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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, July 6, 2013

MY VEHICLE WAS HERE A MINUTE AGO...


    It was a brutally cold winter in Forest Hill, CA @ 5 AM, sitting parked down a hill out of sight from other vehicles and trying to stay warm. What was I thinking? Freezing temperatures, my hands were numb. Forest Hill isn't exactly close to a warm Starbucks. While I am  sitting waiting for a certain vehicle to come down the hill, I will catch you up on the story.

    A few years back there used to be vehicle broker companies (a bright idea turned out not so bright) that would broker your extra vehicle. Let's say you have a vehicle you no longer need, you can't sell it for what you owe on it and you no longer want to make the payments. Well, call up Joe's Vehicle Broker Company and he'll hook you up with someone who needs a vehicle, then this person takes your vehicle and gets their own insurance on it. This person then sends you the payment every month. Contracts were signed and the brokers were suppose to get back the vehicle if the person did not make their payments. .

    In my client's case, she was receiving the payments every month for almost a year, then all of a sudden in the spring of 2007, the payments started being late and eventually no payments. My client, Catherine, did speak to Debbie stating she would be late for October but would make a double payment in November.

    Debbie also stated she'd lost her job so she and her twins had to move in with her parents.   Debbie was warned that Catherine would have to take the vehicle back if some money was not received soon. 

    No payments came in November, December or January and Debbie's cell phone was now disconnected. We had no physical address for her. 

    So now it's time to just take the vehicle back but where is it?
 
    Catherine thought she'd go see the vehicle brokers in Citrus Heights, CA, and get their help. She pulls up to the office and finds the brokers business closed up, office empty, no one around, just gone. The businesses around this area the had no information on where they went. Now she has no broker or protection.  

    Law Enforcement does not get involved in matters like this, the pink slip is still in Catherine's name so my client can take back the vehicle at any time. The vehicle isn't technically stolen by Debbie as the 911 supervisor says, so they aren't going to assist us. 

    Well, the coppers didn't get the message from the 911 operator, as you will later read. 

    The trick first of all was finding out where Debbie lived or actually where her father lived. Catherine had kept track of all the phone numbers Debbie had previously called her from.  With this information, I located the father's home, and prior to me freezing my butt off, I had driven by the property and saw the vehicle I wanted in the driveway.

    There were problems with this scenario even though I had a key to the vehicle. The property was off the main road about 1/4 mile, no neighbors and dogs, lots of dogs, and let's not forget the sign that says, "Trespassers will be shot". I 'd say my chances of survival by walking up the driveway to steal the vehicle was 100 to 0 in favor of dying so I liked plan B better.

    Also, on this particular job I had to have the client with me as she is the registered owner so if I get stopped by the cops after taking the vehicle, she'll be there to verify ownership.

    I decided I would wait until Debbie left early for work and follow her. Then when she arrives at work and goes inside, I will use my key and take the vehicle. I had no idea where she worked but I would soon find out. She wouldn't know her vehicle was missing until at least lunchtime.

    To my surprise, @ 7:30 AM, when I saw Debbie come down the road and stop at a stop sign, she had two children in car seats. This is going complicate the situation a bit, but would deal with that as this played out.

    Debbie makes a left at the stop sign and starts going down Folsom-Auburn Boulevard. This winding 2-lane road goes all the way to the town of Folsom. She could of gotten on the freeway, gone west, then east on Hwy 50 to Folsom but she decided to take the back way. We followed her for a few miles down the back road and all of a sudden she pulls over. Maybe she was dropping off the kids at the babysitter but as it turned out, she had to do something with the kids in the backseat. I was shocked that she had not realized I pulled over too. She never even noticed, which I guess is plausible since she had all her attention on something or someone in the back seat. 

    Debbie then keeps driving for several miles towards Folsom. There were several towns she could of worked in but she passed them all up and entered the town of Folsom. I followed her through neighborhoods and then to a business district, thinking maybe she has a day care center where she works - not the case, in the middle of the business district there is a day care center, a name that belongs to a huge chain of day care centers, and she pulls into it.

