The Weekly Writ: Maryland Legal News You Can Use for January 4, 2021

Today on January 4, 2021, read about:

Of course, if these or any other legal questions are impacting you and your family, then don't hesitate to reach out to JC Law for your free initial consultation with one of our expert domestic, criminal, or civil litigation attorneys.

Priestly Ponzi Scheme

Original Story

What's Going On:

The FBI and U.S. Attorney’s office are looking for people who may have lost money as result of a Ponzi scheme.

The alleged suspects were based in Maryland and targeted people here and in multiple other states between August 2017 to May 2019.

The accused allegedly stole $28 million by posing as pastors. Targets were encouraged to invest as a way to further churches' philanthropic missions and get personal financial freedom.

However, instead of investing in new technologies such as cryptocurrency, the new funds repaid past investors and for personal expenses, defrauding both old and new investors.

All three suspects were recently arrested.

Authorities currently are searching for anyone who may have been involved in this Ponzi scheme.

Why This Matters To You:

Everybody loves to make a quick buck or strike it rich. (There's a reason the Maryland Lottery is so popular: The chance to win millions.)

Usually, you got to work for that money or invest well, but it takes time – 40 hours a week, anyone?

Get rich quick schemes like a Ponzi scheme promise a quick return and large profit.

Instead of actually investing, they embezzle the investors money to pay off previous debts, other investors, and often personal expenses. They never actually invest the funds, committing fraud.

Since the supposed crime happened in multiple states, the arrested trio are looking at federal charges.

One of the alleged suspects does own and run an investment company, so there is a possibility that he himself was taken advantage of rather than the other way around.

Also, money is not guaranteed to be made when it is invested. Sometimes the investment goes wrong, and the money is lost or significantly lessened. 

Wall Street is a game of risk and reward. After all, without risking cash in a company or stock, there can be no reward in the form of a fat check or dividend.

Some happen to be better at the game than others.

More About White Collar Embezzlement Charges

Last Remaining Potomac River Ferry Ends Service

Original Story

What's Going On:

Last week, the final remaining ferry across the Potomac River shuttered.

Historic White’s Ferry announced on its Facebook page that a judge had ordered that there the former public landing of the ferry is now (and always was) private property. Therefore, the ferry can't land in Virginia, effectively shutting it down.

A centuries-old legal battle over the exact location of the landing began in 1871, when Loudon County gave private land to the ferry. However, County failed to mark the boundaries on a map or otherwise record the transaction as separate from the private farmland neighboring the site.

In 1952, the ferry and the farm came to an agreement. The ferry could use the land that they already were for a small payment of something like $5 a year.

This agreement lasted until 2009, when the ferry wanted to expand the size of the landing. The farm protested, and a lawsuit began that slowly made its way through the courts.

The litigation concluded in 2020 with the permanent closure of the landing. Rather than wait for the court order to take effect, the owner of White's Ferry complied immediately.

The closure affects thousands of commuters on both sides of the river. The ferry is the only crossing over the Potomac between Point of Rocks Bridge and the American Legion Bridge – a 40-mile stretch.

The town commissioner of Poolesville says that the local government will work with their Virginia counterparts to get the ferry running again.

Why This Matters To You:

Could 2020 have been any worse? Now the year has decided to ruin DMVers commutes in 2021 – as if I-270 wasn’t bad enough!

Now, because of the closure, more people will be on I-270, US Rt. 15, and I-495. The congestion will possibly lead to more traffic accidents and incidents on those roadways.

Plus, who would think that this civil litigation dates back to the late 1800s? Talk about a long time through the court system!

Although a deal had been struck in the 1950s, the ferry’s pushed too far in its expansion for today’s customers. It was a bridge too far for the farm– sorry not sorry– who took it to the courts to decide once and for all.

At this time, nothing is known about the ferry reopening anytime soon.

It appears that the amount of money being paid yearly – originally established in 1952 – did not meet what the farm owners considered fair for today’s value.

A business is a business, and the owners are in it to make money. When the money’s not right, problems bubble to the surface.

Hopefully, a deal can be struck, but the likelihood that this civil matter appears before Virginia courts again is high.

More About Civil Litigation in Maryland

Divorce rates Climbing During Pandemic

Original Story

What's Going On:

With the pandemic, some relationships are seeing cracks caused by stress due to the COVID-19 outbreak.

That stress makes some partners see each other in a whole new light for the first time, prompting more divorces and legal separations than we've seen in a while.

It's not just our Firm, either. One expert says that divorce now happens to roughly eight out of ten couples since the pandemic began.

Typical working married couples only see each other for a few hours a day and on weekends. But, the pandemic has made that 24/7, and some just cannot handle the proximity.

There are five things dedicated spouses can do to keep the marriage strong, healthy, and away from divorce:

  • Communicate – Talk and listen to each other. Don’t let little things build into bigger problems.
  • Make couples time – Do things together (without the kids when possible).
  • Keep it interesting – Surprise your spouse and add spice to the boring old routine.
  • Be fit and healthy – No one is asking you to be Michael B. Jordan or Emilia Clarke, but they’re not asking for My 600-Pound Life either. Take care of yourself! Eat right, bathe, brush your teeth – you know, the little things. These tiny imperfections magnify and become more noticeable than ever.
  • Compromise – Nobody’s perfect. Learn to accept with your spouse’s little quirks and let some things go every once in a while.

