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QWR: Bank Loan Printouts are Not Records; They are Summaries

Judgment as to amount in favor of the lender would be improper in the face of a denial by the debtors as to the amount sought.

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Capital City Developers, LLC v. Bank of North Georgia, 730 S.E.2d 99 (Ga. Ct. App. 2012)

JULY 5, 2012 | REPUBLISHED BY LIT: MAY 29, 2021

The Bank of North Georgia (the “Bank”) sued borrowers Capital City Developers, LLC; Anderson Avenue Partners, LLC; Giles Properties, LP; and Benjamin Michael Giles, along with guarantors Benjamin J. Giles, Jr.; Harold T. Pounders; and Keith D. Kantor (collectively, “Appellants”) to collect money owed, alleging that Appellants had defaulted on 24 promissory notes and related guaranties.

The trial court granted summary judgment in favor of the Bank and entered a final judgment against all Appellants in the total amount of $3,288,969.08 in principal, interest, and attorney fees.

On appeal, Appellants asserted that the trial court erred because:

1) their affirmative defense of estoppel precludes a grant of summary judgment in the Bank’s favor; and the Bank failed to establish the amounts owed through proper tendering of evidence into the record.

We affirm as to the first issue; as to the second issue, we affirm the judgment as to liability, but reverse the amount of damages and remand for further proceedings consistent with this opinion.

A grant of summary judgment is appropriate when there is no genuine issue of material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. “On summary judgment, after the movant makes a prima facie showing of its entitlement to judgment as a matter of law, the burden then shifts to the respondent to come forward with rebuttal evidence.

To do so, the respondent must set forth specific facts showing the existence of a genuine issue of disputed fact.” On appeal from the grant or denial of a motion for summary judgment, we apply a de novo standard of review, viewing the evidence and all reasonable inferences and conclusions drawn from it in the light most favorable to Appellants as the non-moving parties.

1 .OCGA § 9–11–56(c).

2 (Footnote omitted.) Shropshire v. Alostar Bank of Commerce, 314 Ga.App. 310, 724 S.E.2d 33 (2012).

3 Jenkins v. Wachovia Bank, Nat. Assn., 309 Ga.App. 562, 711 S.E.2d 80 (2011).

So viewed, the evidence shows that Appellants began acquiring real estate for the purpose of constructing single-family dwellings. In early- through mid–2009, they obtained acquisition and construction loans from a predecessor-in-interest to the Bank. For each acquisition of real estate, one of the borrowers executed a promissory note secured by the real estate purchased, and a subset of one or more guarantors executed related guaranties.

In October 2009, the Bank issued notices of default and demanded payment, and later sued for recovery on breach of the notes and guaranties. Appellants answered, denying that they owed the debt.

The trial court, without holding a hearing, granted the Bank’s motion for summary judgment as to liability only.

The trial court then entered a final judgment, from which this appeal arises, setting forth the amounts awarded to the Bank under the notes.

4 In a deposition, one of the guarantors, Pounders, acknowledged that Capital City did not fully pay its loans.

1. As a threshold matter, we note that the Bank provided the authenticated loan and guaranty documents evincing a debt, and Appellants did not dispute their authenticity. A plaintiff suing on promissory notes establishes a prima facie right to judgment as a matter of law by producing the notes and showing they were executed, and the trial court found that the Bank had met this burden.

Appellants do not challenge the trial court’s finding of a prima facie case. Rather, “[t]heir argument goes to the issue of the amount of money owed, not to liability vel non.”

They contend that the trial court erred in granting the Bank’s motion for summary judgment because the Bank failed to establish the amounts owed under the notes with admissible evidence.

We agree.

5 Alexander v. Wachovia Bank, Nat. Assn., 305 Ga.App. 641, 642, 700 S.E.2d 640 (2010).

6 (Emphasis in original.) Shropshire, supra at 315(3), 724 S.E.2d 33.

“Admissibility of evidence on motion for summary judgment is governed by the rules relating to form and admissibility of evidence generally.” “A trial court’s decision to admit evidence as an exception to the hearsay rule will not be disturbed absent an abuse of discretion.”

7 (Citation and punctuation omitted.) Albertson v. City of Jesup, 312 Ga.App. 246, 251(2), n. 18, 718 S.E.2d 4 (2011).

8 (Footnote omitted.) Walter R. Thomas Assocs. v. Media Dynamite, Inc., 284 Ga.App. 413, 416(1), 643 S.E.2d 883 (2007).

With its motion for summary judgment, the Bank submitted the affidavit of its vice president, David O’Rear, the custodian of the Bank’s business records related to claims and loans at issue.

In his affidavit, O’Rear averred that he was personally familiar with the Bank’s routine practice for maintaining those business records and calculating amounts owed; that the loan documents and records were made and kept in the ordinary course of business; and that it was the Bank’s routine practice to record payments and changes in amounts owed at or near the time the relevant events occurred.

His affidavit was accompanied by what appear to be computer printouts listing the current balance, daily interest charges, late charges, and other fees. He testified that the printouts are bank records reflecting current amounts owed.

Appellants contend that the printouts are “summaries” unaccompanied by the underlying business records on which they are based, and that as such, they are inadmissible hearsay evidence.

The documents at issue are accompanied by the relevant guaranty or guaranties, the original loan documents, and default letters from the Bank.

OCGA § 24–3–14(b) defines the type of writings admissible as a hearsay exception under the business records exception as follows:

[a]ny writing or record, whether in the form of an entry in a book or otherwise, made as a memorandum or record of any act, transaction, occurrence, or event shall be admissible in evidence in proof of the act, transaction, occurrence, or event, if the trial judge shall find that it was made in the regular course of any business and that it was the regular course of such business to make the memorandum or record at the time of the act, transaction, occurrence, or event or within a reasonable time thereafter.

These printouts are not such records; they are summaries of such records.

They were not made at or near the time of the transactions at issue. They were generated and printed between January 27 and February 4, 2011, yet they purportedly represent amounts owed on loans whose terms commenced between July 9, 2008, at the earliest and June 5, 2009, at the latest.

9 (Emphasis supplied.)

10 See Patterson v. Bennett Street Properties, 314 Ga.App. 896, 903(4), 726 S.E.2d 147 (2012).

“[A]lthough a summary prepared in support of a demand for payment may not qualify as a business record under OCGA § 24–3–14, … summarized statements of what records show are admissible if the records themselves are accessible to the court and the parties.”

Here, the Bank’s summaries were accompanied by some business records, but a search of the record reveals that crucial underlying business records related to fees and interest were not available to the this Court or Appellants.

11 (Citations omitted.) Morris v. Nat. Western Life Ins. Co., 208 Ga.App. 443, 444(1)(c), 430 S.E.2d 813 (1993).