    Now it's 8:45 AM, not only does she pull into a parking spot right near the front door, she gets out, collects the kids and their stuff, then walks into the center. She leaves the vehicle running with all of her keys in the ignition, leaves her purse, the car seats and everything else!

    Since she left the vehicle running, she wasn't going to be very long so I had to jump out of my vehicle and start walking kind of fast towards the vehicle door keeping my eyes peeled on the day care front door in case she came out. I did not want a confrontation, no reason to
get into it with her, didn't want anyone calling the coppers, I just wanted the vehicle.  

    I made it to the driver side door, hopped in using the keys that were in the ignition, put it in reverse, backed out and drove off quickly. I had to hide the vehicle because like I said earlier, sometimes the cops shoot first and ask questions later, and even though I warned them over and over that I was taking the vehicle, I could not trust them not be trigger happy. From other stories I have written, you can see how cops can be jumpy.

    I drove the vehicle to a location nearby where it couldn't be found for quite a while. My client followed me driving my vehicle. When we parked, we then cleaned out the entire vehicle (van). It was really a mess, children's stuff such as clothes, blankets, diapers, food wrappers, all in disarray. We packed all the valuable things in a bag throwing out all the garbage. We put Debbie's purse, car keys and her personal items in a separate bag. When I was packing her personal stuff in her purse, her work ID fell out, so I now knew where she worked. I put that back in her purse loading up everything else including the children's car  seats and put it all in my vehicle. This took us about an hour or so.

    We left the van parked in it's safe place and around 10:30 AM, headed back to the day care center to return all of Debbie's belongings. When we got close, I could hear sirens, not one police siren but several. With so many police vehicles and sirens I knew right away that Debbie not only called 911 to report "her vehicle" stolen but acted like a victim and mentioned her children, and that her car seats and purse had been stolen. All you have to do is mentioned the word children and a lot of law enforcement get involved. 

    When I got around the corner of the day care center, I saw all the police cars, two parked in front of the day care center and others driving around. I thought it best to sit at the Starbucks next door and call the 911 operators. There were even people who came out of Starbucks to see what the heck was going on. But I remained quiet and didn't engage in any conversations. One person asked me what was going on and I replied "I have no idea". After we were alone outside, we called 911.

    My client explained to the operator that we had called in yesterday to the Sheriff's Department of two counties and police stations for two different towns in the Sacramento area. It was re-iterated what time we called them yesterday, also giving them the vehicle license plate number, who the registered owner is, and that we were taking the vehicle back today. After some minutes on hold, waiting, then suddenly we heard all the sirens go off and ta few minutes later he police left the day care center. I guess the 911 dispatch supervisor found our notes from yesterday and called off the posse. When the operator came back on the line she stated they have closed this matter and will do nothing further.

    We waited a while to calm our nerves, actually got something to eat, then around 12 PM drove my vehicle next door to the day care center. We unloaded the car seats and Debbie's box of personal items, went inside, telling the day care staff we were dropping off her stuff. 

    I thought we were going to walk in and the staff would immediately call the police - again

    What happened next was hilarious! 

    One of the day care staff sees that we have the car seats and a box, then says, "OH, you must be her mother!"

    I said, "No".

She said, "Oh, you are the friend she called. Debbie left with her father but thank you so much for bringing an extra set of car seats and stuff for the children!". (She didn't see the purse in the box).

    I said, "Sure!" and left.

    I guess they didn't figure whoever stole "her vehicle" would be brave enough to return the car seats - so to them, I must have been Debbie's mother. Too funny.

    After driving back to the place where we hid my clients vehicle (van), she then drove it home back to Sacramento.

    The next thing is even more hilarious!!!

    When Catherine arrived home she found out that Debbie and her father had been there at the house - looking for her! Unbelievable, they want the van back!. That was the message left at the door and on the message machine there were several calls from Debbie.

    I am sure the police told Debbie that Catherine legally took her vehicle back and they could not help her, so she was really pissed off.

