About Me

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After being in the legal field for a few years, I am consulting other process servers, and starting a golf company. In the meantime I wish to convert my blog into a book so that women will know about this career.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

WRITERS NOTES #8

 
 
 
Trade Shows - another successful action.
 
It is very important to attend and become a vendor at legal trade shows or conferences. They are worth every penny. All you need is your promotional items and some small gifts to hand out. I invite all my current clients to my booth at the trade show when it is in their area, as shown by the invitation below.
 
I did this for years and it was very successful. Trade shows allow you to meet other people in your profession and it keeps your business continually in front of the legal community all over California. Competition is good, it keeps you motivated to always be distinctive. Meeting  others in your profession through these trade shows is a good thing.
 
Every County has a legal secretaries association and they each have their own events/trade shows but here are a couple of associations to get you started:
 
Legal Secretaries Inc.
 
Sacramento Legal Secretaries Association
 
 
 


 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Monday, November 14, 2011

NUT JOB MOTHER OF ALL NUT-JOB MOTHERS


 
    July, 2008, a beautiful day sitting in my office contemplating if I should go play 18 holes of golf and as soon as I thought about playing hooky during a work day, the phone rings. I answer the phone and the response is: “My name is Joseph Kennedy, Attorney with a law firm in Lake Tahoe, CA. I was referred to you by another law firm who said you are the best person for our case. Do you have a moment to talk about this?” I said, “Sure”.

    This case involves Shelby Ford, living in Lake Tahoe, who has custody visitation of her son (6) and daughter (9), two times a year, at the end of summer and Christmas time. Twice a year for several years now, the father has flown the children from Atlanta to Sacramento, CA., so that the children can visit their mother. As court mandated, at the end of the two week visitation/vacation period the children are driven to the Sacramento airport by their mother. Shelby is suppose to purchase one-way tickets for the children making sure they get on their returning home flight to Atlanta, GA. These children live with their father and step-mother for the rest of the year as he has full custody.

    The problem is each time the mother, Shelby, returns the children to the Sacramento airport, various insane actions occur.  Such as the father never knows what airline the children are flying on, or what flight number or arrival time. Shelby never tells the father, Steve or step-mother, Karen, when or how the children are returning home. She sometimes doesn’t buy them a ticket, just drops them off at the front door of Southwest, then leaves and drives back to Lake Tahoe. One time she put the children on a one way flight to Dallas and another time Shelby bought one way tickets to St. Louis. But in these two instances the children are stuck at the airports while the father is frantic calling airlines searching for his children. Once Steve and Karen locate the children, he buys high premium tickets from wherever to Atlanta. These scenarios have been going on for a few years now, and since repeated court documents (to knock off this behavior) have gone unanswered by Shelby Ford, new legal documents are now calling for contempt citations against her.

    Here’s the real kicker: The father of these children, Steve Ford, having to worry about his children and wondering where they are, is an Army Captain on the front lines in IRAQ, dealing with this while fighting a war.

    So here we are, end of summer, the children are suppose to be at the Sacramento airport, Southwest airlines, @ 2 PM, with tickets in hand and on a flight to Atlanta. On this particular trip, Shelby told the father she will buy the tickets, one–way direct flight to Atlanta agreeing that the children will be there on time, will check them in and actually see them off at the gate.

    Also, Shelby Ford now needs to be served with these contempt papers and an order to show cause (court hearing that is mandatory she appear to determine why she is being an idiot). The main court documents states:  “At the end of the mother’s summer visit, the children shall be returned to the Atlanta Airport for their return trip. The Atlanta Airport is designated the return trip destination for the conclusion of the mothers visits”. These orders also include the mother buying one way plane tickets for her children and accompany them to the departing gate.

    My assignment was to enforce this court order by meeting Shelby Ford and her minor children, @ 12 noon, July 31, 2008, Southwest Airlines, Sacramento International Airport, ensuring the minor children have tickets, boarding passes and are scheduled to be put on a plane to Atlanta, Georgia.            

    Upon arriving at the airport @ 9:00 AM, the first stop was at the airport Sheriff’s Division, to meet with them explaining the entire nature of the legal papers, what my purpose was and informing them that civil standbys will be needed. We spoke about who has jurisdiction, where the state laws start regarding state vs. federal laws on airport property. It was determine the airport Sheriff’s Division have jurisdiction up to the security checkpoints governed by the Federal Transportation Security Administration. Once the children are pass the checkpoint, then Homeland Security is the governing agency.

    After the Sheriff’s Division meeting, I needed to find a Southwest Airlines executive who was going to back me up, more importantly find out if the children were reserved on any Southwest flights and if the tickets were paid for in advance. Since this information is extremely confidential I contacted an inside source I have in the airline industry.

    I arrived at the office of my inside source, @ 10 AM, and was informed that Southwest Airlines is the only airline not part of the flight network so she could not check their flights for the children names or reservations, however, I had her check all the other airlines anyway, and found no reservations were made and no tickets were bought for Stacie and Jimmy Ford.  My contact called the supervisor at Southwest Airlines, and explained the situation. I was then informed Southwest would help and to meet them at the Operations Dept. of Southwest.

    Around 11:00 AM, I met with the supervisor’s assistant, who checked all their Southwest flights finding out the children had no reservations and no tickets had even been purchased. I informed her that tickets will be purchased today and asked her to check her flights going to Atlanta and to reserve seats for the children. I gave her the names and birthdates of Stacie and Jimmy.  

    With no tickets or even reservations made by Shelby Ford, I now knew it was safe to assume Shelby Ford was going to bring the children to Southwest Airlines or any one of the Sacramento airport airlines and dump them - again.  

    I then contacted the airport Sheriff’s asking them to come to the Southwest Airlines terminal, explaining we have a possible parental abandonment issue and I wanted Shelby Ford arrested or detained until these court orders are met.

    By 11:30 AM, there were at least two Sheriff’s at the terminal reading all of the legal papers and orders, making phone calls to their supervisors, then other Sheriff’s would come by, they would have short meetings, (I gave them their privacy), then they would leave except for the original two Sheriff’s. An associate of mine stayed near the inside the terminal with the Sheriff’s while I stayed outside to watch Shelby Ford and the children pull up to the curb, ensuring the children were not just dropped off and abandoned outside the terminal.