Most of the summaries list “late charges,” but are unaccompanied by business records showing from what relevant dates and on what underlying amounts the late charges accrued. Some summaries list “other fees” that are not explained, and the Bank has pointed us to no supporting business records. Neither the Bank’s briefing nor O’Rear’s affidavit identifies any provision in the notes or guaranties obligating Appellants to pay the “other fees.” Additionally, all the summaries list “interest” charges and indicate the daily rate of accrual. The notes, however, provide that interest is variable based upon “Lender’s Prime” plus one percent prior to maturity, and a fixed rate after maturity. The summaries are unaccompanied by business records showing pre-maturity interest calculations and rate variations.

“[W]here, as in this case, such [documents] are neither introduced in evidence nor accounted for, it is erroneous to admit in evidence such summarized statement[s].” Absent evidence to establish a variable interest rate, judgment as to amount in favor of the lender would be improper in the face of a denial by the debtors as to the amount sought. Further, where business records do not adequately show a requirement to pay fees, the amount of damages has not been established.

12 Camp v. State, 31 Ga.App. 737, 740(6)(a), 122 S.E. 249 (1924); Patterson, supra. See also Walter R. Thomas Assocs., supra at 416–417(1)(b), 643 S.E.2d 883 (where summary lists fee but no supporting business records are presented, “that entry is hearsay and cannot be considered in determining the amount owed”) (footnote omitted).

13 See also Shropshire, supra at 314(2)(b), 724 S.E.2d 33. See Garrett v. Atlantic Bank & Trust Co., 157 Ga.App. 103–104(1), 276 S.E.2d 152 (1981) (fact issue remained where bank introduced no evidence establishing interest rates during life of loan based on bank’s prime rate and debtor denied liability).

14 See Aniebue v. Jaguar Credit Corp., 308 Ga.App. 1, 6(2), 708 S.E.2d 4 (2011).

We find that the trial court abused its discretion by considering these summaries in its determination of the amounts awarded. We affirm judgment as to liability, but reverse the award of damages and remand for further proceedings consistent with this opinion.

2. Appellants argue that because they tendered into the record facts supporting the affirmative defense of estoppel, the trial court erred in granting summary judgment to the Bank.

We disagree.

Summary judgment law does not require the movant to show that no issue of fact remains but only that no genuine issue of material fact remains; and, while there may be some shadowy semblance of an issue, the case may nevertheless be decided as a matter of law where the evidence shows clearly and palpably that the jury could reasonably draw but one conclusion.

15 (Citation and punctuation omitted.) Hendricks v. Enterprise Financial Corp., 199 Ga.App. 577, 581(4), 405 S.E.2d 566 (1991).

Appellants contend that when they could not keep up their loan payments, Pounders, a guarantor, spoke with O’Rear and his superior, Terence Lewis. Pounders deposed that Lewis and O’Rear agreed to accept offers from third-party buyers of $70,000 “per house” regardless of the amount owed.

The record shows that Appellants had found third-party buyers for three of the notes.

Pounders deposed that O’Rear told him the Bank had accepted the offer from the third-party buyers, but the Bank later reneged on the deal.

Invoking both the doctrines of equitable estoppel and promissory estoppel, Appellants argue that they were prejudiced by the Bank’s refusal to sell the notes because the potential third-party buyers of the three notes also were planning to buy the remaining loan portfolio for $70,000 per completed house.

Appellants further allege that both the Bank and the third-party buyers had agreed not to pursue Appellants for any deficiency.

The Bank denies agreeing to sell the notes and denies any agreement not to pursue Appellants for a deficiency.

“In order for equitable estoppel to arise, there must generally have been some intended deception in the conduct or declarations of the party to be estopped, or such gross negligence as to amount to constructive fraud, by which another has been misled to his injury.”

Appellants have pointed us to no portion of the record showing, nor have they made any argument, that the Bank, Lewis, or O’Rear “made the alleged representation with knowledge that a sale would not occur or intention that a sale would not be finalized.

Bare conclusions and contentions unsupported by an evidentiary basis in fact are insufficient to oppose a motion for summary judgment.”

Appellants have nowhere in their briefs addressed this requirement.

16 .OCGA § 24–4–27. Accord Medders v. Smith, 245 Ga.App. 323, 324(1), 537 S.E.2d 153 (2000) (party asserting estoppel must establish, inter alia, “conduct amounting to a false representation or concealment of material facts, or, at least, which is calculated to convey the impression that the facts are otherwise than, and inconsistent with, those which the party subsequently attempts to assert”). See also Fundus America (Atlanta) Ltd. Partnership v. RHOC Consolidation, 313 Ga.App. 118, 121(1)(a), n. 9, 720 S.E.2d 176 (2011) (party claiming equitable estoppel must prove it is free from fraud in the transaction, and must have acted in good faith and with reasonable diligence).

17 (Citation and punctuation omitted; emphasis supplied.) Griffin v. State Bank of Cochran, 312 Ga.App. 87, 91(1)(a), 718 S.E.2d 35 (2011).

A party asserting equitable estoppel also must show, among other things, that it changed its position prejudicially and justifiably relied to its detriment upon the representations at issue. A party asserting promissory estoppel must show reasonable reliance on the promise. Here, the affirmative defenses fail as a matter of law because Appellants could neither reasonably nor justifiably rely on what they allege were the Bank’s representations. The promissory notes specifically provide that “no modification of this agreement may be made without [the lender’s] express written consent.” The guaranties provide, “this guaranty may not be waived, modified, amended, terminated, released or otherwise changed except by a writing signed by the Undersigned and Lender.”

18 Medders, supra at 324–325(1), 537 S.E.2d 153.

19 State Farm Mut. Automobile Ins. Co. v. Penrow, 142 Ga.App. 463, 466(4), 236 S.E.2d 275 (1977).

20 Fidelity & Deposit Co., etc. v. West Point Constr. Co., 178 Ga.App. 578, 580(1), 344 S.E.2d 268 (1986).

Appellants have presented no evidence of the Bank’s written consent to any of the note sales, nor have they alleged that the Bank consented in writing.

Although Pounders deposed that a broker helped Appellants find buyers who executed a promissory note purchase agreement for three of the properties, that agreement contains a number of blank spaces and never was signed by the Bank.

Appellants could not reasonably rely on the alleged oral promises of Bank officials to sell the notes. Given the language in the notes and guaranties, those

21 Griffin, supra at 95(2)(a), 718 S.E.2d 35 (no reasonable reliance on oral representations for sale of bank where note and guaranty contained integration clauses providing that those documents constituted the entire agreement of the parties).

clear and unambiguous provision[s] served to place [Appellants] on due notice that [they] could not thereafter reasonably rely upon any words or other course of dealing to [their] inducement, other than a modification agreement actually reduced to writing….

Likewise, in view of this provision [the Bank] could not reasonably expect that [its] particular conduct, even when such conduct is viewed in the light most favorable to [Appellants], would induce the asserted action or forbearance.

