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Background checks in South Florida made easy


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Utilizing public record databases to find criminal, civil, or traffic violations in South Florida became a little easier Friday with the release of a semi-comprehensive list of online resources.

Locating and identifying a criminal history, civil litigation or traffic history is but a click away. You can also access resources in relation to inmates, those on probation, parole or community control, sex offenders or missing children, in addition to stolen property or vehicles.

Background checks

·          Florida Department of Law Enforcement – For a modest fee of $23.00, you can obtain an individual’s criminal history record in Florida.

·         Broward County court records - Search civil, criminal and traffic courts through the Clerk’s office.

·         Miami-Dade County court records – Search civil, criminal and traffic courts through the Clerk’s office.

·         Monroe County court records – Search civil, criminal and traffic courts through the Clerk’s office.

·         Palm Beach County court records – Search civil, criminal and traffic courts through the Clerk’s office.

Sex offenders

·         Florida Offender Alert System – Sign up to receive an email alert when a sex offender moves into your neighborhood.

·         Florida Sex Offender Registry – Locate registered sex offenders by name, city, address or zip code.

·         Sex offender screen names – Check a computer screen name or email address to determine whether it’s linked to a registered sex offender in Florida.

·         National and other state sex offender registries – Search the national database, or select a state to view a particular registry.

Jail and state prison inmates

·         Broward County Jail inmates – Search for inmates currently incarcerated in Broward County.

·         Miami-Dade County Jail inmates – Search for inmates currently incarcerated in Miami-Dade County.

·         Monroe County Jail inmates – Search for inmates currently incarcerated in Monroe County.

·         Palm Beach County Jail inmates – Search for inmates currently incarcerated in Palm Beach County as well as those released within the last 12 months.

·         Florida Department of Corrections – Search for inmates currently incarcerated or recently released, as well as those on probation, parole, community control or other form of non-custodial release.

Wanted and missing persons

·         Florida Missing Children Search – Search for a missing or endangered person directly at the state Missing Children Information Clearinghouse.

·         Missing Persons Search – Search for a missing person directly at the Florida Department of Law Enforcement.

·         National Center for Missing and Exploited Children – Search for several national resources for missing children.

·         Wanted Persons Search – Search for felony or misdemeanor warrant information as reported to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement.

·         Wireless Amber alerts – Sign up for free wireless Amber alerts directly to your cell phone.

Stolen property

·         Florida Crime Information Center – Search for information on whether a vehicle, vehicle parts, boats, license plates, decals, guns and other items were reported lost or stolen in Florida.

·         VINCheck – Search the National Insurance Crime Bureau database to see if a vehicle has been reported stolen.

Bill Lewis is principal of William E. Lewis Jr. & Associates, a solutions based professional consulting firm specializing in the discriminating individual, business or governmental entity.

For daily updates on The Credit Report with Bill Lewis, you can join Bill’s 16,550 plus fans on Facebook at: http://www.facebook.com/thecreditreportwithbilllewis.

Applebee’s hosts ‘Give Back Night’ for Tamarac – North Lauderdale Relay for Life

January 8, 2013 Leave a comment

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As part of their commitment to the community, Applebee’s is partnering with the Relay for Life of Tamarac – North Lauderdale and the American Cancer Society (ACS) to help raise funds and generate awareness for cancer research.

To help with the effort, Applebee’s, located at 6005 North University Drive, Tamarac, FL 33321 is hosting a special event Wednesday, January 9th during which 15% of its total sales from 5 p.m. will be donated to the Relay for Life of Tamarac – North Lauderdale.

Throughout the evening, guests are welcome to dine at Applebee’s to support a great cause.  Information about the Tamarac – North Lauderdale Relay for Life, the American Cancer Society and the important work of its foundations and community outreach will be available.

The January team meeting of the Relay for Life of Tamarac – North Lauderdale will also be held.  Be among the first to learn about their first team fundraising challenge.  The meetings are open to all team members and those who are interested in learning more about Relay for Life and the American Cancer Society.

“It’s amazing to think that millions of people will be diagnosed with cancer this year. Someone close to me may be one of them,” stated event chairwoman Julie Fishman.  “Our Relay for Life is not only a way to join in the fight back against cancer, but it is also a way to inspire hope by raising funds and awareness to help those facing the disease.”

