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The Supreme Court says your Cell Phone is Private

Posted in Consumer News You Can Use, Criminal, Legal News on July 2nd, 2014 by admin — Be the first to comment!

The Supreme Court issued a unanimous ruling this week clarifying the limits on police examination of cell phone data.

The Court said that, in most cases, police need a warrant before searching the cellphone or other personal electronic device of an arrested person.

Attorneys had argued that cell phones were searchable under existing laws which permit searches for contraband when a person is arrested. Justice Roberts, writing for the Court, disagreed:

“Modern cell phones, as a category, implicate privacy concerns far beyond those implicated by the search of a cigarette pack, a wallet, or a purse.”

Justice Roberts noted that the decision would make fighting some crime more difficult, but said that fact could not justify warrantless searches of smartphones and cellphones.

Have you been arrested and had your cell phone searched? Call Attorney Gregg Wagman today.

Can I Keep My IRA if I Declare Bankruptcy?

Posted in Bankruptcy, Consumer News You Can Use, Legal News on June 12th, 2014 by admin — Be the first to comment!

The answer is mostly yes up to a certain dollar amount. EXCEPT if you have inherited it. See Below.

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Supreme Court says Individual Retirement Accounts are not protected from creditors in bankruptcy proceedings if the accounts are inherited.
The justices ruled unanimously on Thursday that a Wisconsin woman who declared bankruptcy could not keep a $300,000 IRA that she inherited when her mother died.

Bankruptcy law typically shields retirement assets from creditors. But unlike a typical IRA, one that is inherited from a parent can be spent immediately without waiting for the new owner to retire. Lower courts said that change in the status of the account makes it less like retirement savings and more like a pot of money that should be available to pay off creditors.

The high court agreed.

How Do I Get Information About My Mortgage?

The new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB)has recently enacted some new regulations which increase your access to information about your loan and create a new means for you to report errors related to your loan servicing.

The first process created by the CFPB is called a Request for Information. It can be used to request information or documentation related to your loan, including the origination of the loan and loss mitigation options. This Request for Information, or RFI, can be helpful in a foreclosure defense, as it provides access to a variety of documents before the formal discovery process begins.

The mortgage servicer’s response must include either the information sought through the RFI or an explanation as to why the information is not available. If the request seeks confidential, proprietary, or privileged information, or if it’s overbroad or unduly burdensome, or if it’s duplicative of other requests, the servicer is not required to comply.

The Notice of Error (NOE) is a means for disputing a servicer’s mistake relative to the service of a mortgage loan. Relevant errors include: Mishandling a payment or an escrow, not providing an accurate payoff balance or accurate information about loss mitigation options and foreclosure, failing to timely and accurately transfer information after a servicing transfer, and violating various “dual tracking” protections.

In response to a Notice of Error, mortgage servicers must either correct the error and notify the borrower in writing or, after a “reasonable” investigation, give the borrower a written statement explaining how it determined that no error occurred and indicating that supporting documentation may be requested. Servicers need not comply with dispute notices which are overbroad or duplicative.

No fees can be charged for either an RFI or an NOE. Both can be combined in the same letter. If a servicer has a special address for RFI/NOE receipt, it must be found on its website.

Generally, servicers must acknowledge receipt of an RFI or NOE within 5 business days and respond in writing within 30 business days. Servicers may also request a 15 business day extension in many cases, although certain errors are subject to shorter timelines.

Is your Smart Phone entitled to Privacy?

Posted in Consumer News You Can Use, Criminal, Legal News on April 1st, 2014 by admin — Be the first to comment!

Consider, briefly, what’s on your smartphone: undoubtedly, there are photographs of your family and friends, detailed information about the places you’ve been and the routes you traveled to get there; copies of email and text messages you sent and received; internet searches you’ve run; and access to your Facebook accounts, with connections to your friends and associates. In short: a complete and very likely illustrated record of what you’ve been getting up to lately.

Now consider this: if you’re stopped and arrested for not wearing a seat belt or another minor infraction, do the police have a right to take your cell phone and, without a warrant, access all the information listed above, and more?

The Supreme Court takes up this question next month in a pair of related cases from California and Massachusetts.

In California’s State v. Riley, the Court will decide whether or not the police, who had stopped the defendant for having a broken vehicle light, had a constitutional right to seize his phone and search its contents. The photographs, videos, and messages on Riley’s phone connected him with a gang-related shooting. The evidence from the phone was admitted by the court and was used to help convict him. He’s currently serving 15 years to life, with his attorneys bringing the appeal.

Conversely, in United States v. Wurie, a case involving the seizure and search of a flip phone, the government brought the appeal to the Supreme Court, arguing for the right to make such warrantless searches and seizures.

As it stands now, your right to privacy in your phone records varies from state to state – and Connecticut is one of the states where the issue remains unresolved. “Your home and office computers are already password protected,” said Attorney Gregg Wagman. “Taking the extra step of password-protecting or otherwise encrypting your smartphone gives you extra protection not only from identity thieves but also from warrantless searches by the police.”

