The person I contacted at Groupon “passed on” the information to others in the company about Beauty Med Spa nee’ Pure Med Spa. We will see what comes of it.
After several commenters noted that Groupon in Dallas is giving out a Groupon on Pure Med Spa (aka Beauty Med Spa–same name, no difference), I sent them an email saying that they really ought to reconsider promoting a company that has done so much harm. Here was Groupon’s response:
Thanks for your feedback and sorry for any inconvenience this has caused. We do our best to feature businesses that see Groupon as an opportunity to gain loyal customers as well as advertise their services.
We stand by all of the businesses we feature and the deals we offer, but if you ever feel let down in any way when using your Groupon, we’ll be more than happy to work with you towards satisfaction! Also, thanks for the information! I will be passing this on to the right people.
Please let me know if you have any other questions.
I told them that I am not going to be let down, but others will be. Who wants to be a loyal customer to a business that has stolen thousands of dollars from customers, burned people with lasers, caused one woman to require surgery because they damaged her legs, and on and on. They are being investigated by several state attorneys general and have been profiled on many television news programs for the harm they have caused.
It’s a shame that this is Groupon’s response considering the negative publicity associated with this company. Groupon is promoting thieves and hucksters. Send Groupon a letter letting them know if you have been harmed and what happened. Maybe if enough people contact them, they will change their policy.
My sweet baby holds a doll and rocks it back and forth and up and down exactly as I rock her, holding it in the same position as if it’s being nursed.
She then drops the doll with a thunk and goes and picks up the cat by the neck. There is a limit, I suppose, to the similarities.
This is simply disgusting and unthinkable. I can’t believe I am a citizen of this crooked, backwards country.
This article can be found in the Business Section of the NY Times.
In Prison for Taking a Liar Loan
By JOE NOCERA
A few weeks ago, when the Justice Department decided not to prosecute Angelo Mozilo, the former chief executive of Countrywide, I wrote a column lamenting the fact that none of the big fish were likely to go to prison for their roles in the financial crisis.
Soon after that column ran, I received an e-mail from a man named Richard Engle, who informed me that I was wrong. There was, in fact, someone behind bars for what he’d supposedly done during the subprime bubble. It was his 48-year-old son, Charlie.
On Valentine’s Day, the elder Mr. Engle said, his son had entered a minimum-security prison in Beaver, W.Va., to begin serving a 21-month sentence for mortgage fraud. He then proceeded to tell me the tale of how federal agents nabbed his son — a tale he backed up with reams of documents and records that suggest, if nothing else, that when the federal government is truly motivated, there is no mountain it won’t move to prosecute someone it wants to nail. And it was definitely motivated to nail Charlie Engle.
Mr. Engle’s is a tale worth telling for a number of reasons, not the least of which is its punch line. Was Mr. Engle convicted of running a crooked subprime company? Was he a mortgage broker who trafficked in predatory loans? A Wall Street huckster who sold toxic assets?
No. Charlie Engle wasn’t a seller of bad mortgages. He was a borrower. And the “mortgage fraud” for which he was prosecuted was something that literally millions of Americans did during the subprime bubble. Supposedly, he lied on two liar loans.
“The Department of Justice has made prosecuting financial crimes, including mortgage fraud, a high priority,” said Neil H. MacBride, the United States attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia, in a statement. (Mr. MacBride, whose office prosecuted Mr. Engle, declined to be interviewed.)
Apparently, though, it’s only a high priority if the target is a borrower. Mr. Mozilo’s company made billions in profit, some of it on liar loans that he acknowledged at the time were likely to be fraudulent and which did untold damage to the economy. And he personally was paid hundreds of millions of dollars. Though he agreed last year to a $67.5 million fine to settle fraud charges brought by the Securities and Exchange Commission, it was a small fraction of what he earned. Otherwise, he walked. Thus does the Justice Department display its priorities in the aftermath of the crisis.
It’s not just that Mr. Engle is the smallest of small fry that is bothersome about his prosecution. It is also the way the government went about building its case. Although Mr. Engle took out the two stated-income loans, as liar loans are more formally called, in late 2005 and early 2006, it wasn’t until three years later that his troubles began.
