand Central Terminal, Citi Field and the U.S. District Court in Brooklyn.
“We believe that it’s definitely, as you put it, a New York thing,” said U.S. District Attorney Loretta Lynch, after a deferred-prosecution deal with the company was unsealed Tuesday.
As part of the largest construction settlement in New York history, the Australian company’s American division, Lend Lease (U.S.) Construction, formerly Bovis Lend Lease, agreed to pay a fine of $40.5 million, as well as up to $16 million in restitution to its victims.
James Abadie, 55 years old, the former head of the company’s New York office, also pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud and was released on bail. He faces up to 20 years in prison.
Lend Lease also admitted to making false claims under programs for minority- and women-controlled businesses in order to win contracts.
The overbilling scheme saw Lend Lease pay foremen one or two hours extra each day for work that was never done, passing on the expenses to clients without their knowledge, according to court documents. The company also padded its billings by paying foremen for sick days, holidays and vacation time in violation of its labor agreements.
Ms. Lynch said the overpayments benefited a group of 40 to 60 foremen, all of whom are members of Local 79, a building-trades union. The investigation analyzed thousands of time sheets over a 10-year period dating back to 1999, when Bovis was purchased by Lend Lease.
The company engaged in the overbilling on “every project over years,” Ms. Lynch said, defrauding clients of $19 million.
There was one exception: The National September 11 Memorial and Museum, on which Lend Lease is the project manager, was not affected by the fraud.
Lend Lease said in a statement the company had fully and extensively cooperated with the investigations since 2009.
“We accept responsibility for what happened in the past and have agreed to continue to make restitution to the affected clients,” said Robert McNamara, CEO Lend Lease Americas region. “We are satisfied that the investigation is now resolved and we are looking forward to continuing our commitment to projects in New York City.”
Mr. Abadie’s attorney and representatives for Local 79 didn’t return phone calls Tuesday.
Private projects identified as victims of the fraud include the Time Warner Center, the American Natural History Museum, and two hospitals, according to law-enforcement officials.
Government projects were also affected, including the U.S. Post Office and Bankruptcy Court in Brooklyn, the New York Mets’ new stadium in Queens, and Grand Central Terminal.
Lend Lease was responsible for the demolition of the former Deutsche Bank building, which was damaged in the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. Investigators determined that the project was affected by phony billings as well.
Two firefighters died in 2007 after they became trapped in the building during demolition. An investigation found that the fire was started by a smoking worker and a water pipe had been cut.
Jeffrey Melofchik, a site safety manager working for Lend Lease, was acquitted in 2011 of manslaughter, criminally negligent homicide and reckless endangerment in the case.
In 2008, Lend Lease reached a non-prosecution agreement with former Manhattan District Attorney Robert Morgenthau in connection with the Deutsche Bank fire. The company could still face charges if the fraud revealed Tuesday violates a good-behavior clause in the earlier agreement. The present Manhattan District Attorney, Cyrus Vance, is a party to Tuesday’s deal with federal prosecutors, but a spokeswoman declined to comment on whether Lend Lease will be accused of breaking the Deutsche Bank agreement.
Lend Lease also admitted on Tuesday to abusing affirmative-action programs designed to aid small construction firms or companies owned by women and minorities.
In those cases, Lend Lease falsely told authorities that work was being done by two firms that met the selection criteria for affirmative-action contracts. The work was instead done by Lend Lease employees who were transferred to the smaller companies’ payrolls.
Both the Dormitory Authority of the State of New York and the New Jersey Schools Development Authority were deceived by the front companies acting in concert with Lend Lease, over projects to build the Bronx Criminal Courthouse and three schools in New Jersey.
As part of its agreement with prosecutors, Lend Lease has removed senior management in charge of its New York operations at the time the frauds were committed.
Ms. Lynch, who noted the investigation is continuing, said the decision to prosecute Mr. Abadie was taken because he was seen as especially culpable.
“He was uniquely positioned to see both the labor side and the management side of the scheme, and to be aware of the fact the hours that were being billed were not only not being worked but were not being disclosed to the clients,” she said. “He also took active steps to make sure the clients were not aware of this.”
Write to James Campbell at firstname.lastname@example.org
By Janis Abrahams Spring
Almost everything that has been written about forgiveness tells the hurt partner to forgive. “Forgiveness is good for us,” we’re told. “Good people forgive.”
