Illinois Plaintiff's Lawyer Personal Injury Blog- Legal News and Insights from Champaign Urbana Attorneys Koester & Bradley, LLP

Defenses to Mortgage Fraud in Illinois

2/26/2019

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One take away from the recent financial crisis is that BOTH borrowers and lenders are capable of fraud--which can put us all at risk.

 

Mortgage fraud in Illinois and across the country covers a wide range of crimes, all pertaining to funding for a home. While an individual may falsify information to get a mortgage that they otherwise might not be able to afford, professionals also can be guilty of mortgage fraud. Real estate professionals can flip houses and work with appraisers to increase their own profits. Mortgage professionals can give loans out, knowing that the people shouldn't be approved for a loan.

Because the crimes are so different, there are many defenses that come into play with mortgage fraud. Here are some common defenses that you and your lawyer may want to consider for your case.

  • False identity. Since many people steal other people's information in order to buy or sell a home, your lawyer may fight that you didn't know what was going on. Your identity could have been stolen or you might have been framed so there is no way that you knew about any illegal happenings that took place using your identity.
  • If someone else gets convicted because they stole your identity, they may also be accused of theft, along with mortgage fraud.  
  • Property owner gave consent. Since most mortgage fraud cases are performed by professionals, you might be able to fight that the owner of the property gave their consent and you had good faith intent.
  • The property owner might be held accountable for mortgage fraud, instead of you.
  • Entrapment. Entrapment is another commonly used defense. Your lawyer must have evidence showing that you wouldn't have committed mortgage fraud, unless you were forced to do so.

If you are looking at a case of mortgage fraud, you need an experienced lawyer to fight for you and your rights. A good lawyer will help you go through your options and potential defenses so together you can decide the best way to proceed. If you don't have a lawyer on your side, you are leaving your fate in someone else's hands. This can be a big mistake.

We are dedicated to protecting your money and identity. Don't hesitate to  contact us for any questions that you may have about identity and mortgage fraud.

By: Tom Koester, Partner, Koester & Bradley, LLP

Hidden Dangers in Popular Do-It-Yourself Products

11/13/2018

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All across Illinois every weekend, thousands of unsuspecting home improvement enthusiasts unwittingly put themselves and their families at risk by using common solvents and products.
-Tom Koester, Partner, Koester & Bradley LLP

Methylene Chloride: When DIY Leads to RIP 

You are spending a Saturday afternoon finally stripping the paint off the bedroom floor.  Little do you know that the product you are using to strip those stubborn layers of old paint could kill you.  There lurking on the storeroom shelves are products containing a highly-toxic chemical known as methylene chloride, also called Dichloromethane (DCM).  Methylene chloride identified by its Chemical Abstract Number:  75-09-2 is a volatile, colorless liquid with a sweet-smelling odor.  If the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) is advising its workers to avoid products containing methylene chloride, then why does the general public still have access to these products? 

USES OF METHYLENE CHLORIDE

Methylene chloride is a chlorinated solvent used in a variety of industries and applications.  It is primarily used in paint removers but also is used in aerosol formulations, in the manufacture of pharmaceuticals, as a degreasing agent, in metal cleaning, in electronics manufacturing and as an ethane foam blowing agent.  The Environmental Protection Agency states that paint and coating removal poses some of the highest exposures among the various uses of methylene chloride.

KNOWN HAZARDS OF METHYLENE CHLORIDE PER OSHA

  • Short-term airborne exposure without proper safety equipment can cause headaches, dizziness, nausea, a “feeling of intoxication, and eye, nose and throat irritation
  • Prolonged skin contact without proper safety equipment may cause irritation and even chemical burns
  • Increased airborne exposure without proper safety equipment can cause suffocation, loss of consciousness, coma and sudden death.
  • Animal studies have shown that long-term exposure to methylene chloride may lead to liver and lung cancer, as well as tumors in the breast and salivary glands
  • May lead to early onset heart attacks and arrhythmias in workers with heart disease due to an increase in carbon monoxide.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) warns that if a worker smells methylene chloride, then he/she has already been overexposed because methylene chloride cannot be smelled until the level in the air is higher than OSHA’s permissible exposure limits (25 ppm (parts per million) in an 8-hour time-weighted average or 125 ppm in a period of 15 minutes (short-term exposure limit)). 