As a young man, Mr. Engle had been a serious drug addict, but after he got clean, he became an ultra-marathoner, one of the best in the world. In the fall of 2006, he and two other ultra-marathoners took on an almost unimaginable challenge: they ran across the Sahara Desert, something that had never been done before. The run took 111 days, and was documented in a film financed by Matt Damon, who served as executive producer and narrator. Mr. Engle received $30,000 for his participation.
The film, “Running the Sahara,” was released in the fall of 2008. Eventually, it caught the attention of Robert W. Nordlander, a special agent for the Internal Revenue Service. As Mr. Nordlander later told the grand jury, “Being the special agent that I am, I was wondering, how does a guy train for this because most people have to work from nine to five and it’s very difficult to train for this part-time.” (He also told the grand jurors that sometimes, when he sees somebody driving a Ferrari, he’ll check to see if they make enough money to afford it. When I called Mr. Nordlander and others at the I.R.S. to ask whether this was an appropriate way to choose subjects for criminal tax investigations, my questions were met with a stone wall of silence.)
Mr. Engle’s tax records showed that while his actual income was substantial, his taxable income was quite small, in part because he had a large tax-loss carry forward, due to a business deal he’d been involved in several years earlier. (Mr. Nordlander would later inform the grand jury only of his much lower taxable income, which made it seem more suspicious.) Still convinced that Mr. Engle must be hiding income, Mr. Nordlander did undercover surveillance and took “Dumpster dives” into Mr. Engle’s garbage. He mainly discovered that Mr. Engle lived modestly.
In March 2009, still unsatisfied, Mr. Nordlander persuaded his superiors to send an attractive female undercover agent, Ellen Burrows, to meet Mr. Engle and see if she could get him to say something incriminating. In the course of several flirtatious encounters, she asked him about his investments.
After acknowledging that he had been speculating in real estate during the bubble to help support his running, he said, according to Mr. Nordlander’s grand jury testimony, “I had a couple of good liar loans out there, you know, which my mortgage broker didn’t mind writing down, you know, that I was making four hundred thousand grand a year when he knew I wasn’t.”
Mr. Engle added, “Everybody was doing it because it was simply the way it was done. That doesn’t make me proud of the fact that I am at least a small part of the problem.”
Unbeknownst to Mr. Engle, Ms. Burrows was wearing a wire.
Lying on a stated-income loan is, without question, a crime, and one ought not to excuse it even though, as Mr. Engle says, “everybody was doing it” — usually with the eager encouragement of their brokers. But the Engle case raises questions not just about the government’s priorities, but about something even more basic: did he even commit the crimes he is accused of?
Partly, I concede, Mr. Engle is easy to root for. He is a personable, upbeat man who has conquered some serious demons. Part of his Sahara expedition was aimed at raising money for a charity to help bring clean water to Africa. “Every experience in life has the ability to teach lessons if I am open to them,” he wrote on a blog as he prepared to enter prison. How can you not like someone like that?
But the more I looked into it, the more I came to believe that the case against him was seriously weak. No tax charges were ever brought, even though that was Mr. Nordlander’s original rationale. Money laundering, the suspicion of which was needed to justify the undercover sting, was a nonissue as well. As for that “confession” to Ms. Burrows, take a closer look. It really isn’t a confession at all. Mr. Engle is confessing to his mortgage broker’s sins, not his own.
Perhaps anticipating that problem, when Mr. Nordlander finally arrested Mr. Engle in May 2010, he claims to have elicited a stronger, better confession while Mr. Engle was handcuffed in the back seat of his car. Mr. Engle fervently denies this. This second supposed confession, however, was never captured on tape.
As for the loans themselves, on one of them Mr. Engle claimed an income of $15,000 a month. As it turns out, his total income in 2005, according to his accountant, was $180,000, which amounts to … hmmm …$15,000 a month, though of course Mr. Engle didn’t have the kind of job that generated monthly income. (In addition to real estate speculation, Mr. Engle gave motivational speeches and earned around $50,000 a year as a producer on the hit show “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition.”)
The monthly income listed on the second loan was $32,500, an obviously absurd amount, especially since the loan itself was for only $300,000. It was a refinance of a property Mr. Engle already owned, allowing him to pull out $80,000 of the $215,000 in equity he had in the property.