But in my clinical practice of 35 years (mostly working with couples recovering from infidelity), I’ve found that when someone acts in a hurtful way and isn’t able or willing to make meaningful repairs — for example, a partner cheats, remarries and shows no remorse — the hurt party chokes on the idea of forgiveness. This makes sense to me. Why are we preaching only to the hurt party? Why not turn to offenders and ask them to earn forgiveness?
The professionals also tell us that we need to forgive in order to heal our wounds and get on with our lives. That’s dubious advice, too. Forgiveness that is not earned is what I call “cheap forgiveness.”
Until now, there has been no healthy alternative, nothing that lies between the fluffy, inspirational concept of “pure” forgiveness (asking nothing in return) and the hard, cold-hearted response of not forgiving.
What I’ve developed is a radical, healthy alternative to forgiving that I call “acceptance.”
Acceptance is a healing alternative that asks nothing of the offender. When the offender is not sorry, or is not physically available — when he or she is unable or unwilling to make meaningful repairs — it is not the job of the hurt party to forgive. But it is the job of the hurt party to rise above the violation and heal him or herself.
In my book, “How Can I Forgive You?, The Courage to Forgive, The Freedom Not To“, I spell out 10 steps hurt parties can take to tie up their wounds and heal themselves — without forgiving an unrepentant offender. These steps include:
- Honoring the full sweep of their emotions
- Giving up their need for revenge but continuing to seek a just resolution
- Stemming their obsessive focus on the injury and reengaging with life
- Protecting themselves from further abuse
- Framing the offender’s behavior in terms of the offender’s own personal struggles, which may have begun before the hurt party came on the scene
- Looking honestly at their own contribution to the injury
- Challenging their false assumptions about what happened
- Looking at the offender apart from his offense, weighing the good against the bad
- Carefully deciding what kind of relationship they want with the offender
- Forgiving themselves for ways they’ve blamed and shamed themselves with regard to the injury
What I call “genuine forgiveness” is reserved for those offenders who have the courage and character to make meaningful amends. Genuine forgiveness is an intimate dance, a hard-won transaction which asks as much of the offender as it does of the hurt party.
To earn forgiveness, offenders must perform bold, humble and heartfelt acts of repair, such as bearing witness to the pain they caused, delivering a meaningful apology, rebuilding trust, and addressing those vulnerabilities that led them to mistreat the hurt party, so that they never violate that person again.
In exchange, hurt parties must work to release their obsessive preoccupation with the injury, accept a fair share of responsibility for what went wrong and create opportunities for the offender to make good. Acceptance is intrapersonal; genuine forgiveness is interpersonal.
For there to be genuine forgiveness, the hurt party needs to complete the 10 steps of acceptance listed above, not alone, but with the helping hand of the offender. Here’s a case in point.
Ten years after their divorce, Sara and John were thrown together at their daughter Megan’s college graduation, 3,000 miles from home. Sara and John had remarried, but their partners couldn’t join them for the four-day ceremony. The nuclear family — Sara, John, Megan and Megan’s sister — was together for the first time since the divorce. John had had an affair with a woman he then married, and what followed was a bitter divorce and child custody battle.
As the couple was walking across campus, John turned to Sara and said in what she felt was a heartfelt way, “I’m sorry for all the trouble I caused you.”
Sara was touched. He had never apologized, never taken any responsibility for the chaos he had created in her life or the depression she struggled with for five years after he left home.
She didn’t want to make waves — it was a time of celebration for their daughter — but she also knew she wouldn’t have many chances to talk with John, so she “located her pain” and said what still stuck in her gut.
“I appreciate your apology,” she began, “but there’s something specific that sits between us that’s been gnawing at me, and I’m wondering if you’d like to hear it?”
“Okay, shoot.” John said.
“It seems to me that during our divorce and afterwards, you deliberately told the girls horrible lies about me,” Sara said. “It seems you went out of your way to alienate them from me. Did you? And, if so, please tell me, why?”
John hesitated, then said, “It’s true. I did do that. You know, I don’t tend to dig deep into myself. But if I had to be honest, I’d say, after my affair, I was afraid the girls would love you more than me. I want you to know, though, they never fell for my manipulation. They love you too much. I’m really sorry.” When the couple met up with their daughters, he apologized again to his wife and to his children.
This is the work of genuine forgiveness. It asks the offender to pay attention to the feelings of the person he or she hurt, take responsibility for the damage caused, offer a meaningful apology and perform concrete acts of repair. It’s not a gift from the heart or mind of the hurt party alone.