22 (Citations and punctuation omitted.) Gerdes v. Russell Rowe Communications, Inc., 232 Ga.App. 534, 536(2), 502 S.E.2d 352 (1998) (reliance on oral agreement not reasonable where contract provides only for written modification).

Accord OCGA § 13–3–44(a). See, e.g., Dukes v. Board of Trustees, etc., 280 Ga. 550, 553, 629 S.E.2d 240 (2006) (detrimental reliance, as an essential element of equitable estoppel, is not a factor where estoppel cannot be applied as a matter of law).

The trial court did not err in granting summary judgment to the Bank on Appellants’ estoppel claim.

Judgment affirmed in part and reversed in part, and case remanded.

MILLER and BLACKWELL, JJ., concur.

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LIFl

Them Versus Us. “I Run The County” Sayeth Flagler County Commissioner Joe Mullins in Speedin’ Ferrari

Hey look, so 92 miles per hour is 22 over the speed limit, ok? the trooper explains.

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‘I run the county’ Florida commissioner tells trooper after being caught speeding in Ferrari, video shows

JUL 14, 2022 | REPUBLISHED BY LIT: JUL 17, 2022

FLAGLER COUNTY, Fla. – Video from Florida Highway Patrol appears to show Flagler County Commission Chairman Joe Mullins being pulled over for speeding in a red Ferrari.

A trooper stopped him on Interstate 95 and the patrol dashcam video captured their exchange.

“Hey look, so 92 miles per hour is 22 over the speed limit, ok?” the trooper explains. “Normally, I give warnings, I give breaks, but it looks like you’ve been written a warning already. So I do issue the citation. With that being said it’s gonna be payable within 30 days.”

This happened back in June. As the trooper explains the citation, Mullins cuts him off to say he knows how the process works.

Mullins: “I run the county so I know how that works.”

Trooper: “You run the county?”

Mullins: “Yeah, I’m Chairman of the county commission.”

The trooper continues to explain the citation, saying he didn’t want any miscommunication. Mullins is then seen speeding away.

FOX 35 reached out to the commissioner for an explanation of what he meant by his statement. We have not yet received a reply.

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• Continue to provide this website, content, resources, community and help center for free to the many homeowners, residents, Texans and as we’ve expanded, people nationwide who need access without a paywall or subscription.

• Help us promote our campaign through marketing, pr, advertising and reaching out to government, law firms and anyone that will listen and can assist.

Thank you for your trust, belief and support in our conviction to help Floridian residents and citizens nationwide take back their freedom. Your Donations and your Voice are so important.



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Florida

June’s List of Florida Lawyers Behavin’ Like, Well, Lawyers

The Florida Supreme Court disciplined 19 attorneys, disbarring three, suspending nine, reprimanding one, and revoking the licenses of six.

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June 2022 Florida Bar List of Disciplinary Actions Against Florida Lawyers

JUN 1, 2022 | REPUBLISHED BY LIT: JULY 9, 2022

BREAKING NEWS FROM LAWS IN FLORIDA .COM

The Florida Bar and Florida Supreme Court Has Decided it is Closing the Door on Transparency Due to LIF’s Detailed Investigations, based off the monthly Florida Lawyers behavin’ badly, e.g. the disciplinary list issued by the Florida Bar.

The Amount of Monies these Lawyers are Thievin’ is Now being Withheld from the Disciplinary Reports, where the Rogue Lawyer Admits Guilt and Agrees to the Bar Sanction(s). This is Brand New, before LIF Could Obtain the Amount of Money Finched via their Reporting.

That Stated, We’ll Just Harvest More Facts and Data about the Ochlocracy and Judicial Corruption along with these Rogue Florida Lawyers Behavin’ Badly and Post it On Our No BS Blogs. p.s., the Gov. Ron ‘The Unwanted Dictator” DeSantis is included.

It’s A Coverup. No Details of the Amount of Theft of Funds by the Fl. Bar or Supreme Court.

Charles H. Burns, 205 Golfview Dr., Tequesta, ($1.2M family residence) disciplinary revocation without leave to seek readmission effective 30 days following a May 19 court order.

(Admitted to practice: 1980)

Burns was the subject of a Bar grievance that involved allegations of misappropriation.

(Case No: SC22-227)

Allan Campbell Should Have Been Disbarred. LIF Has Covered this Case in an Ongoing Series of Articles.

Allan Campbell, 1300 South Duncan Dr., Bldg. A, Tavares, suspended for three years and completion of The Florida Bar’s Ethics School effective 30 days following a May 19 court order.

(Admitted to practice: 1990)

Campbell created a law firm with nonlawyers who were allowed to control Campbell’s law firm and the employees of the firm.

The nonlawyers engaged in the unlicensed practice of law with respect to both the timeshare exit cases and the mortgage foreclosure cases.

Campbell allowed others, including nonlawyers, to file pleadings using Campbell’s e-filing credentials without his approval.

Campbell made accusations under oath in federal court that he later admitted he did not know whether those accusations were true.

Additionally, the nonlawyer employees engaged in negotiations with timeshare resorts, under Campbell’s name as an attorney, located in jurisdictions in which Campbell was not admitted to the practice of law.

Campbell allowed the nonlawyers who ran his law firm to advertise and directly solicit potential clients in a manner that was not allowed by the Rules Regulating The Florida Bar.

Finally, one of the nonlawyers who ran Campbell’s law office told Campbell not to come back that the nonlawyer was changing the locks, preventing Campbell from having access to his own law firm.

A new law firm was created with a similar name under a different attorney who continued servicing the cases under Campbell’s law firm without any notice to the clients from Campbell or the new attorney.

(Case No: SC21-1495)

Persistent Offender, Sandra Coracelin’s Devious Behavior Results in Disbarment

Sandra Coracelin, 16211 S.W. 18th St., Miramar ($684k family residence), disbarred effective immediately following a May 23 court order.

(Admitted to practice: 1997)

Coracelin filed her petition for reinstatement from a three-year suspension.

After determining Coracelin acted in contempt of the two previous orders of suspension, the Bar filed a petition for contempt and order to show cause.

Coracelin committed several misrepresentations to the Bar during the reinstatement proceedings and to an employer during her suspension, including attempting to tamper with a witness and thwart The Florida Bar’s investigation into her conduct during her suspension.

Coracelin also omitted three legal employments, and other jobs, from her petition for reinstatement and failed to disclose the income derived from them.

(Case No: SC20-1473)

Maite Diaz Banked on Florida Bar Reinstatement

Maite L. Diaz, P.O. Box 820300, Pembroke Pines, public reprimand by publication effective immediately following a May 12 court order.

(Admitted to practice: 2006)

This is a reciprocal discipline action that was issued by the United States Bankruptcy Court for the Southern District of Florida on June 25, 2019.

It ultimately resulted in Diaz being suspended by the bankruptcy court due to what the court described as gross incompetence.

