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   Awarded a Judgment?

    Now What?

First,  Register the judgment with the Internet Civil Judgment Registry  for $19.95 so others can find it for free.

    


Second,  Order a $150.00 basic asset report  to see if it is practical to pursue immediate collection.  If there are assets, proceed to the next legal step.  

This step is usually a court-ordered requirement for the Defendant to detail all assets, income and debts.  Depending on the state, it may be called a Debtor's Exam or Interrogatories.

If the Defendant fails to
comply, a Contempt of Court may be issued, which means the Defendant can go to jail for not providing the asset information.

If the Defendant doesn't respond, you don't have to wait for an arrest.  You can use the asset information in the report to garnish pay checks, levy bank accounts and put liens on real estate. You may also be able to file for a Writ of Execution to seize the Defendant's non-exempt personal property.


Third,  Do not give up.  You must be persistent.  Every year interest is added to your judgment.  If the Defendant has no significant assets one year, it doesn't mean things won't turn around the next. 

Review the Defendant's situation every year for positive changes.  Judgments can be renewed even after they expire.  So, it is crucial that you look at the judgment as an investment that you are overseeing and which you expect will eventually pay off.

SWEETHEART FRAUD


We are providing the information below in the hopes that it will help you obtain justice in a possible sweetheart scam. 

This information is not meant to discourage you.  It represents the first step that must be taken with any crime or civil dispute – learning what options are available to the victim under the current system.  It is crucial that you understand the way the police and a large segment of the public view sweetheart scams.  It is also crucial that you recognize the difficulty of obtaining justice for this fraud which is very rarely viewed as a crime. 

But possibly most importantly, it is vital that you, as a victim with first-hand experience, use whatever options the system offers to force the thief who stole from you to face some kind of consequences and inconveniences for the crime.  If you are able to do this, it will help you regain some of the power you lost as a result of the betrayal.  And it is possible that some of your actions might lead to punishment, either civil or criminal, for the thief.   

There are two options for justice when someone you know steals from you: criminal charges and civil suit.  The chances of the first occurring are slim in today's criminal justice system for several reasons: under-funding of police departments and prosecutors and lack of training for police officers who investigate these charges and often determine prematurely that the issue is civil, not criminal.

Limited funding limits police involvement in fraud investigation because trained personnel are scarce and a great deal of time and effort goes into these investigations. This time and effort is being directed towards homeland security and violent crime, both of which take precedence over non-violent white collar crimes.    

Because of these obstacles, it is very difficult for a victim to obtain justice with the help of the system.  However, you may be one of the few victims who can actually produce sufficient information to convince law enforcement to criminally charge the person who stole from you.  If so, we encourage you to do this. Here are some of the tools and information you will need to accomplish this feat:

While you may have been the victim of theft by someone you loved or knew well, the technical definition of fraud must be proven beyond a reasonable doubt in order to prosecute.  Summarized, this definition is that you gave money to someone based on information given to you by that person which he/she clearly knew was a lie.  There must be documentation, witnesses, etc. to prove this in order for a jury to convict the person of fraud.

If you believe you have the evidence to prove fraud, the Fraud Recovery Center can provide the research you need to document your claims.  Possibly, a criminal background check will show that the person who stole from you has an extensive pattern of behavior for fraud.  This can encourage law enforcement to take a second look.

Some possible documents and evidence that you may be able to produce yourself are: 

(1)
A forged signature on a check the thief claims you wrote to him/her?  Can you show your real signature and the forged one side by side?  

(2)
Credible witnesses who will tell the police that they will testify for you in court? 

(3) Cell phone bills that show the person was making calls to a "significant other" while he/she was simultaneously claiming to love you and taking your money.  These individuals can be subpoenaed to testify in court.

(4) The thief used a false identity while you were providing money.  If the false identity was used to conceal a criminal background or active warrants, you were obviously duped into parting with your money. 

It is very important to remember that the essence of the fraud you are charging the person with is theft of money.  It is not about theft of affections.  It is not criminal fraud to date more than one person at the same time.  It is not criminal fraud to have an extra-marital affair. It is not fraud if you give someone gifts and they just accept them and disappear. It is not criminal fraud if you give someone money for rent, car payments, etc. if the money is actually spent on these expenses. 

It is only fraud when someone purposely and knowingly lures your money from you by providing information which they clearly knew to be a lie – and that they intended to use the money for their own benefit and never fulfill the mutual agreement with which they bribed you in order to acquire the money.

If they deceived you in order to buy a business or car or house which you did not want but which you could benefit from, then the purpose of the lie was to not to steal your money for their exclusive benefit.  If the investment turned bad, then the act by the other person would fall in the category of bad judgment, not fraud.

Being an alcoholic, gambler, drug addict, having an arrogant attitude that hinders steady employment and being an indolent slob are not crimes in themselves.  These character weaknesses, however, can lead to lies that are intended to help these kinds of people support themselves and their habits.  This is why most con artists have some kind of an addiction that needs constant refueling.  But if a victim supports one of these kinds of people for a period of time, knowing their character weakness, it legitimately will not be regarded as criminal fraud.    