The Relay for Life of Tamarac – North Lauderdale will be held on May 17th and 18th at Millennium Middle School in Tamarac.  For information on the event, you may visit them online, “Like” them on Facebook or follow them on Twitter.

Five Guys Burgers and Fries hosts ‘Give Back Night’ for Tamarac – North Lauderdale Relay for Life

January 8, 2013 Leave a comment

ImageAs part of their commitment to the community, Five Guys Burgers and Fries is partnering with the Relay for Life of Tamarac – North Lauderdale and the American Cancer Society (ACS) to help raise funds and generate awareness for cancer research.

To help with the effort, Five Guys Burgers and Fries – located at 5701 North University Drive, Tamarac, FL 33321 – is hosting a special event Thursday night, January 10th, during which 15% of its total sales from 5-9 p.m. will be donated to the Relay for Life of Tamarac – North Lauderdale.

“We’re proud to support the American Cancer Society through the Relay for Life of Tamarac – North Lauderdale,” stated Ed Kelin, manager of Five Guys Burgers and Fries.  “This event is part of our commitment to the local communities where we reside.”

Beginning at 5 p.m. and throughout the evening, guests are welcome to dine at Five Guys Burgers and Fries to support a great cause.  Information about the Tamarac – North Lauderdale Relay for Life, the American Cancer Society and the important work of its foundations and community outreach will be available.

“It’s amazing to think that millions of people will be diagnosed with cancer this year. Someone close to you or me may be one of them,” stated event chairwoman Julie Fishman.  “Our Relay for Life is not only a way to join in the fight back against cancer, but it is also a way to inspire hope by raising funds and awareness to help those facing the disease.”

The Relay for Life of Tamarac – North Lauderdale will be held on May 17th and 18th at Millennium Middle School in Tamarac.  For information on the event, you may visit them online, “Like” them on Facebook or follow them on Twitter.

Mortgage foreclosure settlement reached

January 7, 2013 Leave a comment

foreclosure

Ten major mortgage servicers including Bank of AmericaJP Morgan ChaseCitigroup and Wells Fargo entered into a $8.5 billion settlement Monday with federal regulators to settle claims related to mortgage foreclosure abuses.

Under the terms of the settlement with the Federal Reserve and the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (OCC), $3.3 billion will be paid by banks directly to eligible mortgage borrowers.  Over $5.2 billion in other assistance – such as loan modifications and forgiveness of deficiency judgments – will also be available.

The agreement covers 3.8 million borrowers whose homes were in foreclosure in 2009 and 2010 with participating servicers.

The other lenders participating in the settlement are AuroraMetLife BankPNCSovereign BankSunTrust and U.S. Bank.

By agreeing to the settlement, participating lenders can cease the Independent Foreclosure Review process mandated under an enforcement action entered in April 2011.

Regulators had determined that the foreclosure review process – which involved a case-by-case review of millions of loan files – was proving too expensive, time consuming and ineffective.

“When we began the Independent Foreclosure Review, the OCC pledged to fix what was broken, identify who was harmed, and compensate them for that injury,” Chief Thomas Curry of the OCC stated in a written release.  “While today’s announcement represents a significant change in direction, it meets those original objectives by ensuring that consumers are the ones who will benefit, and that they will benefit more quickly and in a more direct manner.”

Monday’s deal follows a separate $26 billion mortgage settlement entered early last year in relation to the “robo-signing” scandal.

Only $1.5 billion of that settlement was in the form of direct cash relief to 750,000 borrowers.

Eligible borrowers under the latest settlement will receive compensation whether or not they filed a request for an independent foreclosure review and mortgage borrowers do not need to take further action to be eligible for compensation.

Borrowers are expected to be contacted by the end of March with specific payment details. They will not be required to execute a waiver of any legal claims that may exist against their servicer as a condition for receiving payment.

In addition, the servicers’ internal complaint process will remain available to borrowers.

“We have learned a great deal from the reviews that have been conducted to date. However, it has become clear that carrying the process through to its conclusion would divert money away from the impacted homeowners and also needlessly delay the dispensation of compensation to affected borrowers. Our new course of action will get more money to more people more quickly, and it will speed recovery in the nation’s housing markets,” Curry concluded.

Flashing in public no longer illegal in Florida

December 31, 2012 Leave a comment

erich.campbell

Starting Tuesday, flashing your headlights to alert oncoming traffic that police are lying in wait along the roadside will no longer be against the law in the state of Florida.