    By 12:15 PM, while watching the entrance to Southwest airlines, I saw Stacie and Jimmy Ford walking from the parking structure near the terminal, not with their mother but instead, with their feeble grandmother. The two children were helping the grandmother walk. With two airport Sheriff’s at my side, I introduced myself to the children, had them take a seat nearby, and then when the children were out of ear shot, explained to the grandmother the specifics of the court orders. It did not take long to realize that she was incoherent, combative and a bit senile. She then tried to leave the airport with the children and was stopped by the Sheriff’s who told her that she and the children are officially being detained.

    This is where the trouble started - the grandmother would not turn the children over to me and continually argued with the sheriff’s, also refusing to tell us specifically where Shelby Ford was parked. We knew she was hiding in her blue SUV in one of several airport parking lots. The grandmother immediately wanted to know where Karen Ford (step-mother) was, that she was supposed to be here and fly back with the children. Crazy.  She was informed that Karen was never suppose to be here, that Shelby needs to come in, buy the tickets and see the children off. The Grandmother then yelled she was leaving with the children and the Sheriff’s stopped her again. The Grandmother immediately called Shelby from her cell phone and spoke to her, but would not let us overhear the conversation.  

    From 12:30 PM to 2:30 PM, an additional four Sheriff’s came on the scene including the Lt. Commander and additional Sergeant’s. They were all reading the legal papers together, having meetings with each other, making a lot of phone calls on their cell phones (to whom is unknown but assuming by the conversations these calls were to Commanders at the Sheriff’s Office and Homeland Security). Officers also made phone calls to the attorney for Steve Ford.

    One of the Sergeant’s, Jody, was the main officer in charge who kept talking to the Grandmother and trying several times to get her to call Shelby Ford on her cell phone and have her come into the terminal. Finally, the Sergeant told the Grandmother the children will be taken away from her and sent to the children’s receiving home if she does not co-operate. I immediately told the Sergeant that Karen Ford gave me temporary custody of the children until this sorted out. I then called Karen and arranged for her to buy the children their tickets via Southwest airlines.

    The Grandmother continued to spew out statements such as “make Steve’s lawyer come here”, “Shelby’s lawyer says she doesn’t have to comply”, and “make Karen come here”, on and on which caused the children to be upset. One of the Sergeants’ finally got the Grandmother to call Shelby and confirm she would come into the terminal. We waited an hour and Shelby never showed. The Grandmother also kept calling an “attorney” speaking to her but not letting us hear the conversation. Finally, the Grandmother got through to Shelby’s attorney and one of the Sergeant’s spoke to this attorney. After explaining the court orders, the Sergeant asked this attorney when she was hired. After some discussion, Jody basically stated to the Attorney she had no authority to intervene as she never filed an Attorney of Record document until after the court orders were signed by the Judge. That was the end of this.

    During this wait period, we bought the children some food and drinks while the Grandmother kept spewing different statements to the Sheriff’s driving these guys crazy, like saying the children might get stolen off the plane etc. Again, one of the Sheriff’s told her to be quiet while they sort this out. At one point Jimmy was crying and we comforted him.  

    According to the acting-in-charge Sergeant, Jody, the Grandmother was making statements in front of or to the children about them being molested back home by their father, that they will not be properly fed or they will be left along and scared at their father’s home. I saw Jody go over to the Grandmother telling her to knock it off, shut up and sit.

    Still during this time, other Sheriff’s were making phone calls; even one Sheriff faxed all our legal documents to the District Attorney’s office. I think they were waiting for word from their superiors on what action they can take. One of the Sheriff’s then informed me after speaking to the DA’s office, that they can only hold the Grandmother and children for 4 hours, and then they have to let them go.

    Previously around 2:00 PM, I confirmed with a Southwest supervisor the tickets were bought for the children by Karen Ford.  He was getting all their ticket information, itinerary and boarding passes ready, as well as security passes for me so I could go through the checkpoint with the children and up to Gate 15. 

    It was apparent Shelby was never going to appear. Sheriff’s spent time going through parking lots looking for her and her vehicle with no result. We believe she left the airport until the Grandmother told her it was safe to come to the terminal and pick her up.

    The Lt. Commander, a Sergeant and another Sheriff received a phone call, and then had a meeting. The next thing I know is the Sergeant is screaming at Shelby Ford on her cell phone, telling her this was disgusting behavior for a mother, and is deplorable. Shelby Ford continued refusing to come into the terminal and speak with the Sheriff’s.

    A little while later and after more discussion, @ 2:45 PM, it was time for the children to go through TSA and to the gate. The grandmother insisted she come to the gate too, to “make sure the children are not stolen by anyone”. One of the Southwest supervisors gave the grandmother a security pass and a wheelchair. The Sheriff’s stayed behind the security line watching us. Their jurisdiction ends at the security point and Homeland Security takes over. 

    The grandmother was still behind us at the security checkpoint, I didn’t care.

    From 2:45 PM to 4:15 PM, we watched the children along with a Southwest supervisor at the departing gate. The supervisor continually had to intervene as the Grandmother was upsetting them with statements about molestation from their father, and Stacie was crying. The supervisor and I took the children near the actual gate ramp, and stayed there with them. A few minutes later we got Stacie to stop crying, and then flight attendant opened the door, introduced herself to the children taking them down the ramp onto the plane.

    I left the Grandmother sitting in her wheelchair and left the security area.
To recap - after several hours, Stacie and Jimmy Ford received their tickets and boarding passes, then escorted by us, along with four Sheriff’s and two Southwest supervisors up to homeland security. We then went to Gate 15 for departure @ 4:35 pm to Oklahoma City, with a layover in Phoenix, AZ. I arranged for a Southwest Airline supervisor in Phoenix to meet the children ensuring they were fed and to assist them in making their connecting flight home, which they did landing at 12:05 AM in Atlanta, GA.