One of the greatest obstacles to reforming the American criminal justice system on the issue of sweetheart scams is the predominant mindset of the public regarding the victims’ own “complicity” in the loss of their money.  The public tends to believe that the victim should have known better and, therefore, it is not reasonable to ask that taxpayers’ dollars be spent to help them get their money back or get “revenge” on their former friend who took it.  Of course, victims know how misguided this attitude is.  But it is very real and if you have already attempted unsuccessfully to convince law enforcement to charge your "friend" with fraud, you know that this attitude is prevalent in the law enforcement community as well.

Until the public recognizes that sweetheart fraud or relationship fraud or business partnership fraud can easily happen to anyone who is not cynical and compulsively suspicious, this reform will remain an uphill battle.  It is possible that the Bernie Madoff case may give a positive nudge to this reform.  After all, Bernie Madoff does not have a criminal record and was the darling of Wall Street during his long-term Ponzi scheme.  How could anyone know what self-centered con he was running for his own aggrandizement?  Yet, the destruction he has left in his path, including the suicide of an investment manager, is proof positive that con artists destroy communities, not just individuals.

The only sure security system against this kind of financial betrayal is to enter into all relationships with suspicion, with full background checks and with constant monitoring of mutual activity where money is involved.  Because this is not the way most Americans want to live their lives, the only alternative is to guarantee that con artists will be held accountable for any betrayal that leads to the losses of victims’ money.  And to guarantee that the penalties for this betrayal are sufficient to actually deter con artists from doing it over and over again.

If you cannot prove fraud because of lack of evidence, you still have the option of suing the person in civil court.  Too many people let this opportunity slip by because they have to do it themselves instead of the system doing it for them.  

You can go to small claims court and represent yourself without an attorney and even if the amount of money stolen exceeds the small claims court limit, a judgment will allow you to obtain a subpoena in order to find the person's assets and find the person.  It will give you powers that you will not have without a judgment. Your judgment will accrue interest each year and one day the defendant may have assets and you can seize them or put a lien on them to collect on your judgment debt. 

If your fraud involves an Internet scam and you do not know the true identity of the person who stole from you, you may be able to file a John Doe lawsuit to subpoena the Internet Service Provider, the e-mail provider, PayPal, eBay and the providers of any other Internet services that were used by the subject.  When the information is obtained, unless the subject used a stolen identity, you will know the true identity of the person and can then proceed with criminal charges or civil litigation. Joe Doe lawsuits are usually filed in federal district court because of the interstate jurisdictions.


Do not let the statute of limitations expire on your case.  Check with your state to see what they are.  Generally, the statute for IOU's and money owed range from one to six years.  If you have money owed, the statute starts running when you discover that payments have ceased. or that fraud occurred.

If you sue, you might also want to consider suing for fraud (if you can prove it) since a judgment based on fraud cannot be discharged in a bankruptcy and often you can sue for treble charges.

If your subject has fled to a foreign country, you will need to determine what is required for transferring a judgment from the U.S. to the other country's courts.  This is usually also required within the U.S. when a defendant with a judgment in one state moves to another state.  In the U.S. the process is often referred to as domesticating a judgment and it is relatively easy to do through an attorney.  However, in a foreign country, the rules may not be as easy.  

If you married a con artist, you may be able to file for an annulment based on fraud, rather a divorce.  This will make it much easier to protect any of your assets the person is trying to obtain from the fraudulent marriage.

If you already know that the person who stole from you is a fugitive, you may want the Fraud Recovery Center to locate the person so you can serve a Summons.  If there is an outstanding warrant that is extraditable, our research may help land the person in jail..

If your fraud involved a Nigerian connection of any kind, this adds another dimension to the case.  This fraud has put a new twist on an old scam.  Originally created to lure money from victims through a get-rich-quick promise, the Internet has made it easy for these scammers to use dating sites to steal money using love instead of profit as the lure.  

The chances of getting any justice for this kind of fraud is almost nil.  This is because the FBI, Secret Service,
Federal Trade Commission, U.S. Postal Inspector are not going to investigate these crimes unless the money lost meets the six figure threshold.  And even then, identifying these Internet criminals may require the cooperation of law enforcement in other countries, which is not always forthcoming.

Below are links to some Web sites that offer emotional support to victims of fraud.  We encourage you to take advantage of these support groups if you have been involved with someone who defrauded you.  Some of our clients have told us that just knowing that they are not alone in  their tragedy has been very therapeutic.

  (1) Yahoo’s Romance Scams Message Board: http://groups.yahoo.com/group/romancescams/ - This group shares photos and personal information provided by Nigerian scammers.

 
(2)  Support group and message board for victims of infidelity: http://groups.msn.com/InternetChatInfidelity/_whatsnew.msnw

  (3)  Blog for women who have been in destructive relationships. http://www.lovefraud.com 

We also urge you to utilize the greatest reform tool available to you on this issue – a letter to your legislators.  Summarize your case in a one-page narrative with the general points of the fraud and the specific negative responses you received from law enforcement.  Your legislators cannot help initiate reform if they do not know about the issue.  

 
We are not attorneys and do not give legal advice.  We are fraud victims' advocates and our purpose is to help you know what rights and options you have in order to obtain justice for a fraud that may have been perpetrated on you.  Our advice is based on the actual experiences of victims who have either criminally charged or civilly sued someone who defrauded them.  We encourage you to contact a competent attorney in your area to assess all options available to you.

 
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