Genuine forgiveness is a lot like love. We can love or forgive someone alone, someone who doesn’t deserve our love or forgiveness (we’ve all been in those relationships.) But doesn’t it feel more satisfying, more genuine, more all-embracing, when the person we love or forgive treats us with acts of consideration and tender regard? Even if it’s with an unfaithful or divorcing partner.
By Michael W. Kahn | ECT Staff WriterPublished: March 27th, 2012
A new insurance industry report confirms what electric cooperatives, phone companies, breweries and many individuals have been all too aware of: Metal theft is on the rise.
The National Insurance Crime Bureau tallied figures for 2009 through 2011. During those three years, 25,083 insurance claims were filed for stolen aluminum, brass, bronze or copper. A whopping 96 percent were for copper theft.
The number of claims jumped 81 percent from an earlier NICB report covering 2006 through 2008. NICB is a not-for-profit organization that works to detect and prevent insurance fraud.
“The thieves can endanger the safety of themselves and those in the surrounding community, and weaken the infrastructure vital to our everyday lives,” NICB wrote in its report.
“Unoccupied buildings have exploded due to gas lines being stolen, stretches of highway have been left dark after thieves stole wiring from utility poles, and tornado warning sirens have been rendered inoperable due to wiring being stolen.”
Ohio leads the nation with 2,398 metal theft claims. Texas is hot on its heels with 2,023. The top five is rounded out by Georgia (1,481), California (1,348) and Illinois (1,284).
On the other end of the spectrum, Alaska saw just three claims in three years, while Wyoming had four, and North Dakota and South Dakota had five each.
Among major metropolitan areas, Chicago had 963 metal theft claims to lead the nation, followed by New York (921), Atlanta (823), Dallas-Fort Worth (674) and Detroit (587).
NICB validated what electric co-ops and other utilities have long been saying: that the value of the stolen copper is often dwarfed by the damage tally.
“Frequently the damage caused by such thefts is several times the value of the metal stolen,” the report said, “leaving the victims with hefty repair costs which are often passed on to insurance companies.”
By JOE HARRIS
CLAYTON, Mo. (CN) – In two class actions on the frontier of Internet law, people claim that Intelius and Digimedia dba Peoplefinder work as private investigators in Missouri without state certification.
Intelius, based in Bellevue, Wash., offers its services through its website intelious.com.
Named plaintiff Michael Brown claims Intelius says its investigations can get information about crimes threatened or committed against the United States; the identity, credibility, habits, business, integrity, credibility, trustworthiness, loyalty, movements, affiliations, and reputation of certain individuals; and information on a person’s address, phone number history, social media history, criminal record, family and financial history.
Brown says Intelius is working as a private investigator without a license.
In the second class action, filed by the same law firm, lead plaintiff Thuy Nguyen makes the same accusation against Digimedia.com dba Peoplefinder.com
“At no pertinent time has defendant ever held a license [to] engage in private investigator business in the State of Missouri, nor has it ever held a license to engage in business in the State of Missouri as a private investigator agency,” Brown says in his complaint in St. Louis County Court. “Moreover, defendant has never applied for any such licenses.
“At no pertinent time have any of defendant’s employees ever been licensed pursuant to RMSo § 324.1104 to engage in private investigator business in the state of Missouri.
“At all pertinent times, defendant’s failure to hold the license(s) … was information that a reasonable consumer would consider important in deciding whether to hire defendant for the purpose of having the defendant or its employees engage in private investigator business.”
The class consists of all Missourians who have bought private investigations from Feb. 1, 2010 to final judgment. The law requiring such a license was passed in 2007, but Brown’s attorney, Michael Kruse, said the state finally got the mechanisms to enforce the law on Feb. 1, 2010.
“We were concerned with the value customers are getting in light of the licensing statue,” Kruse told Courthouse News.
“They have a right to comply with the law. There is a reason why the state of Missouri felt it needed such controls and companies can’t be above the law through their business model using the Internet.”
The classes seek an injunction, rescission of contracts, restitution and actual and punitive damages for breach of contract, negligent misrepresentation by omission, and violations of the Missouri Merchandising Practices Act.
Kruse practices for the law firm Onder, Shelton, O’Leary & Peterson in St. Louis.
Kruse filed the nearly identical class action against Digimedia.com dba Peoplefinder.com.
Kruse said he does not expect his firm to file any more class actions against private investigation companies.
“We were looking at several different companies and those two were the most major violators,” Kruse said.