    The next day, I received a phone call from IRAQ. I could hear the bone-chilling sounds of tanks and soldiers talking,  and feeling like I was right there on the battlefield. It was Captain Ford expressing his gratitude and thanking me for getting his children home safely. He kept calling me “Ma’am”. I always hate it when people call me Ma’am but coming from this Captain, it had a whole different feel.

    In Lake Tahoe, two days later, the mother was served by the Sheriff’s and arrested charging her with abandonment and obstruction of justice. A few months later, through the courts, Shelby Ford lost her parental rights permanently.

    As Captain Ford would say, BOORAH!!!






Tuesday, November 1, 2011

WRITERS NOTES #7







Here's a great tip:

When you need to wait to serve someone in a neighborhood where it is going to be very obvious to the suspicious neighbors that you are out-of-place - walk a dog!

I inherited Mozart, a little Shih Zu, and had him for two years. He loved riding with me, the best dog to travel with.

Mozart and I served many people while taking a walk around the neighborhood. We just "take a walk" and when the person we wanted to serve came home, we served them. (I kept the legal papers inside my jacket)





Wednesday, October 12, 2011

WRITERS NOTES #6





Prioritizing Your Clients

Because of the many variables in this job, some easy, some difficult, you have to be flexible and know how to prioritize. You might have your whole day planned out but it could change in an instant. You could all of a sudden get a phone call from a law firm and have to serve or file something the same day in a total different direction and different city. Always take all your outstanding work with you when you leave your office for the day, that way if you end up going in a different direction, you will have the outstanding work that might need to be done in the direction you are going.   

Over the years I have prioritize my clients into three categories. I had a A list, B list and a C list.

The A clients were the ones that were always a joy to work for, there were never any problems, they trusted me and always paid their bills quickly. The B list were the clients that even though we got along well, they paid their bills  slowly. The C clients were the ones who only used you once in a while and only called you because their regular attorney service couldn't do the job at that particular moment, and these ones usually complain about the bill, they still pay it but complain.

Never put the A client behind a B client nor the B client behind a C client. If you are too busy for the day doing work for the A or B client, then give the C client a referral to another attorney service. Never has an A or B client asked me how much I charge and never questioned a bill.

Because the LEGWORK brand is distinctive, and it has made a name for itself - doing impeccable work and sometimes doing the impossible - you want to make sure you take care of the clients that know this, not the ones who don't know you and will complain about the fee you charge.

As a side note: PRO BONO work is something you should do. You will have an A or B client that has cases that won't make any money for anyone but yet they have to resolve the case, or they have Pro Bono cases they take on themselves. If you get wind of your clients doing this kind of work, offer to help them Pro Bono. I like the saying "Pay it Forward". You should too.


http://apps.americanbar.org/legalservices/probono/directory.html






Saturday, October 1, 2011

CUSTODY

     It’s the summer of 2008. I just birdied the 13th hole on my favorite golf course, the sun is shining and while fishing around for my sunglasses, my cell phone starts ringing, a call from an area code somewhere from the Midwest. Turns out it’s an attorney from Missouri, referred to by a Sacramento law firm. Their client is a father who lives and works in St. Louis, who has a missing child, a three year old daughter. The daughter lived in St. Louis until she was taken in the middle of the night by her mother, who then fled. The attorney and his client think she fled to Sacramento where her family last lived, and they want to find her.      

    The father, Steve, while in Sacramento on a business trip a few years ago, met Sabina, a beautiful young woman who recently came to the US. Steve met Sabina in a local Sacramento bar. They "fell in love", marrying a few months later, and Sabina agreed to move back to St. Louis, where they subsequently had a daughter.



    Sabina fled with their daughter - just disappeared from home. Steve had “no idea” his wife would desert him, taking their daughter and cutting all communication. The mother is not “breaking” any laws yet since they are still married. There are no legal or custody issues pending before any Missouri or California court. Law enforcement is not going to get involved until the mother is served with court documents ordering her back to St. Louis for hearings.

    Maybe I am getting twisted but I see this more and more. Some foreign women come to the US with their families; find some rich American to marry while their families continue to get public assistance from us. I have never found one family member in situations like this that had a job. They drive new SUV’s, live in really nice rental housing provided to them by  government assistance. They use their first names for their last names, middle names for their first names, last names for their middle names. They use each others names and use each other’s Social Security numbers. You can’t tell who is who. I am only talking about a small minority here I hope, but it seems in cases like this, when I work on them, an additional burden is added in finding them, because with all the scamming, it's hard to use confidential database resources to find them. 


    For the last three months, Steve sent thousands of dollars to the Sacramento address of his wife’s family with notes to give the money to his child and wife so they are not destitute. He continues to pay her cell phone bills, although she doesn’t respond to his phone messages. Steve continues to make the payments on her brand new Escalade that she supposedly drove to California. I really can’t make this stuff up.

    This Pakistani princess, (mother) would receive the checks from Steve, then cash them at check cashing businesses or third party vendors so you can’t trace the cashing transactions. The mother did not use banks. She wouldn't pass the scrutiny.


    Before taking this case on, I asked the attorney questions about his client as well as Sabina and I also spoke to the client myself. I need to know if there is any earlier instances of anti-social behavior (abuse, attempted suicide etc.) resulting in the possibility the mother would take her own life and that of the daughter.  


    After discussing this with the attorney and talking to his client, we then arranged a mail package be sent to me containing pictures, descriptions, cell phone bills (so I can see who she is calling), her parents address, vehicle descriptions and legal papers to be served.  The father petitioned the court for a divorce and a hearing to establish child custody issues. Steve doesn’t want any reconciliation, no second chances, he just wants her served and child custody orders issued.


    Where to start? The most crucial thing in cases like these is predicting human behavior. Assessing the stress level of the ex-spouse or kidnapper is vital and adjusting the way you perform is crucial so it does not get out of control. This kind of thing is in the papers everyday, where the signals were there all along, but no one predicted a kidnappers behavior correctly or use the right amount of control, which results in a tragedy.

    Opinion: I believe overdosing by some psychiatrists and psychologists are the cause of crime. In most domestic violence cases, murder-suicides, kidnapping and in most crime, the person(s) had been under the influence of psychiatric care and medications. The list of side effects (that pharmaceutical companies have to list in every TV commercial) takes more air time than talking about the unprovable benefits.  