Diaz appealed the order in federal court and sought reinstatement prior to the conclusion of the appeal.

She was reinstated in 2020 after a finding that she was fully rehabilitated.

(Case No: SC21-1754)

Perverted Florida Lawyer John Gillespie is to be Welcomed Back to the Florida Bar after 3 Years despite being Incarcerated for running his Law Office Like an Underage Prostitution Ring

John Gillespie, 252 8th Ave., Cramerton, NC, suspended for three years, effective immediately following an April 28 court order.

(Admitted to practice: 1998)

Gillespie engaged in misconduct, including a conflict of interest, by engaging in a sexual relationship with a criminal client that resulted in the birth of a child.

Gillespie also made misrepresentations to the Bar during its investigation of this matter.

(Case No: SC20-974)

No Jail Nor Criminal Charges for Microcap Fraud

Lawyer Diane Harrison Disbarred and her Non-lawyer Husband a Co-Conspirator

Diane Joy Harrison, 6719 Bobby Jones Ct., Palmetto, ($570k homestead) disciplinary revocation with leave to seek readmission effective immediately following a May 5 court order.

(Admitted to practice: 2000)

Harrison was involved in one disciplinary matter pertaining to an SEC judgment entered against her.

(Case No: SC22-386)

Securities and Exchange Commission v. Diane J. Harrison, et al.,

Civil Action No. 18-cv-01003

(M.D. Fla., filed April 25, 2018 before Judge Steven Merryday)

SEC Charges Lawyer and Two Others in Microcap Fraud Schemes

Litigation Release No. 24122 / April 30, 2018

The Securities and Exchange Commission filed a civil injunctive action on April 25, 2018, against a lawyer and two other individuals relating to two microcap schemes involving undisclosed “blank check” companies. In separate, settled administrative proceedings, the SEC charged another individual and two public companies related to one of the schemes.

The SEC’s complaint alleges that attorney Diane J. Harrison, Esq. and her husband, Michael J. Daniels, both of Palmetto, Florida, manufactured at least five microcap issuers with the undisclosed intent to sell them based on their status as public companies with purportedly unrestricted shares available for resale in the public markets.

According to the complaint, Daniels and Harrison created the false appearance that the companies were pursuing specific business plans with independent management and shareholders by installing friends and family (including defendant Catherine A. Bradaick-Zolla of Sarasota, Florida, who also provided other assistance to the fraud) as purported officers and shareholders.

The SEC alleges that, in reality, Daniels and Harrison controlled the shares.

According to the complaint, Daniels and Harrison sold four of the five companies to Andy Z. Fan of Las Vegas, Nevada and, along with Bradaick-Zolla, continued to provide support to Fan.

For example, the SEC alleges that Daniels, Harrison, and Bradaick-Zolla prepared false SEC filings, Harrison submitted false legal opinion letters, and Daniels and Bradaick-Zolla entered manipulative trades to artificially set the price of the stocks in the public market.

The SEC previously issued a stop order on the public offering of the fifth company in Daniels and Harrison’s pipeline.

The SEC’s complaint also alleges that Harrison participated in a separate fraudulent scheme involving at least 11 undisclosed blank check companies secretly controlled by Alvin S. Mirman and Sheldon R. Rose.

The SEC previously filed enforcement actions against Mirman and Rose, who were also convicted of criminal charges and sentenced to prison based on the same alleged conduct.

According to the SEC’s complaint, Harrison provided at least 21 false legal opinion letters in furtherance of Mirman and Rose’s scheme.

The SEC’s complaint, filed in the United States District Court for the Middle District of Florida, alleges that Harrison and Daniels violated

Section 17(a) of the Securities Act of 1933 (“Securities Act”)

and

Section 10(b) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 (“Exchange Act”)

and

Rules 10b-5 and Rule 13a-14 thereunder,

and

aided and abetted violations of Section 13(a) of the Exchange Act

and

Rules 12b-20, 13a-1, 13a-11, 13a-13 and 13a-14 thereunder.

The complaint also alleges that Daniels violated Section 9(a) of the Exchange Act, and that Harrison also violated Sections 5(a) and 5(c) of the Securities Act.

The complaint further alleges that Harrison and Bradaick-Zolla aided and abetted violations of

Section 17(a) of the Securities Act

and

Section 10(b) of the Exchange Act

and

Rule 10b-5 thereunder.

The complaint seeks permanent injunctions, disgorgement with prejudgment interest, civil penalties, penny stock bars, and officer-and-director bars against each defendant.

In separate orders instituting settled administrative proceedings, the Commission charged Fan and two public companies under his control, AF Ocean Investment Management Company and ChinAmerica Andy Movie Entertainment Media Company, with issuing false press releases and making false SEC filings regarding their purported revenues.

The Commission also charged Fan with manipulating the price of both companies’ stock and fraudulently selling his controlling interest in another public company.

Without admitting or denying the SEC’s findings, Fan and the two companies agreed to the entry of cease-and-desist orders.

Fan further agreed to entry of an order barring him from participating in penny stock offerings, barring him from serving as an officer or director of a public company, and ordering him to pay $140,000 in civil penalties.

AF Ocean and ChinAmerica each further agreed to entry of an order revoking their securities registrations.

The SEC’s investigation, which is continuing, has been conducted by Jeffrey T. Cook in the Miami Regional Office.

The investigation was supervised by Eric R. Busto. The SEC’s litigation will be led by Amie Riggle Berlin.

U.S. District Court
Middle District of Florida (Tampa)
CIVIL DOCKET FOR CASE #: 8:18-cv-01003-SDM-TGW

Securities and Exchange Commission v. Harrison et al
Assigned to: Judge Steven D. Merryday
Referred to: Magistrate Judge Thomas G. Wilson

Case in other court:  11th Circuit, 19-10509-E
11th Circuit, 19-11950-E

Cause: 15:0077 Securities Fraud

Date Filed: 04/25/2018
Date Terminated: 06/16/2020
Jury Demand: Defendant
Nature of Suit: 850 Securities/Commodities
Jurisdiction: U.S. Government Plaintiff

 

Date Filed # Docket Text
01/11/2021 150 ORDER–NOTICE: COMPLIANCE WITH NEW LOCAL RULE 1.08. Signed by Judge Steven D. Merryday on 1/11/2021. (BK) (Entered: 01/11/2021)

 


 

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SEC Charges Florida Attorney with Investment Fraud

May 1, 2018

The Securities and Exchange Commission has filed a civil injunctive action against a Florida lawyer accused of investor fraud.

The federal agency alleged that attorney Diane J. Harrison and her husband, Michael J. Daniels, manipulated share prices to inflate the public market value of stock they controlled.

Harrison is a business lawyer licensed to practice in Florida and Nevada.

She specializes in business planning, securities regulation, Sarbanes-Oxley Act compliance, public offerings and private placements, according to her website.