Mr. Engle claims that he never saw that $32,500 claim and never signed the papers. Indeed, a handwriting analysis conducted by the government raised the distinct possibility that Mr. Engle’s signature and his initials in several places in the mortgage documents had been forged. As it happens, Mr. Engle’s broker for that loan, John J. Hellman, recently pleaded guilty to mortgage fraud for playing fast and loose with a number of mortgage applications. Mr. Hellman testified in court that Mr. Engle had signed the mortgage application. Early this week, Mr. Hellman received a reduced sentence of 10 months, less than half of Mr. Engle’s sentence, in no small part because of his willingness to testify against Mr. Engle.
Even the jurors seemed confused about how to think about Mr. Engle’s supposed crime. When it came time to pronounce a verdict, the jury found him not guilty of providing false information to the bank, which would seem to be the only fraud he could possibly have committed. Yet it still found him guilty of mortgage fraud. “I think the prosecution convinced the jury that I was guilty of something but they weren’t sure what,” Mr. Engle wrote in an e-mail.
Like many people, Mr. Engle’s biggest mistake was believing that housing prices could only go up. When the market collapsed, Mr. Engle defaulted on the two properties, which of course is not a crime. Although his accountant tried to persuade the banks to do a complicated refinancing, they refused and foreclosed on the properties. Like many Americans, Mr. Engle wound up being punished by the market for his mistake, losing all his remaining equity along with the properties themselves. Thanks to the government, though, his punishment was far more severe than most.
At his sentencing, Mr. Engle told the judge: “I can say with confidence that I can turn negatives into positives. I have no doubt I will make the best of it.” With his inspiring prison blog, Running in Place: A Blog About Surviving Adversity, he has already begun to do that.
Even when he emerges from prison, though, his ordeal will not be over. As part of his sentence, Mr. Engle was ordered to pay $262,500 in restitution to the owner of his mortgages. And what institution might that be? You guessed it: Countrywide, now owned by Bank of America.
Angelo Mozilo ought to get a good chuckle out of that one.
Have you ever noticed that in movies that are “chick flicks,” billed and marketed to women, where there are women in a family going through something or women who are friends going through something, that the movie creators always throw in a scene of them dancing together, often on a bed, sometimes resulting in a pillow fight, usually for the montage of how special their relationship is, or sometimes it is to show how women who were enemies are now good friends, and then they use that in the preview to market the film? Damn, it’s dumb.
Isabel, have patience! Have patience, Mama? I’m only 1 and a half years old. How am I supposed to have patience? And then I realized, today Isabel is exactly 1 and a half. Happy 1 and a half birthday, Isabel.
Today Isabel also quacked at me. She picked up her new orange and white duck and said Wuack! We wuacked back and forth a bit. She is big into animal sounds. For the longest time it was only barking, but lately, meowing is the most popular sound in her repertoire. Maooooow, maooooow. And now the duck.
If we blow in Ava’s face, she tries to eat the air we blow at her. Isabel finds this completely amusing and has taken to blowing in Ava’s face as well, only she isn’t that great at blowing yet, so there is not a lot of air and Ava doesn’t respond quite as vociferously. Instead she licks at Isabel’s blows. Isabel, hoping for a bigger response, tries harder.
Have you ever gotten so buried in a book for days that when you’re through you’re in a daze? This is where I have been and where I am at now. It’s an odd feeling. I want to go to that world for a while and leave mine.
If Huckabee is to be believed, I am causing more damage to the world than bombs because I’m a GASP! single mother!! I’m uneducated (except for that doctorate–oops, don’t tell!), I’m poor (except for my decent income–better keep quiet on that one!), I am stealing money from the state in the form of welfare (okay, I have to concede on this–I get Oregon Health Plan because I had breast cancer. What a loser!), and I’m raising damaged children born out of wedlock who will fill the prisons because I alone ruined them since no man was around to keep me in line. My lovely, well-behaved, HAPPY daughters are destined for hell. What can I say? I should just lie on the floor and waste away because I’m so worthless and so are my babies. C’est la vie. I love them anyway.
I have stopped eating most sugar and for the most part, this works just fine. However, there are some nights (like this one), where I long to eat a giant slice of chocolate cake filled with warm, chocolate filling, or banana cream pie, or a brownie, or chocolate mousse, or vanilla cake with thick, white, creamy frosting, or something else with sugar in it.