    The first stop is the parent’s house in West Sacramento. I check out the complex, and see what the stakeout options are. I need to verify that her parents actually live there along with looking for the princess' vehicle. I find the address in an upscale complex, nice three story townhouse, with security gates. I punch in the gate code (I have gate codes to access all gated communities), or I could just jump the damn fence like I used to, but heck, I’m too old now. 



    This preliminary visit resulted in the parent’s vehicle being there, a brand new Chrysler van parked near the townhouse. This was during the day which tells me they probably do not work, as I figured. The Escalade was not around at this time.


    To cut your losses quickly which helps to determine best course of action, always do your activity checks during the day time. You can see better, scope out the environment and talk to the apartment managers before they close for the day. Before going to a lot of trouble, verify that the person(s) you are looking for actually live there. 

    Apartment managers are very fickle, you can get a mean one sometimes, and they will not tell you anything.  Figure out a weak point of theirs so they will assist you. Make up a story that gets them motivated to tell you what you need to know. Here’s one that works every time: walk in the manager’s office all cheery and pleasant. Sometimes carry the legal papers with you (not in this case) or just a notebook so you look official. Hand the manager a business card and start your story. Tell them the law firm you are working for lost track of a "witness" for a legal trial, involving two children in a car accident, and you have not been able to get any response from townhouse "#444", then state the name of the person you are looking for. Tell the manager you want to make sure the witness was still alive and well. Seriously. This statement puts the manager’s attention on the “poor children” 9 out of 10 times and you will have gained sympathy.

    The manager states the parents have lived there for two years and do not work, receiving assistance from the government to pay their rent. I showed the manager a picture of the mother and her daughter, stating she has never seen them or the Escalade around the complex. The manager states she walks the complex several times a day and has never seen them, but does see the parents.


    So this tells me Sabina and her daughter are not staying with the parents even though she uses this address to receive her checks from our client. To sit on the parent’s address and wait for her to show up is time consuming, expensive so my solution is to make this woman come to me. How? Read on.


    This calls for rattling the parents’ cage a bit and see what bites. Now when you do this, keep in mind they know where their daughter is, so always assume the parents are helping them hide and will be very hostile to you.   


    After knocking on the door, step back and to the side of the door so they cannot see through the peephole. Do not make yourself vulnerable for any physical contact. Some people, when they can’t see through the peephole, sometimes assume a child is knocking and they would have to open the door to see the “child.” Have the legal papers ready, if the person you want answers the door, explaining quickly you have legal papers and hand them to the person. If the person refuses them, just set them on the entrance door, and if the person starts to slam the door on you, throw the papers inside the door. If the person says they are not the person I am looking for, I ask for identification. Beware, if this is the person you are looking for and they do not want to show you their identification/drivers license, they WILL slam the door so be ready to throw the papers inside. 


    In this case: A 60’ish Pakistani man opened the door dressed in the turban garb and immediately was upset wishing he had not opened the door. I asked for his daughter, and he replied he had no idea where she was. I told him I did not believe him and told him to give Sabina these legal papers to attend a court hearing in Missouri. He wouldn’t take them so I threw them in the door while he was slamming it. I am calling a bluff here because you have to actually serve the person you are after, you can’t leave any legal papers with relatives on the first try. You can leave them with relatives or roommates on the third try but the person you are after has to actually live there. The daughter doesn’t live there so I am just creating a little harassment because I know he will give his daughter these papers – wherever she is. As I was walking back to my truck, I heard him open the door yelling in some language waving legal papers is his hand. He followed me to the end of his breezeway, stood there, still yelling while I drove away.

    I still continue to work on finding Sabina.


    Process Servers and Private Investigators are licensed by government agencies, therefore entitled access to certain confidential database resources. These database resources consist of names, addresses, property owned, vehicles, relatives, social security numbers, dates of birth, lawsuits, liens, judgments, bankruptcies, cell phone numbers, home and business phone numbers, spouses, sex offenses, airplane and boat ownership, just about anything on anyone, for each person who has applied for any kind of credit. These databases are extremely confidential and must never be used for things like finding celebrities. I make it a rule to only use these databases when there is a lawsuit involved. I do not help the average Joe find his ex-wife, or find out what vehicle is following him. You never know what some individuals will do with the information you give to them. This opens a whole world of insanity, domestic violence and your liability policy will be eaten alive. It can ruin your business and your reputation. Simple, don’t run anything information for individuals unless they have an attorney and this attorney knows you are doing it.
    These databases found Sabina's parents listed along with two other relatives who are younger than Sabina. They each list four different addresses around the Sacramento area with the dates they supposedly lived at these places, using different names with the same social security numbers, but that’s ok, I am just interested in first names and any address.


    So let’s do another activities check driving to the most recent address, looking around, scoping it out, see if the Escalade is anywhere around. One place I went to was a house on a corner lot which was empty. At the second place, there were three little Asian children playing out front, so I knew this was no help. The third address resulted in finding out this particular sister moved to Southern California, so no help here either. The last address was a rundown apartment complex in a high crime ridden area. This I liked a lot. You ask why??? Listen up.


    In high-crime areas, you get cooperation from apartment managers. They do not want any trouble whatsoever so when they see you coming, they want to assist you in any way so you don’t come back. This kind of environment is usually Section 8 housing, having its share of visits from the police, from the fire department, or domestic violence issues and robberies. They want to assist you, getting the problem taken care of and resolved quickly. Managers don’t want the apartment complex owners on their backs about renting to lowlifes nor do they like having to read police reports involving their property. These kinds of complexes have a 24 hour full-time management staff. They can’t leave these properties for a second and most managers live on site.  

    I always drive around the entire apartment complex first. You want to know where all the exits are, where the apartment managers office is and a spot where you can park your vehicle so you are as inconspicuous as possible. I locate the apartment I am interested in, and then park and watch the apartment for a while.



    It’s a good idea to just sit and observe sometimes. Also, this is where I do most of my thinking about how to proceed. All cases are not the same, and no two people are alike. Determine the right plan for the right person/case so you get the end result you want. Knowing the right plan comes from years of experience, but in the meantime never assume each situation will have the same reaction each time. They never do.