Her firm, Harrison Law, is based in Parrish, in the Bradenton–Sarasota–Venice metropolitan area on Florida’s southwestern coast.

Harrison has a degree in chemical engineering from West Virginia Institute of Technology, and once held an engineering position with the U.S. Department of Energy, according to her online biography.

Her business holdings include a plumbing company that tests and repairs residential backflow systems.

But the SEC claimed Harrison also had another line of work:

alleged scams that ran for about four years and violated anti-fraud, registration and reporting provisions of federal securities laws.

“From no later than July 2010 through August 2014, Harrison participated in two separate fraudulent schemes to manufacture public companies for sale, fundamentally premised on a deceptive public float of purportedly ‘free-trading’ securities,” according to the complaint the SEC filed April 25 in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Florida.

“The creation of that deceptive public float was dependent on false and misleading statement and omissions to the Commission, the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority, the Depository Trust Co. and others.”

The alleged fraud involved “microcap” companies — publicly traded companies with market capitalization or value of around $50-$300 million.

The SEC alleged Harrison and her husband launched at least five microcap companies to issue stock based on these firms’ ability to issue unrestricted shares on the over-the-counter market.

But the companies had no real value, according to the complaint.

Instead, the SEC alleges Daniels and Harrison created the false appearance that the companies were viable businesses with independent management and shareholders.

Instead, they used friends and relatives to pose as officers and investors.

One friend, Catherine A. Bradaick-Zolla of Sarasota, was named as a co-defendant in the SEC action.

“Harrison and Daniels’ scheme followed a consistent pattern,” according to the complaint.

They “acquired a small local business, and gifted its privately held securities to approximately 30 friends and family by providing them with all the money to ‘purchase’ the shares.”

Once the “investors” completed the acquisition, Harrison then prepared and filed paperwork with federal agencies to take the company public and offer its shares for sale. “Daniels and Harrison used the identity of a friend — sometimes without his or her knowledge — to be a fellow officer, to create a mirage of not just independent investors, but also independent management,” according to the SEC complaint.

“Each registration statement made false and misleading statements concerning the officers, the company’s business purpose and the ‘selling’ shareholders.” Harrison’s Florida Bar file shows admission in 2010 and no disciplinary history over the last 10 years.

Her Nevada file shows no disciplinary actions, and membership since 2004.

Harrison did not immediately respond to requests for comment Tuesday on the federal charges, and no appearance was immediately entered on her behalf.

Jamindar’s Unacceptable Excuses Are Covered by Florida Bar Attorney Immunity and As Such, Accepted

Nirav Mahendra Jamindar, 17555 Nature Walk Trail, Unit 305, Parker, CO, suspended for 90 days effective 30 days following a May 5 court order.

(Admitted to practice: 2008)

In one matter, Jamindar failed to timely and properly withdraw from an appellate matter, causing delay in the appeal.

In a separate instance, Jamindar represented he was “Of Counsel” for a law firm for a period of time in which he was no longer working for the law firm.

Jamindar inadvertently filed notices of appearance reflecting his “Of Counsel” designation.

In second, third, and fourth matters, Jamindar failed to properly supervise his wife, who solicited legal business for Jamindar without his knowledge.

(Case No: SC21-507)

Chris Lim Should Have Been Disbarred.  Lim’s Part of the Allan Campbell Series of Articles.

Christopher A. Lim, P.O. Box 568163, Orlando, suspended for one year effective 30 days following a May 19 court order.

(Admitted to practice: 2005)

Lim became involved with two separate “private member associations” that were run by nonlawyers.

The first company marketed itself to individuals wanting to fight foreclosure cases without directly hiring an attorney.

Lim and another attorney provided legal services to the customers of the company.

After the company ceased operations, Lim joined another law firm that, in effect, was run by another “private member association” that marketed itself to individuals wanting to defend their foreclosure cases without directly hiring an attorney.

The law firm also was used by another nonlawyer’s company that directly solicited individuals who wanted to cancel their timeshare contracts.

The nonlawyer company owners controlled the operations of the law firms and had considerable input into what actions the attorneys took.

The manner in which the law firm was run caused considerable confusion as to which attorney was representing a particular client.

All fees were paid by the customers directly to the companies which then paid the attorneys a salary.

Lim also was sanctioned by the Fifth District Court of Appeal for failing to respond to two Orders to Show Cause for pursuing a meritless appeal.

(Case No: SC21-1666)

Lucente Decided that a Suspension Could be Blanked. That Didn’t Go Down Well.

Janet Peralta Lucente, 1525 N. Park Dr., Suite 102, Weston, disciplinary revocation with leave to seek readmission after five years effective immediately following an April 28 court order.

(Admitted to practice: 1997)

Lucente engaged in the practice of law after being suspended for 91 days by filing pleadings furthering litigation and held herself out as an attorney in said pleadings.

Lucente failed to provide notice of her suspension and a copy of the order to a client and failed to withdraw from the matter prior to the effective date of her suspension.

Lucente also made a misrepresentation in her affidavit to The Florida Bar when she stated she had no clients when the order of suspension was issued.

(Case No: SC22-352)

Two brothers who operated multiple South Florida addiction treatment facilities were sentenced to prison. They were also Florida Lawyers.

Daniel Markovich, 1151 Poinciana Dr., Pembroke Pines, indefinitely suspended effective 30 days following an April 28 court order

(Admitted to practice: 2017).

Markovich was convicted of one count of conspiracy to commit health care and wire fraud;

two counts of health care fraud;

one count of conspiracy to pay and receive kickbacks;

and two counts of payment and offer kickbacks in exchange for use of services.

Markovich was sentenced to 97 months and 60 months of incarceration, all terms to run concurrently.

(Case No: SC22-566)

Jonathan Markovich, 250 95th St, Surfside, indefinitely suspended effective 30 days from an April 28 court order (Admitted to practice: 2013).

Markovich was convicted of one count of conspiracy to commit health care and wire fraud;

eight counts of health care fraud;

one count of conspiracy to pay and receive kickbacks;

one count of payment and offer of kickbacks in exchange for use of services; one count of soliciting and receiving kickbacks;

one count of conspiracy to commit money laundering;

eight counts of money laundering; and two counts of bank fraud.

Markovich was sentenced to 188 months, 120 months, and 60 months of incarceration, all terms to run concurrently.

(Case No: SC22-570)

Department of Justice
Office of Public Affairs

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Monday, March 21, 2022

Addiction Treatment Facility Operators Sentenced in $112 Million Addiction Treatment Fraud Scheme

Two brothers who operated multiple South Florida addiction treatment facilities were sentenced to prison Friday for a $112 million addiction treatment fraud scheme that included paying kickbacks to patients through patient recruiters and receiving kickbacks from testing laboratories.