If you have any questions contact the

Law Offices of Gregg W. Wagman at:
70 Howard Street Suite C
New London, CT 06320
860-444-0100 office

wagman@attorneywagman.com

Serving the Eastern Connecticut region including the Northeastern towns of Thompson, Putnam,
Brooklyn, Colchester, Willimantic, Marlborough, Lebanon and Plainfield and the Southeastern towns of Old Saybrook, Old Lyme,East Lyme,Waterford, New London, Groton, Salem, Ledyard, Montville, Mystic, Norwich, Voluntown, Preston, Stonington, North Stonington and New London

Can you sue the Bank if somebody Embezzles from you?

An embezzlement case before the Connecticut Appellate Court this week may more clearly delineate the rights of account holders and the responsibilities of banks, but whatever the outcome, one thing is clear: business owners, pay attention to your bank statements.

In 2012, a New London County jury found that Bank of America was 95% responsible for damages suffered by St. Bernard School after an employee embezzled more than $800,000 by setting up a secret account with Fleet Bank, later acquired by Bank of America.

According to published reports, the embezzlement began in 2002 when Salvatore R. Licitra Jr., 47, formerly of East Lyme, set up a bank account named “Saint Bernard’s High School Norwich Diocese Camp Sunshine, c/o Sal Licitra.” He used this account to accept checks from third parties as well as to divert money from legitimate St. Bernard’s accounts via checks which were sometimes unendorsed. Additionally, he created fraudulent bills and paid them with legitimate St. Bernard’s checks made out to the Camp Sunshine account.

The embezzlement continued through Bank of America’s 2004 acquisition of Fleet Bank and up until Licitra lost his job in 2006. After the scam was discovered in 2007, he was arrested.

St. Bernard then sued the Bank of America claiming that the embezzlement was due to the negligence of Bank of America. The bank claimed that St. Bernard had waited too long to make its claim under the terms of its deposit agreement with the school. James Devine, the trial judge, ruled that the time limit cited by the bank was in fact a violation of Connecticut’s state laws which say banks owe their customers a duty to keep their money safe. The Bank of America has appealed this decision, and arguments will be heard this week.

Regardless of the outcome at the Appellate Court, business owners from sole proprietors to bigger businesses should heed the underlying message: even if you have a bookkeeper, pay close attention to your bank statements and keep close tabs on your checking account.

If you have any questions contact the

Law Offices of Gregg W. Wagman at:
70 Howard Street Suite C
New London, CT 06320
860-444-0100 office

wagman@attorneywagman.com

Serving the Eastern Connecticut region including the Northeastern towns of Thompson, Putnam, Brooklyn, Colchester, Willimantic, Marlborough, Lebanon and Plainfield and the Southeastern towns of Old Saybrook, Old Lyme,East Lyme,Waterford, New London, Groton, Salem, Ledyard, Montville, Mystic, Norwich, Voluntown, Preston, Stonington, North Stonington and New London

Bankruptcy Audits Are Back

Bankruptcy audits are back, and it’s best to be prepared.
When you’re filing for bankruptcy, the amount of paperwork required can seem onerous. It’s already a stressful time, and finding and organizing so many records and receipts can be difficult. It might feel like Attorney Wagman is making too many demands and requiring proof of too many details.

Trust him on this one.

Just like the Internal Revenue Service can audit your tax returns, the U.S. Trustee’s office can audit your bankruptcy filing. In 2005, random audits became mandatory. The audits were briefly, temporarily suspended, but they’ve returned. And it’s important to be ready.

The U.S. Department of Justice contracts with accounting firms to perform independent audits. These auditors can require copies of any records which could be used to verify the information you provided on your bankruptcy filing. If you’re audited and the numbers you supplied can’t be backed up with paper evidence, your bankruptcy could be dismissed.

Auditors pay particular attention to the means test form and your income/expense reports, and therefore they frequently require:
Tax returns, with all supporting materials, for the two years prior to your bankruptcy filing;
All paystubs for the 6-month period before you filed; and
All bank account statements for the 6 months before you filed.

Make sure you’re prepared for a complete and accurate bankruptcy filing, as well as a potential random bankruptcy audit, by bringing in all the paperwork Attorney Wagman requests.

Difficult Foreclosure Decisions

Posted in Consumer News You Can Use, Foreclosure on March 7th, 2014 by admin — Be the first to comment!

Have you been delaying making some hard decisions about filing bankruptcy, hoping that the value of your home will increase? Given the grim housing market in New London County, it may be time to contact Attorney Gregg Wagman to discuss if now is the right time to file.
In New London County, 1 out of every 869 properties is currently in foreclosure, and statistics show that real estate values are failing to rise. Stonington’s Sound Investment Consultants issued a report which showed that while the county’s home sales increased 12.4 percent over last year, the median selling price fell nearly $5,000 to $210,000. The Day newspaper reports that prices are still 30 percent below their 2007 peak.
According to a report released by RealtyTrac, home foreclosure filings in Connecticut have increased 88 percent over last year. In January, 1,976 properties were in some form of foreclosure, compared to 1,050 last year. The vast majority of these properties – 1,200 – were in the very earliest stages of foreclosure, while 200 foreclosure sale notices were issued and 576 homes were actually repossessed.