    When watching the apartment, an upstairs unit, I noticed a female of Pakistani descent, leaning on the banister smoking a cigarette. This woman was the same weight and build as the sister I am looking for. Now, step one. 



    I put my Process Servers ID on my belt and walk into the Manager’s office where three women are working. Immediately these woman have the “uh oh” look and one of them gets up and speaks to me. I introduce myself and mentioned what law firm I am working for, along with the fact that we are looking for a lost child (show the child’s picture), and we believe the child’s relatives live in this complex, Apt. 103.

    The apartment manager stated she has seen the child, not less than two days ago. The child comes over with her mother, driving the Escalade, visits for a while, then leaves. I verified  the sister does live in Apt. 103, and as it turns out, with her abusive husband and young daughter. The police have been called to this apartment once a month and the manager is getting ready to evict them. Lucky me, this puts the apartment manager on my side. I ascertain the sister’s name, what vehicles she and her husband drive and which parking spaces are assigned to them. I obtain the sisters phone number, and since neither her and her husband work, they would be home.

    Step two: I go back to my vehicle, take off my badge and put all the pictures and legal papers out of view. I then approach the woman on the banister not appearing threatening or official – yet.

     As I go up the stairs; she is comfortably sitting on the porch not giving me the time of day when I say hello. Luckily, she didn’t dart into the apartment and lock the door. This would be a real bitch because then I’d have to get all mad, bang on the door, get all sweaty, call the police, not to mention sitting on her balcony 24/7, generally being a pain in her ass. Plus, I’ll miss my tee time and that would really make me mad.

    The fact that she did not run tells me I might not get any information but she will at least be attentive. I immediately sensed she felt threatened, probably thought I was from social services inquiring about her daughter. You can bet your life that Sabina has told her sister to be on the lookout for anyone inquiring about her or her daughter so tread lightly, you don’t want to piss her off. If she is pissed that you showed up, you still have to “talk her down” to get any information. 


    Your objective is to find her sister and niece, getting them served which forces them to get on a plane, showing up for a court hearing in Missouri in five days. Do not make this woman an enemy. Sometimes it happens, if you use excellent communication along with some verbal tricks, you can get valuable information. Also, in a situation like this, you are vulnerable standing on stairs so be sure to stay on guard as her abusive husband could be in the apartment. 



    I didn’t look at this woman directly, just kind of relaxed against the banister, talking in a low boring monotone voice. I tell her my name, and then tell her it is such a nice day sitting on the porch, that I wish I didn’t have to work and could be out playing golf. Out of the corner of my eye, I can see her look at me. I just stand there in a non-threatening way until she says “yea”. Be patient and wait, they will eventually say something. I keep the slow monotone voice telling her that I am sorry she is in the middle of my problem but I need to speak to Sabina. 

    Then watch for a reaction, stay alert, will she run? Will she call her husband outside to kick your ass? Will she throw you down the stairs? Remember, her sister and niece are on the lam. Don’t take anything for granted just because she is “calm” at the moment. I know she won’t call the police, she has an eviction pending.  


    She states Sabina and her are estranged from each other (lie) and she hasn’t seen her sister in months (lie). I ask how Sabina’s daughter Isabel is and she replies ok as far as she knows (lie). Because of the lying, I raised the bar a bit telling her the whole legal situation, giving her the date and time of the court hearing in Missouri, that I already gave the legal papers to her father and that I need to speak to Sabina. I continue to just level with her telling her I spoke to the apartment manager, that I know Sabina and Isabel were here just two days ago. I even told her law enforcement will be contacted, and that four or five investigators will be camped out at this complex for the next few days watching her and looking for Sabina. 

    The sister didn’t like this. She calls Sabina leaving a message in another language. I have no idea what she was saying on Sabina’s voicemail but it doesn’t matter again because I got my message across. I told this woman I’ll give Sabina only twenty-four hours to contact me, and if not then I’ll be back with the police. I wish it was that easy.


    Twenty-four hours go by and no messages. From experience I know the father is talking to the mother, the mother is talking to Sabina, the sister is talking to Sabina, the sister is talking to her husband, the sister is talking to her other sister, and on and on. I have definitely rattled their cages. 


    To help avoid Sabina from running again, you have to keep the pressure on. The sister didn’t make sure Sabina called me so now it’s Step three:

    In situations like this, if you make a threat, carry it out. On day three, I took the pictures I had of Sabina and her daughter and made MISSING PERSON posters, taping them to apartment doors and vehicles around the sister’s building.

    To really keep the pressure up, I made a phony call to Sabina’s sister’s cell phone leaving a message, “Hey, I live at your apartments and I saw the posters today. I didn’t know your sister and niece are missing, I just saw them a few days ago at your place. Let me know if you want to organize a search party, call me, this is Gloria, Apt. 36.” Of course Sabrina’s sister is not going to call Gloria but she is going to call Sabrina and the entire family will really start freaking out. 


    In actions like this all you can do now is have patience and wait for the family to make a move. You have done everything possible within the guidelines of the law. The attorneys know this and respect any advice you give them about the next course of action. 

    The court hearing is now two days away in St. Louis and we never heard from Sabrina. The attorney was going to attend the hearing anyway asking for a new hearing date which gives us more time to locate and serve Sabrina.


    On the third day, in the afternoon after the hearing, when I was getting ready to hear the attorney tell me the new hearing date, I realized he was very upbeat – HUH? Well guess what? Sabrina and her daughter, Isabel got on a plane two days after I posted the Missing Child Posters, hired an attorney in St. Louis and showed up for the court hearing!


    Sabrina was found in contempt and was not allowed to leave the state until legal papers were drawn up outlining the agreements for custody. The attorney told me Sabrina would never have shown up in court if it wasn’t for all my efforts, that if I didn’t do what I did, this would never gotten resolved and Sabrina would continue to be on the lam.


    The father and daughter are now re-united and there is a custody agreement. If Sabrina were to ever try to take their daughter and run again, then this would be considered a state and federal inter-state amber alert, out of my hands and the FBI takes over.