“These substance abuse treatment facility operators, through brazen tactics driven by greed, took advantage of vulnerable patients seeking treatment,”

said Assistant Attorney General Kenneth A. Polite Jr. of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division.

“These sentences demonstrate the department’s unwavering commitment to protecting patients and prosecuting fraudulent substance abuse treatment facilities through our Sober Homes Initiative.”

Jonathan Markovich, 37, and his brother, Daniel Markovich, 33, both of Bal Harbour, were sentenced in the Southern District of Florida to 188 months and 97 months in prison, respectively.

According to court documents and evidence presented at trial, the defendants conspired to unlawfully bill for approximately $112 million of addiction treatment services that were medically unnecessary and/or never provided, which were procured through illegal kickbacks at two addiction treatment facilities, Second Chance Detox LLC, dba Compass Detox (Compass Detox), an inpatient detox and residential facility, and WAR Network LLC (WAR), a related outpatient treatment program.

The defendants obtained patients through patient recruiters who offered illegal kickbacks to patients, including free airline tickets, illegal drugs, and cash payments.

The defendants shuffled a core group of patients between Compass Detox and WAR in a cycle of admissions and re-admissions to fraudulently bill for as much as possible.

Patient recruiters gave patients illegal drugs prior to admission to Compass Detox to ensure admittance for detox, which was the most expensive kind of addiction treatment offered by the defendants’ facilities.

In addition, therapy sessions were billed for but not regularly provided or attended, and excessive, medically unnecessary urinalysis drug tests were ordered, billed for, and paid. Compass Detox patients were given a so-called “Comfort Drink” to sedate them, and to keep them coming back.

Patients were also given large and potentially harmful amounts of controlled substances, in addition to the “Comfort Drink,” to keep them compliant and docile, and to ensure they stayed at the facility.

“To manipulate and exploit patients seeking help in their most vulnerable state is unacceptable,”

said Assistant Director Luis Quesada of the FBI’s Criminal Investigative Division.

“These individuals orchestrated a scheme that sought profits over the well-being of patients, and they will be held accountable for their actions. With the help of our law enforcement partners, the FBI continues to investigate, bring down these criminal enterprises, and protect our citizens.”

After a seven-week trial in November 2021, both defendants were convicted of conspiracy to commit health care fraud and wire fraud. Jonathan Markovich was convicted of eight counts of health care fraud and Daniel Markovich was convicted of two counts of health care fraud.

They were also both convicted of conspiracy to pay and receive kickbacks and two counts of paying and receiving kickbacks.

Jonathan Markovich was separately convicted of conspiring to commit money laundering, two counts of concealment money laundering, and six counts of laundering at least $10,000 in proceeds of unlawful activities.

He was also convicted of two counts of bank fraud related to fraudulently obtaining PPP loans for both Compass Detox and WAR during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The FBI’s Miami Field Office, Department of Health and Human Services, Office of Inspector General, and the Broward County Sherriff’s Office investigated the case.

Senior Litigation Counsel Jim Hayes and Trial Attorney Jamie de Boer of the Criminal Division’s Fraud Section prosecuted the case.

The National Rapid Response Strike Force, Miami Strike Force, and Los Angeles Strike Force lead the Department of Justice’s Sober Homes Initiative, which was announced in the 2020 National Health Care Fraud Takedown to prosecute defendants who exploit vulnerable patients seeking treatment for drug and/or alcohol addiction.

Topic(s):
Coronavirus
Disaster Fraud
Health Care Fraud
Component(s):
Criminal Division
Criminal – Criminal Fraud Section
Press Release Number:
22-270

PENDING CRIMINAL DIVISION CASES

Sober Homes Takedown

United States v. Jonathan Markovich et al. (21-CR-60020)

All hearings will be held before Judge William P. Dimitrouleas United States Courthouse, 299 East Broward Blvd. #108, Fort Lauderdale, FL 33301 unless otherwise noted.

Latest Updates:

On March 24, 2022 defendant Jose Santeiro was found guilty by a federal jury. His sentencing hearing has been set for June 17, 2022 at 01:30 PM.

The arraignment hearing for defendant Jeffrey Draesel has been reset for June 19, 2022 at 11:00 AM.

The sentencing hearing for defendant Waserstein has been reset for June 27, 2022 at 01:15 PM.

The sentencing hearing for defendant Bosch has been set for June 30, 2022 at 01:15 PM.

On May 10, 2022 defendant Lieberman was sentenced to 13 months of imprisonment, followed by 3 years of supervised release. He was also ordered to pay $1,851,538.51 in restitution.

On March 18, 2022 defendant Jonathan Markovich was sentenced to 188 months of imprisonment followed by 3 years of supervised release. He was also ordered to pay $2,122,500 in restitution.

On March 18, 2022 defendant Daniel Markovich was sentenced to 97 months of imprisonment followed by 3 years of supervised release. He was also ordered to pay $1,850,000 in restitution.

On March 10, 2022 defendant Elan Bakhshi was sentenced 25 months of imprisonment followed by 3 years of supervised release. He was also ordered to pay $2,904,187 in restitution.

On April 6, 2022, defendant Christopher Garnto was sentenced to 24 months’ imprisonment, followed by three years of supervised release. He was also ordered to pay $375,227 in restitution.

The sentencing hearing previously scheduled for defendant Kustura has been cancelled.

Please note that due to the on-going COVID-19 pandemic, courthouses may have different rules regarding in-person attendance. Please check the court’s website or contact us at Victimassistance.fraud@usdoj.gov if you are planning to attend.

Criminal Charges:

On or about September 25, 2020, ten defendants were charged by criminal complaint in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida for their alleged participation in conspiracies to commit health care fraud and wire fraud, violate the Eliminating Kickbacks in Recovery Act, and money laundering offenses. Defendant Jonathan Markovich was also charged with bank fraud and false statements to a financial institution for seeking Paycheck Protection Program loans.

These defendants are owners, operators, doctors, and patient recruiters for two substance abuse treatment centers in Broward County, Florida:

Second Chance Detox, LLC, doing business as Compass Detox (“COMPASS”), a detox and residential inpatient facility,

and

WAR Network, LLC (“WAR”), a related outpatient program.

Eight of these defendants were indicted on January 19, 2021.

On November 4, 2021, Defendant Jonathan Markovich was convicted of conspiracy to commit health care fraud and wire fraud, health care fraud, conspiracy to pay and receive kickbacks, payment and offer of kickbacks in exchange for use of services, soliciting and receiving kickbacks, conspiracy to commit money laundering, money laundering, and bank fraud.

Defendant Daniel Markovich was also convicted of conspiracy to commit health care fraud and wire fraud, health care fraud, conspiracy to pay and receive kickbacks, and payment and offer of kickbacks in exchange for use of services.