WARNING ON PRODUCTS CONTAINING METHYLENE CHLORIDE

Current warning on the product, Goof Off Semi-Paste Pro Stripper

WARNING:  Contains Methylene Chloride.  INHALATION OF VAPOR CAN KILL YOU.  DO NOT USE IN ENCLOSED AREAS such as basements, bathrooms or closets.  SYMPTOMS MAY NOT BE NOTICEABLE.  Avoid contact with eyes or skin, as severe irritation can occur.

DANGER!  POISON.  VAPOR EXTREMELY HARMFUL.  MAY BE FATAL IF USED IN ENCLOSED AND UNVENTILATED AREAS.  USE ONLY WITH ADEQUATE VENTILATION TO PREVENT BUILDUP OF VAPORS. MAY BE FATAL OR CAUSE BLINDNESS IF SWALLOWED.  EYE & SKIN IRRITANT.  Do not use in areas where vapors can accumulate and concentrate such as basements, bathrooms, bathtubs, closets or other small enclosed areas.  Whenever possible use outdoors in an open air area.  If using indoors open all windows and doors and maintain a cross ventilation of moving fresh air across the work area and across floor.  IF STRONG ODOR IS NOTICED OR YOU EXPERIENCE DIZZINESS, EYE-WATERING, OR HEADACHE – STOP! VENTILATION IS INADEQUATE.  LEAVE AREA IMMEDIATELY, AND GET FRESH AIR.  IF THE WORK AREA IS NOT WELL-VENTILATED, DO NOT USE THIS PRODUCT.  IF used properly, a respirator may offer additional protection.  Obtain professional advice before using.  Cannot be made non-poisonous. 

Methylene Chloride has been shown to cause cancer in laboratory animals.  Reports have associated repeated and prolonged over-exposure to solvents with neurological and other physiological damage.  The risk to your health depends on the level and duration of exposure.  Intentional misuse of this product by deliberating concentrating and inhaling vapors can be harmful or fatal.  Avoid breathing vapors or mist and contact with skin, eyes and clothing.  Do not swallow.

SAFETY DIRECTIONS:  USE OUTDOORS IN AN OPEN AREA.  It is dangerous to use this product indoors.  If you must use indoors, cross-ventilate work area by opening all windows and doors and circulating fresh air through the work area to reduce vapor accumulations.  Always wear chemical-splash goggles and chemical-resistant gloves when handling this product.  A dust mask does not provide protection against vapors.

OSHA SAFETY REQUIREMENTS FOR METHYLENE CHLORIDE

  • Gloves made of polyethylene vinyl alcohol(PVA)/ethylene vinyl alcohol (EVOH), or other laminate materials that are resistant to methylene chloride (required regardless of methylene chloride levels). LATEX, NITRATE, NEOPRENE AND POLYETHYLENE GLOVES DO NOT PROTECT AGAINST METHYLENE CHLORIDE.  BUTYL RUBBER GLOVES DO NOT MEET THE REQUIREMNET OF THE OSHA METHYLENE CHLORIDE STANDARD BECAUSE THEY DEGRADE IN LESS THAN 1 HOUR.
  • Outer gloves are also recommended to prevent cuts and tears to the inner methylene chloride-resistant gloves
  • Methylene chloride-resistant aprons, sleeves and boots or shoe covers
  • Chemical-resistant goggles or a face shield
  • OSHA requires workers to wear a full-face atmosphere-supplying respirator when engineering and work practice controls cannot decrease methylene chloride levels below OSHA’s permissible exposure limits.

THE EPA AND METHYLENE CHLORIDE

A 2015 study conducted by the Center for Public Integrity determined that methylene chloride exposure was responsible for approximately 56 deaths since 1980.  The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) conducted its own risk assessment of methylene chloride in paint stripping uses in 2014 and had proposed to ban the consumer and commercial paint stripping uses in January 2017.  However, in June 2017, the EPA announced that it would not re-evaluate the paint stripping uses of methylene chloride.  An EPA News release of May 10, 2018 announced that: (1) The EPA intends to finalize the methylene chloride rulemaking; (2) The EPA is not re-evaluating the paint stripping uses of methylene chloride and is relying on its previous risk assessments and (3) The EPA is working to send the finalized rulemaking to the EPA’S Office of Management and Budget (OMB) shortly. 

Methylene chloride is one of 10 specific chemicals that the EPA  chose to evaluate for changes to the Toxic Substances Control Act of June 2016.  The new rules would require when a chemical poses an unreasonable risk that the EPA be required to take action within two years, with a possible extension of four years.  If the chemical is assessed as unreasonably dangerous, then phaseouts and bans of this chemical must occur within five years of that assessment. 

