Expatriate Owl

A politically-incorrect perspective that does not necessarily tow the party line, on various matters including but not limited to taxation, academia, government and religion.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Sandy Victims Victimizing the Public

We had some damage from fallen trees and wind and the like from Superstorm Sandy.  I say "Superstorm" because Governor Andrew Cuomo, New York's duly elected Chief Executive, declared that because Sandy had weakened to the level of a tropical storm before it made landfall, it was not an official hurricane and the insurance companies could not treat it as such.

Following the storm, Long Island and other storm-hit areas of the country were invaded by various itinerant insurance adjusters, building contractors (or, for that matter, demolition contractors), utility workers, and other opportunistic enterprisers who, to their credit, were, for the most part, actually ready, willing and able to bust their baytzim for long hours to earn a living, and who temporarily augmented the resident cadres of such laborers.

A group of men whose ability to wield their chainsaws was far greater than their ability to speak English hooked up with my backyard neighbor, who walked around the block to knock at my door to implore me to give the impromptu work crew access to my back yard so that they could completely and safely (relatively speaking) remove the tree that I had not until then realized had fallen into my yard.

No Problem!  And while they were here, would they be able to remove the heavy 40-foot tree that had fallen onto my wife's car?  With my neighbor aiding in bridging the gap between Inglés y Español, we agreed on the dinero and about 45 minutes later, my wife's care was relieved of the weight of one large Douglas Fir tree, and my wallet relieved of the burden of carrying around three hundred dollars.  They carted away the branches and logs in the deal, so I really couldn't complain.  The matters of removing the stump, replacing the shingles on the roof and the gutters, and removing some other trees which fell down without damaging anything more than other trees and bushes had yet to be attended to.

The insurance adjusters arrived at my house.  I use the plural because the damage to the car was covered by our automobile policy with one insurance carrier, and the trees and house were covered by our homeowner's policy with another carrier.  My wife had intended to keep her car until it hit 100,000 miles, but, with the big dents (and, as it turned out, frame damage), she added the insurance proceeds to the trade-in at 78,000 miles and got herself a new car.

As for the homeowner's policy, I showed the adjuster what happened.  He asked if there was any food spoilage from the power outage.  I told him that as the storm was approaching Florida, I took the precautions of adding lots of ice packs, and we did not open the freezer during our almost 2 days without power, so none of the food in our freezer went bad.

The adjuster told us that we probably could get away with declaring $200 - $300 of food spoilage.  I told him that we were declaring zero, because that is what our food spoilage was.

Understand that I am no great fan of the insurance companies, but for $300 I have no intention of letting my good name go bad.  I am now litigating a case worth far, far more than the $300 phantom food spoil, and have been engaged to write a legal memo for another attorney in another matter which will probably get me about $500, which is a drop in the bucket compared to the millions at stake in that litigation (and there may be some criminal prosecutions coming out of that one as well).  How did I get those cases?  The first one is from a long-time client who trusts me.  The second was on account of a recommendation from another attorney with whom I have not spoken in almost 10 years (I'll have to give him a call and thank him once I collect my fee, which should be in the next week or two).

It all comes down to my good name and reputation!

Superstorm Sandy did highlight some very positive qualities in lots of people.  People who were willing to work, people who were out there helping those in need, people who were more concerned for their good names and reputations than in making a few dirty dollars.

Unfortunately, not everyone gave due deference to the public weal.  Caterina Curatolo, who owned two houses in Queens which she did not see fit to properly keep up, and which were relatively unaffected by Superstorm Sandy, allegedly posed as a homeless storm victim and sponged hotel housing and debit cards, living the good life.   Turns out that Queens Beep Helen Marshall had named Caterina as a distinguished Queens resident back in 2004.

My record for predicting criminal sentences will not get me a job in London's High Street betting parlors any time soon, and my contact in the New York Attorney General's office is, as usual, limiting her remarks to those set forth in the official press releases.  Whether Caterina does or does not get any jail time will be left to the bookies in Queens, London, and everywhere in between.  I do believe, however, that I can safely predict that Caterina will be liquidating one or both of the homes she owns in order to pay her legal expenses.

But then, there is the broader issue of the government throwing out so many dollars with so few strings attached, and then wondering why so many people are defrauding it.

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