The provision legalizing such speed trap warnings is part of a statewide change in motor vehicle laws.

An attorney who represented cited motorists believes, though, that the revised traffic code contains loopholes that would still allow police to ticket flashing drivers.

“The action of the Legislature in our belief fell short,” Oviedo attorney J. Marcus Jones told the Associated Press.

Passed by the legislature last March, the new law amended one section of Florida’s existing traffic code but – according to Jones – police may still use other provisions to cite blinking motorists.

Those provisions include prohibitions against using high beams within 500 feet of an oncoming vehicle or within 300 feet of a vehicle ahead.  The newly stated exception for flashing headlights does not apply to those sections of the traffic code.

After being sued by motorist Erich Campbell, the Florida Highway Patrol ordered state troopers to stop issuing citations to flashing drivers.

Campbell, a student attending St. Petersburg College was cited for violating an existing law that says “flashing lights are prohibited on vehicles” except for turn signals.

The lawsuit alleges that the Florida Highway Patrol misinterpreted that particular provision of the state traffic code as it was meant only to ban motorists from having strobes lights that resemble those on official emergency vehicles.

To clear up any ambiguity, the new law specifically amends Florida’s traffic code to allow motorists to flash their headlights at an oncoming vehicle regardless of intent.

A Pinellas County judge dismissed Campbell’s $115 ticket, but his lawsuit against the FHP is facing dismissal in Tallahassee.

Representing Campbell before Circuit Court Judge Kevin Carroll, Jones has requested reconsideration because of the alleged inconsistencies remaining in Florida’s traffic code.

If successful in seeking reconsideration, Jones intends on seeking class-action status in an effort to obtain refunds for the estimated 2,400 drivers who were convicted and paid fines between 2005 and 2010 for flashing their high-beam lights.

Celebrity computer hacker sentenced to 10 years in prison

December 18, 2012 Leave a comment

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Christopher Chaney, the Florida man who hacked into the personal e-mail accounts of more than 50 people associated with the entertainment industry—including actors Scarlett Johansson, Mila Kunis, and Renee Olstead—was sentenced late Monday to 120 months in federal prison.

In custody since March when he pleaded guilty to nine felony counts, including wiretapping and unauthorized access to protected computers, Chaney, 36, of Jacksonville, was sentenced by U.S. District Court Judge S. James Otero.  He was also ordered to pay $66,179 in restitution and serve a three-year term of supervised release.

At Monday’s hearing, Judge Otero said Chaney’s conduct demonstrated a “callous disregard to the victims”—particularly, two non-celebrity victims, each of whom was stalked by Chaney for more than 10 years.

In his ruling, Judge Otero made a particular finding that extreme emotional distress can be as devastating as a physical injury in cyber related crimes.

“Illegal wiretapping gave Mr. Chaney access to every e-mail sent to more than four dozen victims and allowed him to view their most personal information,” said U.S. Attorney André Birotte, Jr. “Mr. Chaney is responsible for causing dozens of illegally obtained, private photographs to be posted on the Internet, where they were available for all to see. This case is a sobering reminder that cybercrime poses a very real threat to every American, and everyone should take steps to safeguard their identities and personal information on the Internet.”

The Assistant Director in Charge of the FBI’s Los Angeles Field Office commented: “For many victims, Mr. Chaney’s actions were tantamount to breaking and entering of their private homes by a thief in the night. Mr. Chaney methodically targeted his victims based on their celebrity without regard for the law or the impact the theft of personal and intimate details would have to their lives. This case illustrates the need for cyber security vigilance by computer users and, in addition, may serve as a deterrent for anyone contemplating similar intrusions.”

When Chaney initially plead guilty, he admitted that from at least November 2010 to October 2011, he hacked into the victims’ e-mail accounts by clicking on the “Forgot your password?” feature and then re-setting the victims’ passwords by correctly answering their security questions. By properly guessing the answers using publicly available information found on the Internet, Chaney gained exclusive control of the victims’ e-mail accounts, and was able to access their e-mail boxes. While in the accounts, Chaney also went through their contact lists to find addresses of potential new hacking targets.

In relation to the wiretapping charges, Chaney admitted that he altered e-mail account settings by inserting his own e-mail address into the forwarding feature so that he would receive, without the victims’ knowledge, a duplicate copy of all incoming e-mails. Most of the victims did not check their account settings, so even after they regained control of their e-mail accounts, Chaney’s e-mail address remained in their account settings.