METHYLENE CHLORIDE BANS OUTSIDE THE UNITED STATES

On May 6, 2009, the European Parliament passed Decision 455/2009/EC which banned the use of methylene chloride in paint strippers by private persons and commercial entities.  Industrial uses are the exceptions to the decision but all products must be labeled accordingly.

RETAILERS AND METHYLENE CHLORIDE

News media have reported that Walmart, Lowes, Home Depot, Sherwin-Williams, Menards, Ace and Truce Value will no longer sell paint strippers made with methylene chloride or N-methyle-2-pyrrolidone (NMP) in its United States, Canada, Mexico and Central America stores and will cease the selling of these products on its e-commerce sites as of February 2019.

By: Thomas Koester, Partner, Koester & Bradley, LLP

The Consumer Fraud Act and the Distant Buyer Scam in Illinois

7/09/2018

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The Illinois Consumer Fraud Act is aimed at allowing victims of fraud in Illinois to recover monetarily, and to punish those actors who commit fraud.  Recently, Illinois Fraud scams are targeting entrepreneurs.
-Tom Koester, Partner, Koester & Bradley LLP

The Illinois Consumer Fraud Act Requires the Right Legal Team

 Koester & Bradley Illinois Consumer Lawyers

The Illinois’ Consumer Fraud and Deceptive Business Practices Act was implemented to protect product buyers from personal damages. As more citizens in Champaign Urbana and throughout the Illinois are taking advantage of the opportunity to gain additional income or pursue their dream of business ownership, it is becoming more prevalent that entrepreneurs and small business owners, as well as individuals are opening themselves up to becoming the victim.  While the Illinois Consumer Fraud Act covers a variety of actions, the so-called distant-buyer scam is beginning to proliferate due to the rise of internet commerce.

WHAT ARE SOME OF THE actions considered as fraud under the Illinois consumer fraud act?
  • False advertising across all media channels.  This includes the internet, print, and even the phone.
  • False or misleading statements made by salespeople on the phone, the internet, or in person.
  • False or misleading marketing materials.
  • Concealing relevant information or facts about a particular good or service.
  • A fraudulent or undisclosed commission payment schedule
 

The Emergence of the Distant Buyer Scam In Illinois

 

The eager Illinois entrepreneur that is seeking quick business ideas on a budget often steer towards resale-based business ventures. To begin their customer base, these new business owners hit the internet to promote and sell their products. These inexperienced business owners are often encountered with the distant buyer scam.
 
The distant buyer scam occurs when an unknown buyer sends the business an inquiry on one or more products that it sells. Typically, the product that the buyer wants to purchase carries a high ticket price. The buyer offers to pay more for the product than what the seller is asking and insists on sending their own shipper to pick up the product. In these events the buyer does send a legitimate looking check or money order that increases the level of trust the seller has.  The seller is instructed to send the additional funds to the shipper, often to a P.O. Box. The seller is then out the product and the money as their bank collects the funds from the business or individual’s account to cover the fraudulent check or money order when it doesn’t clear.
 
If you are one of Illinois’ home business owners that suspects you have encountered a distant buyer scammer, Illinois  Consumer Protection and Fraud attorneys can help you. These professionals are able to assist you with reporting the occurrence with the proper authorities and federal agencies. They have the knowledge and expertise to begin research into your case which offers a better chance of finding the culprits that have caused you the loss. Should a suspect or suspects be found in your case, your attorney will begin the necessary proceedings to help you collect the monetary compensation you are due.
 
If you feel you have been victimized by a distant buyer scam:
  1. Save any correspondences you have received from the buyer.
  2. Contact your local state police post and file a victim’s report.
  3. Contact an Illinois Consumer Protection and Fraud attorney.
  4. Do not attempt to cash any check or money order regardless of how legitimate it may seem.

 
If your home business has experienced a loss or you are unsure of the legitimacy of a distant buyer,  contact us and we will help you sort it out. You will have a better understanding of your rights and the scams which are lurking.

By Tom Koester, Partner, Koester & Bradley, LLP

Illinois Plaintiffs Lawyer Personal Injury Blog by Koester & Bradley, LLP 

Legal News and safety tips with Illinois Impact from the Accident and Personal Injury Firm Koester & Bradley, LLP

Authors

Ryan R Bradley is a personal injury and litigation lawyer based in Champaign County Illinois focused on representing injured clients and businesses navigate the maze of litigation to financial recovery.  


Tom Koester is a personal injury attorney based in Champaign County in Central Illinois focused on representing the injured and victims of Medical Malpractice and Personal Injuries.