Why This Matters To You:

Sometimes, ending the relationship is the right thing to do. Other times, it may just need a little working on to fix the issues.

Many divorces are the result of growing apart, repeated conflict, infidelity, lying, violence, substance abuse, or even seemingly simple disagreements on how to raise kids.

We all deal with stress in different ways. Some handle it like a champ, while others wilt under its pressure.

Maybe it just was not meant to be, and the pandemic proved that the compatibility between spouses wasn’t as high as originally thought.

But, maybe the increased time together is just making it a little difficult to get along right now.

Either way, marriages are never easy and take work.

Separating for a time may give clarity to the situation and allow the couple to work it out by discovering they do want to be with each other. Distance can make the heart grow founder.

Plus, being stuck at home with the kids and no alone time as a couple is rough. Having “adult” time is necessary to keep a relationship strong.

You were just a couple before the kids came along. What did you do back then that made you both happy together?

Still, there are instances where the relationship is just dead, and divorce is the logical step.

COVID-19 has put us all in situations we’ve never been in. We can either crack and break, or stand strong and work together.

More About Divorce in Maryland

Maryland Lawmakers To Further Protect Renters in 2021

Original Story

What's Going On:

Housing advocates and Maryland lawmakers are pushing for further renter protections as the pandemic continues to affect Americans. Millions remain jobless and unable to afford rent.

This January, Maryland legislators will consider a relief bill that would bar all evictions – other than ones that cite an imminent threat until April 2022.

Other legislation will encourage landlords to seek alternatives to eviction and establish a statewide right-to-counsel for renters.

The recent coronavirus relief package from the Feds extends eviction moratoriums until the end of January 2021, as well as providing billions in rental assistance nationwide.

However, Maryland lawmakers felt that is not enough to protect renters in our state.

More proposals under possible consideration include one prohibiting landlords from raising rent or issuing late fees or interest charges during the pandemic.

Another would bar landlords from terminating or not renewing leases without a legitimate reason.

Finally, lawmakers will also consider a bill to create solutions short of eviction, such as mediated repayment plans.

Why This Matters To You:

Many of the millions of renters across Maryland are affected by job loss during the COVID-19 pandemic. For some, it's nearly impossible to keep food on the table and a roof over their heads.

Maryland lawmakers are trying to prevent the loss of those roofs with the upcoming legislation.

But, at the same time, how can you ask a landlord not to collect rent?

After all, renting houses  is their business and may be their main source of income. Some of this legislation without financial support to go along with it will effectively make them unemployed by law instead of by circumstance.

Renters and landlords alike need protections and relief. Disputes between tenants and landlords often end up in court, adding an additional expense to both parties.

Legislation and relief packages hope to keep most of those cases out of court by providing alternatives to eviction, while allowing the landlord to make a living.

More About Maryland Real Estate Matters

Local Assistant Principal Murdered

Original Story

What's Going On:

A local assistant principal and deacon was found dead in his Pikesville home last week.

Police went to the home of the man to conduct a welfare check after family couldn't reach him.

After entering the home, Baltimore County police found the body of a man deceased with traumatic injuries.

A medical examiner verified those injuries to be gunshots. They determined the cause of death as homicide.

The man was identified as Shelton Justin Stanley, assistant principal at Dunbar High School.

Stanley’s church, coworkers, and students are devastated by his death, calling it senseless. Stanley, as described by a friend, was a kind and generous man who loved children and they loved him back.

Police currently have no motive or suspect in the murder case.

Why This Matters To You:

Murder mystery always brings with it intrigue. What happened? Why was this person killed? Who did it?

These questions are all without answers, until police uncover them.

Rumors will surely swirl about suspects and the victim’s lifestyle  All adding to the mystery at hand.

Death is never easy to deal with, especially when it occurs suddenly and tragically.

But, murder creates a situation where on top of the community's loss, police must deal with a crime, and everyone is considered suspect until proven otherwise Even those seemingly grief-stricken.

Every associate of Mr. Stanley will be talked to and questioned by authorities to establish timelines, possible motive, and alibis.

Remember: Police detectives will begin thinking of everyone as a suspect. So, those questioned should keep in mind they have rights as far as it goes to talking to police.

How many times have we heard of authorities using bad techniques in obtaining a confession from a suspect? (Making a Murderer on Netflix goes deep into that topic.)

When police try to bully a person into saying something not true, that's when legal counsel is really needed.

No one needs to go through unnecessary questioning or bad interrogation tactics without an ally and partner at their side.

Although law enforcement's job is to investigate the murder, they need to carefully pursue any suspects to obtain a conviction for prosecutors. Any misstep could throw a wrench into prosecution.

Somebody committed the crime. Police will do their job and try to track down the alleged suspect. But as they do their job, those questioned have rights which law enforcement has to keep if they want to actually prosecute a case.

More About Maryland Murder Charges