    Catherine spoke to Debbie on the phone trying to drive some sense into her, it's my car-you didn't pay-I took my car back etc. But before Debbie slammed the phone down, she said, "I'm going to sue you!"

    At this point Catherine ignored her and her threat, forgetting about this chick. A few weeks go by and a process server shows up at Catherine's door.

    Debbie is suing Catherine in small claims court! She wants "her vehicle" back!

    Of all my years of doing this work, this has got to be the stupidest chick I have ever encountered.  I bet she thinks a Judge is going to feel sorry for her. To her it's worth a try. She's desperate but at the same time - really???

    Now, Debbie got herself in a worse situation because I am going to submit my bill to the court for $800 and get the Judge to make her pay it.

    The court hearing was attended by my client, Catherine and myself. She had all her paperwork, registration, contract with Debbie and even my bill for repossessing the car. We scripted our version so that Catherine would explain the situation in a few words. She did and then it was Debbie's turn to speak to the Judge. Just as I thought, she went on and on about how she was a victim, how we took back "her vehicle" and all Catherine should of done was "call her". She stated she needed this vehicle to drive to work and daycare, that she can't get a vehicle loan due to her financial issues and still says she wants Catherine to give the vehicle back!

    The Judge asked Catherine for information on her actual phone bills listing all the phone calls made to Debbie, with dates and times during the 6 or so months she was trying to get Debbie to return the vehicle. When the Judge queried Debbie on this, it was obvious to him that Debbie had plenty of time to take care of this matter and didn't.

    Catherine won this case and weeks later I was shocked when I received a check for $800 from Debbie's parents. We never heard from Debbie again.

    Moral of the story: When faced with any legal situation or one such as Debbie, look at the law or hire a lawyer or do your own research. Do not succumb to your emotions and let them run your actions - you will lose. Face it head-on and resolved it fast.


















































Friday, February 15, 2013

LEVERAGE

~ written with Trudy Harris ~

    In October 2008, Trudy and I came upon a situation that required either an act of god (which wasn't going to happen with this guy) or death by being an idiot (which could happen).

    A very wealthy man by the name of George Miller, living in Northern California, had previously lost a legal case where he was the defendant, and as a result, a Judgment was entered against him - for a whopping $225,000.

    A Judgment can be a serious matter. What normally happens when there is a Judgment against you, someone wants to collect it. Someone wants their $250,000 right? Of course.

    Let me side track for a minute - it amazes me how many people think that if they take someone to Small Claims court and get a Judgment against someone who owes them money, that the court is going to help them (you) get their money, or arrest the person, or collect the money for them (you). This is not true and let me save you a lot of time and money here. You should only take someone to Small Claims court if, and only if, they have a lot to lose, in other words you need LEVERAGE.  

    Have you ever experienced the hassle and annoyance working with Small Claims court? They opened Small Claims courthouses for people who are owed $5000 or less, to unburden the Superior Court, the main courthouse, with these smaller financial matters. The court is not your friend. The laws are in favor of the defendant. Please you keep your expectations very low and you won't get so frustrated. The $225,000 Judgment against the guy mentioned above was issued by the Superior Court as it's over $5000.

    Still side tracking here...people such as yourself spend your hard earned money on Small Claims court fees and process servers, all the while thinking the court is going to have your back. Not true. The best you can hope for is that the person pays up before the hearing, and if he does, you lucked out. This is a rare occurrence. 

    If the defendant didn't pay you and he doesn't show up for the court hearing, and/or the papers were not served right (that's a whole other story, don't get me started), you have to start all over. If the defendant was served correctly and you get a Judgment, so what? You still have to collect the money yourself. All a Judgment means is that a court says someone owes you money - that's it.

    I don't mean to be mean or sound real harsh about the Small Claims court itself, but I have seen so many people disappointment when they thought just because they have a Judgment, that they are going to get money. If the person who owes you money doesn't own a home or you can't find him or does not have a job or has gone out of business, you have no LEVERAGE. The courts do not assist you with finding anyone or help you collect any money.  