Statewide, one out of every 752 residential properties faced foreclosure, up from one out of every 1,050 for the same month a year ago. Connecticut’s percentages earned it the sixth highest percentage ranking in the country.
According to the Hartford Courant, Daren Blomquist, vice president at RealtyTrac, said the 88 percent increase in January is the continuation of a pattern seen over the last year. From February 2013 to January 2014, each month showed a year-over-year increase in the number of properties with foreclosure filings, he said.

“This rebound in foreclosure activity is the result of foreclosures delayed by processing, paperwork and foreclosure prevention initiatives finally making their way through the system.” Blomquist told The Courant. “We expected to see this rebound ever since the foreclosure numbers dropped artificially after the robo-signing controversy hit in late 2010.”

Les Bray, principal of Sound Investment Consultants, told The Day that Connecticut’s judicial foreclosure review process has further impacted the market’s recovery by slowing the the sale of foreclosed properties.

The number of homes newly in foreclosure, combined with the foreclosed homes already on the market, means depressed prices for residential real estate across the board. Now may be the right time for you to consult with Attorney Gregg Wagman regarding your options.

Mortgage Forgiveness Tax Exemption ends December 31

Posted in Bankruptcy, Legal News on October 22nd, 2012 by admin — Be the first to comment!

The tax exemption for mortgage forgiveness ends December 31. This exemption removed any taxes on money that a bank forgives after a foreclosure, deed-in-lieu of foreclosure or a short sale. A bankruptcy also removes these taxes if the bankruptcy is filed prior to the taxes becoming due on your tax return. Another way to avoid this tax is to show the IRS that you are insolvent. (IRS Form 982 or Publication 4681).

Congress may renew this exemption but who knows between now and the end of the year if they are going to get any work done.

If you do not fit with in either of these exemption the IRS will consider the forgiven debt to be income and the debtor will owe income tax on that amount of money.

If you have any questions contact the

Law Offices of Gregg W. Wagman at:
70 Howard Street Suite C
New London, CT 06320
860-444-0100

wagman@attorneywagman.com

Serving the Eastern Connecticut region including the Northeastern towns of Thompson, Putnam,
Brooklyn, Colchester, Willimantic, Marlborough, Lebanon and Plainfield and the Southeastern towns of Old Saybrook, Old Lyme,East Lyme,Waterford, New London, Groton, Salem, Ledyard, Montville, Mystic, Norwich, Voluntown, Preston, Stonington, North Stonington and New London

Was the Sentence for the Murderer of Eugene Mallove Fair?

Posted in Criminal, Legal News on June 29th, 2012 by admin — Be the first to comment!

There is no way our system can ever make up for the loss of the late Eugene Mallove after his brutal murder. That said, the sentencing of his killer yesterday, while understandably upsetting to his family, was the best the system could offer in this case. As a defense attorney, I have tried (and pre-tried) many criminal cases with State’s Attorney Paul Narducci for almost twenty years. I have stood before Judge Clifford on a many occasions with many different defendants. In my experience, neither “give[s] away the courthouse” as alleged by commenters in the article on the sentencing. (New London Day 6/27/12) Both men are concerned with the safety of the public and the administration of justice, and both men are also highly experienced legal professionals — Attorney Narducci has many years as a prosecutor; Judge Clifford was a prosecutor in New Haven for many years before his appointment to the bench- who understand the difficulty of obtaining a conviction from a jury of 12.

A jury sitting on a trial such as this must find beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant committed the crime. In this case, two other men had already been arrested for the crime and then released. A key witness had admittedly lied on several occasions. This type of evidence can easily create “reasonable doubt” in the minds of jurors.

When a person is sworn in as a juror he or she takes an oath to follow the law. The law is that the jury must acquit or vote not guilty if there is a reasonable doubt in the case. Attorney Narducci has tried enough cases to know when a is case becoming jeopardized despite his best efforts to gain a conviction. At that point, he may elect to make the best a of a bad situation and offer the defendant a better deal in order to secure a conviction. He is not someone who would do so lightly. Judge Clifford’s experience is such that he would not accept a plea unless it served the interests of society, in this case by taking someone who may well have been acquitted and ensuring that they are locked up for more than decade. As Judge Clifford said “Sixteen years does not reflect the value of this wonderful man, trust me”; rather, it reflects the uncertainty of the outcome of the case and a well considered professional judgment.

If you have any questions contact the

Law Offices of Gregg W. Wagman at:
70 Howard Street Suite C
New London, CT 06320
860-444-0100 office

wagman@attorneywagman.com

Serving the Eastern Connecticut region including the Northeastern towns of Thompson, Putnam,
Brooklyn, Colchester, Willimantic, Marlborough, Lebanon and Plainfield and the Southeastern towns of Old Saybrook, Old Lyme,East Lyme,Waterford, New London, Groton, Salem, Ledyard, Montville, Mystic, Norwich, Voluntown, Preston, Stonington, North Stonington and New London