My little daughter is perfect. I have moments sometimes, when I’m holding her hand or looking at her, when I think to myself that I am a human and she is a human, she is my cub, my baby. I held her hand tonight as she lay against me in the crook of my right shoulder. I could smell the warmth of her body wafting upward, see the tiny curls forming in the sweat along the base of her neck. She held both my hands with her hands, each of her fingers warm and soft. I picked at her baby fingernails with mine, catching the ends and pulling off the sharp places. This is my cub, I thought. This is my little human. Here we are, two humans, lying together in this bed in this house in the twilight as she moves into sleep. The moment was so basic, so contented, so perfect in its simplicity. I love my human child. I love every moment with her. She brings me grace and contentment. She is perfect.
I have got to do something to my brain so that instead of finding my job annoying, I re-appreciate the things about it that are so much more worthwhile than they could be. Probably a vacation would help. I haven’t taken one since I started a year and a half ago. I really want to go to Spain. Or France. Hell, right now I would love to head to Japan and help with cleanup efforts. Anything but the same old complaints from clients all the time all the time all the time. Gads, here I am wishing I could have a better attitude mainly because I’m wishing my clients had a better attitude. Not all of them, mind you. But the ones who drive me nuts obliterate the other 95%.
That said, I have several who are sweet, kind, and wonderful. One couple even baked me cinnamon rolls. That was good.
Life is so weird. It has a feeling of layering, piece upon piece, seeming to repeat in places. But really, each moment follows the other in a line, second after second after minute after minute after hour after hour and on and on. We have moments where we create something or achieve something and in that moment it is the highlight, but then that moment passes and the highlight is old and forgotten. Strange.
I weaned myself off caffeine. Then gradually, I would have a tea here, a tea there, to the point where I’m addicted to the crap again. It isn’t as bad as it could be; I don’t drink it every day. Yet I have gotten to the point that on the days I don’t drink it I feel like a rundown engine, like I’m in fourth gear heading up a hill, my parts clanking.
Today I haven’t had any, and while I have had a few uninterrupted hours while Isabel sleeps, I have not had the energy or spark to perform any of my creative tasks at all. I picked up the cello and played a bit. Blah. I sat down here to write. Nothing to say. I need to finish my taxes, which really won’t be difficult, but oh, so exhausting. I just want to lie around and watch a movie. It’s pathetic. I did manage a run this morning, and it’s a good thing I did it then, because I wouldn’t do it now.
Caffeine is insidious. It’s a drug, for sure. I’m debating just drinking some just to get over the hump. I need to work on my book. Baby is occupied. This is as good a time as any. But if I do, I’m just keeping the cycle going. When would ever be a good time? I just don’t know.
This post is about as blah as I feel in my caffeine-deprived state.
Pointless ramble of the day:
I have a feeling I might turn into a giant avocado. I have been eating at least one a day for over a month now. They are the perfect snack–they fill me up and kill any carb craving I might have been experiencing, and they are so delicious. Plus they are such a lovely, green color inside; sometimes yellow when not quite ripe enough, all the way to a deep, unripe apple green. Milla and Isabel enjoy them as well. I wonder though, what will become of the three dozen or so avocado pits we have tossed into the shrubbery next to the house, if they will sprout and become mini avocado plants that won’t bloom because it is too cold here, or if they will just die away.
I have been dabbling with the idea of buying a cello. I have been taking lessons for a while now and renting a cello that actually sounds rather good. The rental price applies to the purchase of a new cello, but only for the first year. With this in mind, my teacher and I decided to head to the luthier’s to try some out and see what could be had within my budget. Cello shopping. Shello chopping!
When one goes to purchase a cello, there are usually practice rooms in which to try out various choices. I called the luthier ahead of time and let them know I would be in with my instructor to try cellos. When we got there, the saleswoman brought in six to try. None of them sounded better than my rental cello. Even when my instructor played, they sounded screetchy and flat.
A note about the rental cello. When I originally went to rent it, my instructor had informed me that the shop had an excellent rental cello, with a lovely, full-bodied sound. She hoped I would be able to get this cello to rent, and indeed I did. Nearly every week she comments about its pretty sound. After having gone now and listened to many cellos, I can see what she means.
Since the first six were not worthy, we asked to see a few more in the next price bracket up. These did not sound any better than the rental cello, and cost over a $1000 more. So we asked to see some in the next price bracket.
