Floridians are finding there is little enforcement of laws intended to protect them from harassing debt collectors. Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi, like her predecessor Bill McCollum, is being criticized for not doing enough to enforce laws that regulate practices by debt collection companies and protect consumers. It will only get worse as about two million residential mortgages in the state are under water, meaning owners owe more than the value of their homes. During the last three months there were nearly 70,000 foreclosure filings in Florida, which is the third highest number in the nation. Credit cards and other consumer debts are equally delinquent and complaints against collection companies are soaring. Most consumers are not aware of their rights to end harassment and Bondi’s office has not embarked on any meaningful awareness effort.
Former Belle Glade city councilwoman and community leader Dorothy Mae Walker has been permanently disbarred from practicing law in the state. Walker was disbarred in 1988 for lying to a judge in connection with legal representation of her brother who was charged with drug trafficking. She could have applied to be reinstated after five years but never did. But the Florida Bar found that, despite being disbarred, Walker misrepresented herself as an attorney for an embattled non-profit housing organization in a foreclosure case. The Florida Supreme Court agreed with the Bar’s recommendation and permanently revoked her right to practice law again. Walker could also face criminal charges.
FIRED FOR ROMANCE
West Palm Beach police Capt. Randy Maale has been fired for carrying on a romantic relationship with a police officer under his supervision. An internal affairs investigation found that Maale, 42, also invited police officers to a party at his house while they were on duty. Even though he is married, the investigation found he had a personal relationship with 25-year-old police officer Cathy Cognetti. City officials say his conduct created mistrust within the department.
Nathan James Cauley, 23, was last seen leaving his Lantana home on Dec. 23. He has not been seen or heard from since. Police say he has a history of depression and talking about committing suicide. He is white, with blond hair and blue eyes. Police are asking anyone with information about Cauley's whereabouts to call Lantana police at 561-540-5701.
The popular Donnie's Place restaurant at 60 N.W. Fifth Ave., Delray Beach, was gutted by a fire that officials said appeared to have been accidental. The soul food restaurant is now closed due to heavy damage from the blaze.
Wanda Nene, 23, Julio Nene, 31, and Dayne Williams, 24, were arrested on multiple charges including murder and kidnapping. Police say they accused the man of burglarizing their Lake Worth apartment and lured him back. They then allegedly shot him multiple times, stabbed him in the chest, beat him with a baseball bat and then locked him in the trunk of his car. Whew!
Police say Paul Freeman, 52, shot and killed his girlfriend Tonia Patterson, 34, in the Lauderhill apartment they recently rented. Authorities say a domestic dispute led to the fatal violence. Neighbors called police after hearing multiple gunshots coming from inside the house. When officers arrived, they found both of them dead from gunshot wounds.
Southern Waste Systems is relocating its headquarters from Lantana in Palm Beach County to Davie in Broward County. Besides waste services, SWS is the largest privately owned recycling company in South Florida. President and CEO Charles Gusmano said 55 employees will be relocated from the Lantana operation to Davie and that number is expected to grow to 150 in a year’s time. The company has more than 450 employees spread out across six counties from Indian River to Miami-Dade. It relocated its headquarters to be more centrally located in the areas it serves.
Genaro Arguello of Dania Beach advertised his iPhone for sale on Craig’s List. A man who called himself “Steve” responded to the ad and the men arranged a meeting at the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Hollywood to complete the deal. Police say Steve turned out to be Esteban Granados, 19, of Miami. After examining the iPhone he declined to purchase it but allegedly followed Arguello home and robbed him of the phone and cash.
Allan Feldman, a 91-year-old man missing from Pembroke Pines, was found 800 miles away in Smithville, N.C. Police say he rented a car that ran out of gas along Interstate 95. He was discovered when a police officer pulled over to assist him. Feldman was shivering from the cold and disoriented but in good condition. He suffers from dementia and was taken to a hospital for evaluation.
North Miami Police arrested a third suspect in the rape of a pregnant woman at an apartment near Johnson & Wales University’s off-campus dorm. Kevin McNair, 24, Ligunson Edmond, and Jacques Davis Jean, are all charged with sexual battery with a deadly weapon. They are accused of raping an eight-months pregnant woman on Dec. 22 after she responded to a Craigslist ad for models. The woman went to a home where she was scheduled to pose for a photo shoot. The suspects are being held without bail.
Former Miami-Dade police officer Juan Carlos Rodriguez has pleaded guilty to one count of child abuse and will serve five years of probation. Rodriguez was charged in 2010 with fondling several young girls during five separate traffic stops after pulling them over. He will also have to undergo counseling.
Photo: Elgin Jones