Chaney admitted that as his hacking scheme became more extensive, he began using a proxy service called “Hide My IP” because he wanted to “cover his tracks” and not be discovered by law enforcement agents. Even after his home computers were seized, Chaney used another computer to hack into another victim’s e-mail account.

As a result of his hacking scheme, Chaney obtained private photographs and confidential documents, including business contracts, scripts, letters, driver’s license information, and social security information. On several occasions, Chaney sent e-mails from the hacked accounts, fraudulently posing as the victims requesting more private photographs and information.

Chaney e-mailed many of the stolen photographs to others, including another hacker and two gossip websites. As a result, some of the stolen photographs were posted on the Internet.

The investigation of Chaney and his hacking activities was conducted by the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

Mortgage foreclosure relief available for distressed homeowners

December 17, 2012 Leave a comment

foreclosure

I recently reported on important relief available to homeowners facing foreclosure, paying more than their house is worth or those who have been foreclosed upon and lost their home.

As crucial deadlines are fast approaching, I am providing an updated summary of assistance available for struggling homeowners and other victims of unfair lending practices — and what you need to do to access it.

Remember, these programs matter but unless you take advantage of them, help is not available. A proactive approach is required.

Thousands of Floridians qualify for help. Below is a list of settlements and reviews that were created to help struggling borrowers. In some cases, application deadlines are coming up. If you miss the deadline, you will not qualify for relief.

Independent Foreclosure Review vs. National Mortgage Settlement:

If you believe your home mortgage foreclosure was conducted unfairly or mistakes were made, relief is available in several forms:

Independent Foreclosure Review

In April 2011, the Federal Reserve Board and the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency took action against over 20 large mortgage servicers. If your primary home was involved in a foreclosure between January 1, 2009 and December 31, 2010, you may qualify for a free independent foreclosure review.

Independent fact-checkers will determine whether you were harmed by mortgage foreclosure errors or other problems and should be paid to make up for that harm. Borrowers seeking a review must apply by December 31, 2012.

Help with the form and answers to questions about the process are available on the Independent Foreclosure Review website or by calling 888-952-9105.

The following mortgage servicers are participating in the Independent Foreclosure Review process:

“Homeowners who believe they were wrongfully injured by a foreclosure error in 2009 and 2010, should request a review,” stated Bryan Hubbard, an Office of the Comptroller of the Currency spokesman. “They give up no rights by requesting a review.”

In effort to assist with the application process, the Federal Reserve has put together a short “Independent Foreclosure Review PSA” video. The video provides program details in English and in Spanish.

For in-depth information on how to spread the word to your local area, please visit the community partner toolkit.

National Mortgage Settlement

Last February, the U.S. Department of Justice and 49 state attorneys general announced a $25 billion settlement with five major banks over so-called “robo-signing,” in which foreclosure documents were signed without properly verifying their accuracy.

While not a perfect deal, the settlement offers meaningful relief for some homeowners in the form of principal or interest reductions, in addition to other relief.

The National Mortgage Settlement administrator recently mailed Notice Letters and Claim Forms to those borrowers who lost their home due to foreclosure between January 1, 2008 and December 31, 2011 whose loans were serviced by one of the five servicers: Ally/GMACBank of AmericaCitiJPMorgan Chase, and Wells Fargo.

Impacted homeowners can now submit their claim form online. The deadline to file is January 18, 2013.

If you think you may be eligible, you can contact your bank directly for additional information:

Ally/GMAC: 800-766-4622

Bank of America: 877-488-7814 (Available M-F 7 a.m. – 9 p.m. and Saturdays 8 a.m. – 5 p.m. Central Time.)

Citi: 866-272-4749

JPMorgan Chase: 866-372-6901

Wells Fargo: 800-288-3212 (Available M-F 7 a.m. – 7 p.m. Central Time)

For more information, please visit the National Mortgage Settlement website or call them at 888-995-HOPE (4673).

To learn whether your loan is owned by either Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac, visit their website and complete the convenient online form for an instant determination.

“Whether it be through the Independent Foreclosure Review or the National Foreclosure Settlement, homeowners faced with a foreclosure should take advantage of this review,” stated Fort Lauderdale foreclosure defense attorney Carlos Reyes. “The process is free and totally without fee. Don’t let someone charge you for completing an application that you can complete yourself online in less than 30 minutes.”

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