                                                 

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Tuesday, September 20, 2011

WHAT IS A RESTRAINING ORDER?

Jake Losh is a contributing writer for the Legwork Process Servers' Blog.

In preparation for a post that Christi will put out later, I thought it might be beneficial to discuss what a restraining order is and what it isn't.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

SHOULD YOU DATE THIS GUY?

    I receive many calls from women asking me to do a background check on a guy they are currently "dating". As much as I love to help, here's a bit of information to save you some time, money and a broken heart.

    Take note: the fact that you are even asking me to do a background check in the first place, you already have your answer - don't date him. 

    A sane relationship is simple and easy with no red flags to check out or worry about, so if a woman doubts anything about her man, dump him.

    If you still want a background check done, first read, He's Just Not That Into You, by Greg Behrendt (at all bookstores or on-line, easy to read)

    Second, if you read the book and still want a background check done, be honest with yourself and ask "Do I need this drama?".

    Thirdly, if you still are not satisfied, call me and I will help you, I do not judge. But you must know, every male I have checked out for you fabulous women has turned out to be exactly what you thought...they are either married, a scam artist or a con or have a criminal record.

    Males that didn't fall under the above but are still suspicious or acting weird are covered in the book I mentioned above. A must read.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

WOULD YOU GIVE THIS EX-CON VISITATION RIGHTS?

In the light of the recent story involving the child custody case of two-year old Madeleine Samaan Fay, below is another case currently before the court. During this particular custody battle and hearings held, it is obvious that the courts don't know what to do with unstable spouses, it is not their job to predict human behavior. The judge is only allowed to follow the laws on the books and then he hopes for the best, this is not good enough. It is a crap shoot. We need some new laws or policies that protect the children. 

Please make any comment or feedback as maybe this will lead to a proactive campaign to get legislative attention. The names have been changed for obvious reasons.

California Superior Court -Trial starts this week for custody and visitation of minor daughter. 

John Roberts, 43, was released from prison again within the last two years. He was sentenced on June 23, 2005, in Placer County, serving 6-7 years for threats to commit a crime resulting in death against Cari, and her parents. Roberts was sent to prison for threatening to have Cari's father killed at Pelican State Prison, where her father worked, as well as threatening Cari's mother, who at the time worked for Folsom State Prison. Roberts  also left death threats to other family members which is on tape and filed with the District Attorney’s office. Roberts was convicted of Penal Code 422, threats to commit a crime resulting in death; and PC 1170.12 (A,D); PC 667 (A1) and PC 12022.1.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

WRITERS NOTES #5





Go the extra mile. Always give the client more than they expect. Don't give them a fair exchange, give them exchange over and beyond the fair exchange. Be distinctive, not a regular process server. Be indispensable, not just a robot. Do something that makes your client remember you.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

MOTHER ON THE LAM

     Ex-spouses from time to time, decide to take, steal or kidnap their child and move them from state to state, even if their child custody issue forbids it. Unless there is an order from some court jurisdiction signed by a judge specifically allowing this, the ex-spouse is in contempt. From my experience in such matters, it appears that the worried parent whose child was taken cant just locate the child and take them back home. That would not be an easy or smart way to approach things anyway. Even though the parent or guardian might already have a previous court sanctioned order regarding child visitation, this does not hold up if the child is kidnapped, and as in most cases, taken out of the state. Amber Alert has certain criteria before issuing any kidnapping alerts. Some child abductions or kidnappings fall under the Amber Alert system right away, such as situations where law enforcement feels the kidnapper has a criminal history or extenuating circumstances, and then anything goes. But in most cases, its just a pissed off ex-spouse or relative taking the child, and the parent has to obtain court orders to serve on the abducting parent, in order to have his/her child returned home.

    This particular case starts on, what I thought was, a usual day in the spring of 1998. I’m sitting at my desk, and I receive a phone call from Oklahoma from a Sergeant in the US Army, who is also represented by a law firm Ive done work for in the past.

    This Sergeant has not seen his five year old daughter for four years even though he has paid child support each and every month for those four years. He pays the child support payments to the Dept. of Social Services/or some welfare agency in Oklahoma and this agency passes the money on to the mother-on-the-lam. Even though he has been paying child support, the agency WILL NOT tell him where his daughter is even though he has a court order for visitation. The mother took the daughter from Oklahoma four years ago and has been on the lam ever since. The mother receives welfare, social security, disability and child support payments wherever she moves in the US after she registers with the local agencies, but they will not tell the father where his child is.

    The Sergeant and his attorney need to serve the mother with two court orders from the State of Oklahoma and Texas. He spent thousands of dollars retaining attorneys from both states. The contempt order from Oklahoma states the mother is in violation of inter-state transfer, since this was the primary residence of the child, and the contempt order from Texas also states the mother is in violation of inter-state transfer since this was the state where the child was last seen.
 
    For the last four years, this father has hired private investigators to track down (unsuccessfully) the mother and daughter in four different states, so far that would be: Oklahoma, Texas, Hawaii, and Washington. Guess where now? California.

    Can you imagine this father, month after month, year after year, state after state, hiring one PI after another, paying one PI after another, going to court for new hearing dates in two states year after year, writing those child support payments each month, getting nothing in return? Not one ounce of assistance from any state or county agency. To make it worse, the Sergeant would be thrown in jail if he stopped paying his child support.
 
     The father tells me he has a new address in Sacramento for his ex-wife and daughter (I never ask where people get their information, best not to know) in a suburb near Sacramento. All I had to do was serve the contempt orders on this mother/ex-wife. Seems simple, I’ll just stake out the place and serve her when she comes out of her apartment. After receiving the thick stack of legal papers and orders from the father by overnight mail, I venture out to this apartment complex to easily serve these papers, and then go play golf. After I serve these papers, its then up to the father along with law enforcement to step in. But when I did arrived at the residence I found the apartment empty, all the curtains were open, there was no furniture, and place was cleaned out. Uh oh… she’s on the lam again.

    Now you would think the immediate solution to this is to get assistance or any information from the apartment manager but this is usually not workable. You cannot approach them directly asking if they know where their tenant went.
     