Another side note. About a week before this shopping trip, I had been to the same shop to purchase a violin for my daughter. I told them my price range, and they brought in 8 for us to try. One of the workers in the shop came in to play for us. Two stood out, and one of those was obviously superior. When we went to purchase it, however, it turned out the price was about $2000 more than I had intended to spend. We sent that one back and got the second choice, which was in our price range.
I bring this story up because while cello shopping, something similar occurred. The saleswoman brought in three cellos in the price category that was at the top of what I could spend (and this was more than what I really wanted to spend, but I figured it would not hurt to hear them). These cellos were far superior to the previous lot, and one Czechoslovakian cello shone above all. It had a full, round, gorgeous sound. When I picked it up to play, I felt a welling of emotion through my body and my chest. It reminded me of a dressage horse, eloquent and beautiful. Even my playing sounded lovely on this cello. I decided to take it home for a week when it turned out the price was $1000 more than I had told them I could spend. I wondered then, whether this was their m.o., to bring in a batch of instruments with one far superior to the others in the hope that an unwitting buyer would fall so in love, that money be damned, they would buy the instrument. I’m not so easily swayed, and my budget is my budget because I don’t have any more to spend, and I don’t use credit. I decided to take the gorgeous thing home, but I knew the visit would be temporary.
Another big part of the trip entailed trying various bows. It was not until that point that I realized how much a difference a good bow makes when playing a cello. The rental bow I have is a piece of crap. It is a lot of work to balance properly and requires effort to run along the strings. I tried at least a dozen bows that day and discovered how much easier it is to play with a decent bow. I could feel the difference. It was amazing. And the better bows sounded better. Even I, rough and new, didn’t sound half bad with a good bow. I found the bow that best matched the lovely Czechoslovakian cello and arranged to take them home.
During the week, I played both the Czech cello and my rental. I played my rental with the nice bow and while it sounded better than the rental bow, the good bow was not the best match for my rental cello (bows sound different on different cellos, so one has to find a good pair). I loved the beautiful sounds I made on the Czech cello. However, I realized that it was outside my price range. And having listened to a lot of cellos, I saw that my little rental actually did sound pretty good. I decided I would try to find my rental a good bow partner and keep her for a while. In the long run, I might spend a bit more, but for now, the cello I have does just fine. If I ever get to the point where my playing wouldn’t make people want to hide under a rock, I will look again at spending more money, and who knows? Maybe the Czech cello will still be there, waiting for me. I can dream.
The devastation in Japan is heartbreaking. They got disaster times three, and it keeps on because of the increasing radiation danger. It’s even worse considering their history with Nagasaki and Hiroshima, like the horror has returned. I wish I could go there right now and start helping. I wish there were something I could actually do with my hands to make things better. I want to go start helping to clean up. I want to bring food, clothes, blankets. Yet I can’t. I’m here. Not only are flights in and out of the city not happening, I have a toddler and an 11-year-old. I’m a single parent. I can’t just pick up and leave them–I won’t. Every time there is a catastrophe, I reiterate to myself that I can never be so far from them that I can’t get to them on foot.
I saw a photograph of a rescue worker holding a baby he found. The next photo showed the child with her father, turning to escape a second wave of water. I hope they got away. My heart goes out to all of them. I wish I could do more.
A rare night when both children fell asleep early and I don’t know what to do with myself. I played the cello already. I cleaned the kitchen. I have now surfed the internets as much as I can bear. Yet I can’t think of anything clever to do or write. Mainly I would just like to go to sleep. How lame is that?
Isabel is strumming the heater vent like she strums her ukulele, Milla’s violin, and my cello.
I have said it before, but it is true. I used to be prolific. Go back to 2007, 2008. You’ll see. Every day, all the time. Now the most writing I do is an occasional status update on facebook. Whoopee. That’s life with a baby. I actually had a real idea last week right in the dawn space before waking. I lost it. Then this morning I decided to write about cello shopping…shello chopping. Now baby is kissing the mirror, biting the ball, kissing the mirror, biting the ball. She is a fly-by-the-seat-of-her-pants kind of gal.
Time to get going again. I will watch Isabel strum, and oh, now she is shoving the ball into the mirror and singing to it. Fun times!
Whatever pitiful scrap of patience I maintain on a day-to-day basis is eradicated mercilessly by lack of sleep.