For more information about the Sober Homes Takedown, please see below:

Criminal Complaint

Assistance for those with medical needs who may have been impacted by the Sober Homes Takedown enforcement actions:

DOJ, DEA, HHS-OIG, HHS’ Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the Florida Department of Children and Families are deploying federal and state-level strategies to address patient harm and ensure continuity of care. Additional information regarding available treatment programs and where patients can turn for assistance is as follows:

Mental Health & Substance Abuse Resources in Miami-Dade County
Thriving Mind South Florida Brochure

Victim Impact Statement: If you would like to submit a Victim Impact Statement, you may do so by mailing the Victim Impact Statement to: Victim Witness Unit, U.S. Department of Justice, Criminal Division, Fraud Section, 10th & Constitution Avenue, NW, Bond Building, Room 4416, Washington, DC 20530. You also may submit the Victim Impact Statement via email at VictimAssistance.fraud@usdoj.gov or by fax at: (202) 514-3708.

Victim Impact Statement (PDF)

The information on this website will be updated as new developments arise in the case. If you have any questions, please call the Victim Assistance Line toll-free at (888) 549-3945 or email us at VictimAssistance.fraud@usdoj.gov.

Presumption of Innocence: It is important to keep in mind that an indictment contains allegations only, and that defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty. That presumption requires both the court and our office to take certain steps to ensure that justice is served.

Crime Victims’ Rights Act and Right to Retain Counsel: The Crime Victims’ Rights Act (18 U.S.C. § 3771) applies only to victims of the counts charged in federal court, and thus individuals may not be able to exercise all of these rights if the crime of which the individual is a victim was not charged. Section 377I(c)(2) of this Act requires that we advise you that you have the right to retain counsel. Although the statute specifically sets forth your right to seek advice of an attorney with regard to your rights under the statute, there is no requirement that you retain counsel. The Government may not recommend any specific counsel, nor can the government (or the court) pay for counsel to represent you. Government attorneys represent the United States.

If you elect to obtain counsel to represent your interests, please have your attorney notify this office in writing at: U.S. Department of Justice, Criminal Division, Fraud Section, 10th & Constitution Avenue, NW, Bond Building, 4th Floor, Washington, DC 20530, Attention: Victim Witness Unit; fax: (202) 514-3708; or email: VictimAssistance.fraud@usdoj.gov. If you elect not to retain counsel to represent your interests, you do not need to do anything.

Meadors Abhorrent Criminal Acts

Michael Jay Meadors, 500 E. University Ave., Suite B, Gainesville, permanent disciplinary revocation effective 30 days following an April 28 court order.

(Admitted to practice: 2003)

Meadors is charged by criminal information with one count of child sexual battery

(Count I, Capital Felony),

and 21 counts of promoting 23-1 and possessing a sexual performance by a child

(Counts II-X, First Degree Felonies, and XI-XXII, Second Degree Felonies).

(Case No: SC22-245)

Mitchell’s Not Receivin’ First Amendment Protection for Bashin’ Outlaws in Dirty Black Robes

Raymond B. Mitchell, 3717 Del Prado Blvd. S., Suite 1, Cape Coral, suspended for 91 days effective 30 days following a March 28 court order.

(Admitted to practice: 1994)

Mitchell was found to have engaged in conduct that was prejudicial to the administration of justice and of making disparaging statements which impugned the qualifications and integrity of a judge.

(Case No: SC20-1777)

Newman Needed to Top Up His Retirement, And His Wish Was Granted, Free of Criminal Prosecution

Lawrence Bruce Newman, (75), 1900 Glades Rd., Boca Raton [virtual address, the actual home address for Newman is 17100 Grand Bay Dr, Boca Raton, FL, 33496-2913], disciplinary revocation with leave to apply for readmission effective April 27 following a May 12 court order.

(Admitted to practice: 1974)

Newman agreed to a disciplinary revocation concerning the misuse of funds.

(Case No: SC22-402)

Ramer Needs Coached

Alan Howard Ramer, 10602 S.W. 77th Terr., Miami, suspended for 91 days effective 30 days following a May 20 court order.

(Admitted to practice: 1988)

This is a reciprocal discipline action stemming from a six-month suspension order by the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida that was to be rescinded if Ramer complied with remedial requirements.

To date, he has not complied.

Ramer repeatedly failed to timely comply with discovery requests and/or produce complete responses, failed to attend court-ordered mediation, failed to respond to opposing counsel’s emails, failed to comply with court orders, and failed to comply with the local rules for the Southern District Court of Florida.

(SC20-1027)

Lawyer Rheinstein is Filin’ Frivolously and Makin’ Threats. Move to Texas, That Behavior is Deemed Zealous Advocacy.

Jason Edward Rheinstein, P.O. Box 1369, Severna Park, MD, disbarred effective 30 days following a May 20 court order.

(Admitted to practice: 2008)

Rheinstein was found to have filed numerous pleadings lacking merit in violation of rules of procedure in both federal and state cases.

Rheinstein also filed numerous frivolous pleadings and took positions unsupported by the facts or the law.

Rheinstein violated the rules by attempting to prove an elaborate conspiracy theory in order to force a settlement, as well as issuing unsubstantiated accusations against his legal opponent regarding a fraud scheme that led a court to believe the opponent was under federal investigation.

Rheinstein also engaged in a series of actions,

including threatening to report his opponent’s attorneys to the Attorney Grievance Commission if they refused to drop an appeal or withdraw from the case,

making accusations of ex parte communication with the clerk’s office in an effort to manipulate the trial record,

and

threatening opposing counsels with claims related to their clients’ alleged fraudulent conduct.

This is a reciprocal discipline action based on an order from The Court of Appeals of Maryland dated January 24, 2020.

(Case No: SC20-1614)

Sarbinoff is a Lawyer and a Criminal. Grant, You’re the Perfect Lawyer.

Grant Griffith Sarbinoff, 411 N.E. 53rd St., Miami, indefinitely suspended effective 30 days following an April 28 court order

(Admitted to practice: 2010). (Now showing as ‘RETIRED’, per Fl. Bar Profile).

Sabrinoff was adjudicated guilty of the following felony offenses:

two counts of criminal use of personal identification information;

one count of unlawful use of a two-way communications device;

and

16 counts of offenses against users of computers.

(Case No: SC22-573)

Siegmeister is a Prosecutor Who Requested and Received Bribes for Reduced Sentences Over Many, Many Years. His Criminal Trial is Currently Ongoing. Note: there’s not a Detailed Summary in this Disbarment by the Florida Judiciary, LIF knows Why.

Jeffrey Alan Siegmeister, P.O. Box 329, Live Oak, permanent disciplinary revocation, effective 30 days following an April 28 court order.

(Admitted to practice: 1994)

On February 22, 2022, Siegmeister pled guilty to the following:

conspiracy to use a facility of commerce for unlawful activity,

in violation of 18 U.S.C. §§ 371 and 1952(a)(3);

conspiracy to interfere with commerce by extortion,

in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1951(a);

wire fraud,

in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1343;

and filing a false tax return,

in violation of 26 U.S.C. § 7206(1).