    HINT: What you do is walk into the rental office, find the Manager and say, “Hi, my name is Christi, from LEGWORK, we’re getting ready to go to trial and we lost a material witness. We think she died, can you verify this for me?” With this approach they instantly have sympathy for you and will help you. If the manager wants specifics about the legal case, just make up a story. Here is the one I always use and it works: “Back in 1997, at the corner of Fair Oaks and Sierra, two young children were hit by a car (interject quickly that the children are ok) and this mother was a witness to this accident, that she lived in the area and has now moved, that this case isn’t settling, we are going to trial and we need to find her.” Blah… blah...

    This manager informs me the mother and daughter moved just two days earlier with another woman, her partner. She also told me they moved in a hurry, just packed up and left in a few hours. The manager had no forwarding address but if she did, she would have given it to me. Enlisting any kind of authoritarian attitude with apartment managers does not work.
 
    I have a real problem now as there is no information to track her with. This woman has been on the lam for so long, she could have gone anywhere. But luckily for me, knowing from experience people like her actually plan their next move well in advance. She knows where she is going before she splits, this is figured out carefully. The main reason I know this is because if she wants to keep getting all the free government assistance money and child support, she has to let these people know in advance so her welfare checks are not stopped or lost. You can bet she wants to make sure she gets her money. Chances are pretty good that she is going to let the local post office know her new forwarding address.
 
    Did you know Process Servers, after filling out a US Postal address form can get a forwarding address on anyone? You have to have a valid process serving license and show the Postmaster the legal papers. This  information is held very confidential by the Postal Service and cannot be misused. If the US Post Office ever decided to stop allowing us to obtain forwarding addresses on people, this would really cripple our profession.

    The next day I filled out the Postal form for this mother and submitted this request to the Postmaster. It turns out she didn’t put in a forwarding address - as yet. Well, this is a real bummer, now I have to tell the father we have no where to go. I thanked the Postmaster and started to leave and he yelled after me, “She does have a PO BOX here though, for the last 9 months.” I stood frozen, said “Thank God”.

    Whenever you rent a Post Office Box at a post office, you fill out a rental form. You cannot rent a box unless you put down the physical address where you live.

    The Postmaster showed me the form this woman filled out. It listed the old apartment address that is now empty, so the mother has not turned in a new address as yet. What I can do is sit on the Post Office box, and when she comes to pick up her mail or government assistance checks, I can serve her. I find out the mail is delivered to the mailboxes by 2 PM each day so for the next four days I watch. I have a decent  description of her, so by waiting outside the post office or even watching for her to go to her actual PO Box, and take out her mail, chances are excellent I can catch her. In these situations rearrange your life so you can sit and watch all day. Maybe she only picks up her mail in the morning so you vary the hours and hope for the best.

     HINT: A good tip is to eat pancakes when you know you have to sit for a long time by yourself. Did you know pancakes are the best stakeout food? They are full of carbohydrates, you won’t get hungry for a long time, and if you drink nothing or very little, there is no concern about going to the bathroom. If you have a two man team, just sitting and staking out someone, then the food and drink rules don’t need to apply, most of the time anyway.

    After two days there was no sign of her.

     HINT: Ask the postmaster to put a new rental box application form in her box, that asks her to fill it out with her new physical address. There is no way the mother is going to know the “jig” is up as it is natural for the post office to ask for this information.
 
    On the fourth day, I luck out. The postmaster shows me the new rental box application form that the mother filled out. We have no idea how this mother got past us when she came to the post office, we believe now she did not come in herself, but has been sending someone else or only gets her mail once a week. I now have a new physical residence address for her in Sacramento.

    Now that I have located this mother-on-the-lam, I told the client he could drive or catch a plane from Oklahoma, so he can be here to see his daughter. I do not give him any guarantees of course, as I never know what the police or law enforcement agencies are going to do or who is going to have jurisdiction.

    Now this can get real nasty, and as it turns out, it does. You must have certainty on what you are doing so I recommend many years of experience and/or have a private investigator with you. Only experience can give you the gift of behavioral insight to how people will react in certain situations.

    So to re-cap, we have a mother who is on-the-lam again, hiding a young daughter from her father, still collecting government money, she also knows we are after her, (she can’t be that dumb) plus she gets the continual luxury of being protected by several government agencies. This is kind of insane.

    My instinct tells me the mother, at her new address, is not going to answer the door for anyone – she is going to hide in the house forever before she will give up her daughter. People on the lam set up their lives in such a way that one would have to sit on her home day and night until she comes out of the house. My past experience and current instinct tell me this woman informed all her neighbors that her “ex-husband is trying to steal her daughter” making up other lies and stories. It is certain she told all her neighbors to be on the lookout.
 
    For this scenario, I did not sit and watch this residence. I have sat for hours and hours staking people out, and over the years I became wiser. I’d rather cause excitement for this type of situation, it will get the job done faster.
 
     Here’s an important fact: Because of the severity of these papers, even if I did sit on her house and serve her, she could and probably would just ignore the papers, throw them away saying, “I never got served”, which just adds more time and legal hassle for our client, and he doesn’t get to see his daughter any sooner. As most legal contempt papers involve time constraints, and if we did not serve her in time or she did not comply by a certain date, our client has to start all over again. She gets in no trouble at this point with the courts, and it’s another $1000 or so for our client to get these contempt papers re-issued. It was best to have law enforcement get involved from the start so they can order her to comply immediately.
 
    I decided I am going to make her come to me and prepare for the possibility she is going to kick, scream and yell, so you must be prepared for psychotic behavior.
 
    So I decide to create havoc in her neighborhood and flush her out. I predict she is going to call 911, telling the police I am trying to kidnap her child. (instead of telling them that she is the one who did the kidnapping in the first place). Believe me, police just come when they hear the words CHILD and KIDNAP. Children are top priority with 911 operators. Their response is many loud sirens with many police/law enforcement vehicles.
 
    Also, when the mother calls 911, she also gets the deaf relay 911 system. At this time she can request a lawyer, social worker and interpreter, paid for by our tax dollars. I wouldn’t mind if she wasn’t breaking the law.
 