    If all you have is a hope and a prayer the guy's going to pay you, take the loss and move on.

    If you can't move on, what you can do is file more paperwork with the court and the county recorder, pay more fees, and put a lien on his name with the County Recorder and the Secretary of State. This means if the person ever tries to buy or sell something of huge value, the Lien will come up and he'll have to pay you off (after the tax men get their money first though). I'm not talking about a person selling a car or small items. But things like a loan, buying a house, or buying cattle or a ranch, any kind of asset that requires due diligence and an escrow company.

    A Lien could be a good idea, sometimes it gives you closure. It is just like these deadbeats to win the Lottery. Did you know when a person wins the Lottery all Liens and Judgments are checked under the winner's name and if he/she has any Liens or Judgments, these debts get paid first before the winner gets any money? Might be worth filing a Lien just in case.

    There are millions of dollars in Judgments out there that people such as yourself can't collect, as the person who owes you the money had nothing to lose, he doesn't care if his credit is ruined or that you filed a Lien against him for not paying you.

    So back to good ole' George...what happened here is that his house went into escrow and the person he owed the $250,000 to, failed to file a Lien. Now the client and her lawyers had to run to court to obtain an Injunction that will stop George from disbursing money and hiding it once escrow closed, which was any day. George somehow figured that he was free and clear on not paying this debt because the person he owed the money to didn't know he was selling the home - or so he thought until we showed up.

    When Trudy and I showed up at his house to serve him the Injunction, all we got was a screen door with music playing through it. After knocking for several minutes and calling out his name explaining why we were there, he would not come to the door. A while later, his garage door flew up, he sped out of the driveway in his brand new Mercedes, drives over his lawn and his trash can, then freaks out when he almost ran Trudy over.  

    Serving an Injunction is serious business so we expected to have trouble. People do some  crazy things when they have a lot to lose. He's going to make $300,000 on the house and we are going to take $250,000 of it - he's desperate. It's inevitable he's going to pay, he just wants to act a little nuts for a while. 

    So now we have to push the LEVERAGE button. 

    LEVERAGE is the "action" that you do which in return causes fear or discomfort for the person you are trying to control. You have to come up with a scenario that is going to cause this guy to cooperate. In this case, his house is in escrow so this means there is a buyer involved right? I bet the buyer is driving by from time to time until escrow closes in anticipation of moving in and dreaming of what upgrades etc. they could make. But what if they drive by and see copies of the court order pasted all over the property? What would the buyer think if they read a copy? This would alarm them, maybe feel like their escrow could be in danger of not closing. I think our guy would definitely not want this to happen, nor would he want the buyers to drive by and read this document.

    So, we thought we'd give this guy one more crack at cooperating. We arrived at his house again the following day, Halloween actually, early in the morning with a bunch of copies of the Injunction and Court Order. We warned him nicely by yelling through his front door that we would be leaving several copies of the documents in his yard, patio and garden. He called our bluff and wouldn't answer the door, the louder we knocked, the louder he turned up his stereo. We told him we would return at 7 PM so we could personally serve him. We left a business card on his front door. We then plastered copies of these documents all over his front door, garage door, his bushes, his mailbox, his planters under his windows, just enough to make a statement. We'd were hoping he'd look out his window, see us doing this, and come out and settle the matter, but nope, he's still in denial.   

    So at 7 PM, it was Halloween night. Trudy happened to be dressed in an Elf costume (she was taking her grandkids trick or treating later). Upon arrival at his place we saw that all the papers were gone from his lawn and porch. Trudy-the-Elf caught George off guard, he thought she was a trick or treater, she handed him the papers. George showed a kind of resignation attitude but with a bit of anger about spewing the papers all over his property, but we knew he wasn't going to give us any more trouble.

    Our client ended up getting the $250,000 owed to her.

    Use LEVERAGE when serving papers, as long as it's legal. Trudy was pretty funny looking in her Elf costume, but you wouldn't believe the costumes and outfits Trudy has used to serve people, it's a real kick and there is no one else better at it.