(Case No: SC22-307)

KC Wright’s Behavin’ Like a Normal Lawyer – Unfortunately, He Got Himself Arrested and is Now a Fugitive

Kenneth Carl Wright, 121 South Orange Ave., Suite 1500, Orlando, disbarred effective immediately following a May 12 court order.

(Admitted to practice: 1988)

Wright was arrested for suspected shoplifting, for trespassing and resisting arrest without violence on March 10, 2020.

In August of 2020, Wright entered a plea to the trespass charge and received a time served jail sentence and a withhold of adjudication.

The resisting without violence charge was dismissed by the state pursuant to Wright’s plea agreement.

Wright failed to advise The Florida Bar of his criminal plea.

In September 2020, Wright was arrested in Denver, Colorado, for burglary.

Wright failed to appear for his court proceedings in relation to that charge.

He absconded and is subject to a warrant for arrest as a fugitive from justice.

Wright did not participate in the Bar’s disciplinary proceedings against him.

(Case No: SC21-1215)

The Florida Supreme Court, The Florida Bar and its Department of Lawyer Regulation are charged with administering a statewide disciplinary system to enforce Supreme Court rules of professional conduct for the more than 110,000 members of The Florida Bar.

Key discipline case files that are public record are posted to attorneys’ individual online Florida Bar profiles.

To view discipline documents, follow these steps.

Information on the discipline system and how to file a complaint are available at www.floridabar.org/attorneydiscipline.

Court orders are not final until time expires to file a rehearing motion and, if filed, determined.

The filing of such a motion does not alter the effective date of the discipline.

Disbarred lawyers may not reapply for admission for five years.

They are required to go through an extensive process that includes a rigorous background check and retaking the Bar exam.

Attorneys suspended for periods of 91 days and longer must undergo a rigorous process to regain their law licenses including proving rehabilitation.

Disciplinary revocation is tantamount to disbarment.

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The Unwanted Dictator Gov Ron DeSantis Employs a Foreign Agent For His Presidential Campaign

Christina Pushaw, press secretary for Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R), has become a prominent protector of her boss and a fierce critic of the media.

Published

on

DeSantis spokeswoman belatedly registers as agent of foreign politician

Christina Pushaw’s disclosure of work for Mikheil Saakashvili came after contact from the Justice Department, her attorney said

JUN 8, 2022 | REPUBLISHED BY LIT: JUN 9, 2022

A spokeswoman for Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) this week registered as a foreign agent of a former president of Georgia, Mikheil Saakashvili, belatedly detailing work she performed for the politician between 2018 and 2020.

The spokeswoman, Christina Pushaw, made the disclosure following contact from the Justice Department, according to her attorney, Michael Sherwin.

She began her work in 2018 as a volunteer in the post-Soviet country, Sherwin said, and was ultimately paid $25,000 over the course of two years.

She received her first payment, of $10,000 in October 2018, in cash, according to her filing.

She stayed for free for six weeks in an apartment owned by a Saakashvili associate in Tbilisi, the Georgian capital.

“Her efforts included writing op-eds, reaching out to supporters and officials, and advocating on his behalf in Georgia and in the United States,”

Sherwin said.

“The work ended in 2020. Ms. Pushaw was notified recently by the DOJ that her work on behalf of Mr. Saakashvilli likely required FARA registration. Ms. Pushaw filed for the registration retroactively as soon as she was made aware.”

A Justice Department spokesman declined to comment.

The episode reflects standard enforcement practices under the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA), said Joshua Ian Rosenstein, an expert on the 1938 law at D.C.-based Sandler Reiff Lamb Rosenstein and Birkenstock.

A letter of inquiry may prompt a voluntary registration, he said, to “short-circuit a more formal determination of a failure to comply.”

Enforcement can take place years after the activity in question if authorities receive a complaint or simply act on a public news item, he said. Though the methods are standard, Rosenstein added, there is an increased willingness to use them.

Last month, the Justice Department sued Steve Wynn, a developer and Republican megadonor, seeking to compel him to register as an agent of China.

Days before that, a Washington lobbying firm said a probe into its work for Burisma Holdings concluded when it submitted a new filing retroactively detailing its activities on behalf of the Ukrainian oil and natural gas company, which once counted Hunter Biden as a board member.

Pushaw, a year into her tenure as DeSantis’s press secretary, has become a prominent protector of her boss and a fierce critic of the media. Twitter briefly locked her account last year after the Associated Press said the criticism she directed at a reporter caused him to receive death threats.

She has written openly on social media of her work for Saakashvili, who was arrested last year when he returned to Georgia after eight years in exile.

Associated with factions critical of the Kremlin, Saakashvili led Georgia from 2004 until 2013 and entered Ukrainian politics after that country removed a pro-Russian president in 2014.

A court in Georgia, now controlled by Saakashvili’s political opponents, convicted him in absentia in 2018. He faced arrest three years later when he made a theatrical return to his country, posting a copy of his plane ticket on social media.

According to Pushaw’s LinkedIn profile, she joined the governor’s office in May 2021 after her time as director of a nonprofit “focused on empowering youth through education and professional development opportunities” based in Tbilisi.

She also lists experience as a campaign strategist for a Georgian opposition party and, on other social media, has identified that party as the United National Movement, which Saakashvili once chaired.

In her filing with the Justice Department, dated June 6, she wrote that her activities “included perception management, public relations, and preparation and dissemination of informational materials to an international audience, including U.S. persons and entities.”

Pushaw’s work for Saakashvili involved going toe-to-toe in 2018 with W. Samuel Patten, a political consultant who had just pleaded guilty to not registering as an agent of a Ukrainian political party.

As part of his plea deal, Patten agreed to assist special counsel Robert S. Mueller III in his investigation of foreign influence in the 2016 election.

In communication reproduced at the time by George Washington University law professor Jonathan Turley, Pushaw claims to have contacted the Justice Department about messages allegedly sent by Patten to a former aide to Saakashvili before the Georgian exile’s appearance on CNN.

In the appearance, which included discussion of Patten’s case, Saakashvili read aloud the messages said to have come from Patten, including a warning to “call off your trolls now, or I’ll start releasing things about Misha he’d prefer I didn’t.”

“Today, I contacted the DOJ to report Sam’s threat and send over the screenshots,”

Pushaw wrote to Turley, who appeared on CNN after Saakashvili.

“I believe Sam knew [Saakashvili] would talk about the case on CNN yesterday, since I announced it on Facebook a few hours beforehand. I think Sam sent the threat right before the interview to coerce him into silence.”

Patten called the suggestion that he was bullying Saakashvili or his associates “absurd, backwards and disproven.”

Turley said he reproduced Pushaw’s message with her permission.

Sherwin, her attorney, did not respond to a question about the 2018 episode.

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