     I went to the new address and watched her house for a few minutes noticing a van in the driveway with a bumper sticker symbolizing the deaf symbol meaning peace/love in sign-language. I knew I had the right place. I then drove around the neighborhood seeing what entrances and exits there were, so I knew where the police might come in and where I could sit and wait for them. I also took a few minutes to straighten up a little bit, clean up my truck, take out my professional licenses in case I have to throw it at them when they are ready to shoot me, brush my hair, put on lipstick.

    Hint: You always want to look cute for mug shots.
 
    First step of my plan was to get the mother out of the house. I went directly to her neighbor across the street and made up a story. A woman answers the door, and I am acting nervous on purpose. I want to make it obvious to her that I am lying. I don’t want her to believe me, that’s the point. I want her to take action, get all upset, make calls, call the ex-wife/mother; spread the word around there is someone looking for a little girl to “kidnap”.
 
     I tell the neighbor “Hi, how you all doing today?” I give her my real business card, being upfront since the police are coming anyway. I tell her my phony story: I am working on a legal case (her eyes start bulging instantly), telling her we lost track of a witness years earlier who witnessed a vehicle accident around the corner. This witness is a mother who is deaf, and has a little girl. “That’s all we know." SLAM BAM goes the door. Step One completed.
 
     I then walk slowly back to my truck while this woman watches me. I purposely back into her driveway so she can see my license plate and write it down. Not too difficult since the plate says LEGWORK. I stay there for a couple of seconds then slowly drive down the street and park. I get out of my truck and walk to the corner. As I look down the street, the neighbor leaves her house and runs across the street to the mother’s house. A few minutes later, neighbors start coming out, standing on the lawn and sidewalk, looking around and watching. I am sure someone is calling 911. Pretty soon I have several neighbors outside. Step Two completed.
 
    I leave the neighbors and drove my vehicle to park it behind some bushes on a frontage road, I clocked it at six minutes and here they come, five patrol cars, sirens blaring. They all went straight down the main road, then divided up. I could see them driving around street to street looking for me.
 
     I decided to put the police out of their misery. I drove right up to the mother’s house and parked in front. I had three police cars pull up behind me and two in front.
 
     HINT: Never get out of your vehicle in this kind of situation. I just waited while the two police officers in front of me ran my plate as a security measure, while the officers in back of me turn off their sirens but kept their flashing lights on.

    All of a sudden all the flashing lights went out. While two of the officers left in their patrol cars, three police officers in back of me got out of their vehicles, with their hands on their holsters and this actually frazzled me for a second. They walked up on both sides of my vehicle and without having them ask, I gave them my two licenses, vehicle registration and my insurance card. Then all the officers start making one phone call after another. Were they calling Department Motor Vehicles? Or calling my insurance company or government licensing bureaus or the City Hall parking ticket bureau or the USGA for my golf handicap? This took several minutes and the suspense drove me crazy. Finally, one of the officers told me to get out of my vehicle. As I did, I grabbed the thick stack of legal papers and followed him to the rear of my vehicle where the other two police officers were waiting. They handed my licenses back to me while they put their guns back in their holsters. Is this called dodging a bullet? Think so.
 
     The main officer, LT. Roberts, asked me what this was about. I had made several copies of these papers previously so the police could all have their own copy keeping us all on the same page (another good hint to remember). I handed the officers their copies and let them read. I kept my mouth shut while they read and watched all the neighbors talking to each other. Out of the corner of my eye, I noticed a police officer walking up and entering the neighbors’ house where I had previously been.
 
     The officers took even more time reading the legal papers, then making more phone calls and I caught some bits and pieces of their dialogue: they were talking to their superiors. When the officers were done with their phone calls, they appeared to be waiting for something while watching me. I did not ask them what was happening, not one question. They were waiting for something and I decided to just wait it out. Besides, not like I had choices here.
 
     Around one hour later, while standing and waiting with the  police officers, I finally realized what we were waiting for. Out of the neighbors house walking toward us is the police officer who went there earlier, the mother flanked by a Social Worker, an Attorney, an Interpreter and, believe it or not (and this got me fuming), a bodyguard! I could not stand my silence anymore so made a comment to the police officers that this scene is ridiculous. I could tell by their body language they agreed but are not allowed to voice any opinion, god forbid, who wants a lawsuit slapped on them from a deaf woman? I mean look at the backup she has!
 
    After two hours of this, the mother has now gathered her “equal rights” entourage, comes up to me, just staring at me with scorn and hatred. I gave her back a smile to piss her off.
 
    Hint: Smile - it confuses people.

    I immediately explain the papers to her, reading them slowly and reading more than I needed to. The interpreter is signing so fast for the mother I was getting dizzy. The mother then starts signing back to the interpreter, and all of a sudden she screams and lunges for me. The two officers intervene ordering the bodyguard to control their client. I explain to the mother what laws she has violated, the date and time of the hearing in Oklahoma and what court she has to report to. I told her she could no longer run from this situation; she is in contempt and must report to the Oklahoma court with her daughter. The interpreter relayed all this to her. Just for the hell of it, I kept reading the entire first page of the contempt order, going on and on when I didn’t really have to. I just wanted to drive home the main point that the running and hiding stops here.

    Finally, mother resigned to the fact that she had to succumb, she had no choice. She calmed down and step aside from us to have a  discussion with her attorney. After a few minutes the attorney stated they will co-operate. It was up to the courts now except to pray she did not flee once again before the hearing in Oklahoma.

    Just one more kicker - while the police and I are walking back to our vehicles, the woman’s attorney yells, “Who is paying for my client’s bodyguard and interpreter?” The three of us freeze and sigh - REALLY??? We slowly turn around, and I was going to rip her head off, but one of the officers puts his arm up to block me, then states to the attorney, “send us a bill”.

    As it turns out, because of complex jurisdiction issues with California, Texas and Oklahoma, my client could not take custody of his daughter right away. My client stayed in Sacramento attending a hearing a few days later in Sacramento Superior Court where this ex-wife/mother lost her visitation rights permanently. The daughter now lives with the father in Oklahoma.


                            
















 






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