Judge finds couple guilty of fraud
After a long investigation, the U.S. Attorney General’s office filed charges against Eric Elegado and Charmagne Elegado for perpetrating a $50 million fraud scheme, even targeting Charmagne’s parents who lost over $75,000 to the scheme.
Charmagne masterminded the scam, according to prosecutors, and Eric was the frontman and marketing mind, parking their Bentleys, Rolls Royces, and Ferraris outside of his seminars, teaching others how to get rich like them.
U.S. District Judge Anthony Battaglia sentenced the couple to three years and five months in prison each for their role, and sentencing for others involved will take place later this year.
“You were living the American dream until greed entered into the picture,” Judge Battaglia said at sentencing.
How their scheme worked
The operation falsified loan applications for underqualified buyers’ subprime loans, obtained mortgages higher than the sales price of the homes, and funneled profits through dummy corporations, leading to millions in profits. According to the FBI investigation, Charmagne was a loan officer who directed fellow loan officers, as well as agents at her husband’s brokerage, E Real Estate and Loans, to falsify income and employment on loan applications, sometimes scribbling down names of friends’ companies.
Investigators say the scheme wasn’t directed at the general public, the couple took advantage of friends and family as part of the money making scandal.
The couple says they were just trying to help people get homes, prosecutors said it was a money grab in a tight-knit community where they took advantage of the trust they had earned.
Eric’s real estate company made roughly $3.5 million on 104 fraudulent deals, and the FBI says that the loss to lenders is roughly $10.5 million.
The couple apologized in court
The Elegado’s lawyers said that the couple’s criminal conduct was brief, only between December 2005 and February 2007, and was completely uncharacteristic of the two, and that Charmagne was pressured by the culture at New Century Mortgage, where no-document loans were common, and say Charmagne can’t be singled out for an entire subprime industry which “foster[ed] this type of behavior.”
Prosecutors called this argument a distraction and pointed out that the Elegados went to great lengths to corrupt the system for years.
Both expressed to the judge that they were sorry, and Eric offered to do all of the jail time so his wife could stay at home with their young son. The plea was rejected by the judge for this crime which left many homeowners in a bad credit position, many even having to move out of the state as a result. Dozens of their family and friends present cried when Judge Battaglia sentenced both to prison.
What now for the Elegados?
Eric continues to work as a real estate agent, despite his poor reputation, and Charmagne is earning a living as an independent contractor and a part time child care worker at her church.
They live with family in Escondido and are reportedly broke. There is no word as to their ability to pay the penalties. At a restitution hearing on May 27, prosecutors plan to ask the couple to repay the $10.5 million loss the lenders saw.
Four other employees charged in the case are set to be sentenced today, and others will be sentenced later this year.
Photo courtesy of U.S. Attorney General’s office has been modified.
9-to-5 workdays are no longer the norm: Flexibility brings productivity
(BUSINESS) Doing away with 9-to-5 workdays in a cubicle can work wonders for a team’s productivity. This is no longer a dream, but today’s reality.
As we’ve seen in recent years, many of the old concepts about work have been turned on their heads. Many offices allow a more casual dress as compared to the suit and tie standard, and more and more teams have the option of working remotely. One of these concepts that have been in flux for a bit is challenging the norm of 9-to-5 workdays. Offices are giving more options of flex hours and remote work, with the understanding that the work must be completed effectively and efficiently with these flexibilities.
Recently, I got sucked into one of those quick-cut Facebook videos about a company that decided to test out the method of a four-day workweek. This gave employees the option of what day they would like to take off, or, it gave employees the option to work all five days of the week, but with flex hours.
Despite the decrease in hours worked, employees were still paid for a 40-hour workweek which continued their incentive to get the same amount of work done in a more flexible manner. With this shift in time use, the results found that employees wasted less time around the office with mindless chit-chat, as they understood there was less time to waste.
The boss in this office had each team explain how they were going to deliver the same level of productivity. The video did not share the explanations, but it could be assumed that the incentive of a day off would encourage employees to continue their level of productivity, if not increase it.
This was done with the goal of working smarter, rather than harder. Finding ways to manage time better (like finishing up a task before starting another one) helps to stay efficient.
During the trial, it was found that productivity, team engagement, and morale all increased, while stress levels decreased. Having time for yourself (an extra day off) and not overworking yourself are important keys to being balanced and engaged.
There is such a stigma about the way you have to operate in order to be successful (e.g. getting up early, using every hour at your disposal, and using free time to meditate).
Let’s get real – we all need a little free time to check back in with ourselves by doing something mindless (like a good old-fashioned Game of Thrones binge). If not, we’ll go bonkers.
Flex hours and remote working are not all about having time to do morning yoga and read best-seller after best-seller. Flex hours give us the time to take our kids to and from school and comfortably wear our parenting caps without fear of getting fired for not showing up to work precisely at 9 AM.
9-to-5 workdays are becoming dated and I’m glad to see that happen. So many people run themselves ragged within this frame and it’s impossible to find that happy work-life balance. Using flex options can help people manage every aspect of their lives in a positive way.
Corporate-franchise relationships: How has COVID affected them?
(BUSINESS NEWS) Being a part of a franchise has made sense for a long time for both the corporation and the franchisee, but the long stretch of COVID is adding complications.
Americans love a franchise. We love knowing that every Dunkin Donuts iced coffee will taste the same as it did 3 states away – and every McDonald’s snack wrap will meet our expectations.
Franchises rose in popularity after World War II, and the corporate-franchise relationship since has generally been a happy one – that is, until COVID-19.
What’s their relationship?
Franchises are easier to start than a small business from scratch. You receive a business playbook and brand loyalty from corporate – if the business at large is doing well, chances are your franchise will mirror that. No need for independent advertising!
From the franchises, corporate gets an upfront fee and ongoing royalties. (For a McDonalds franchise, that’s $45k and 4% of monthly gross sales, respectively.)
Basically, it’s win-win. Both parties are happy.
The pandemic has shrunk margins across most industries, and the chain hotels, restaurants and services have been hit hard. As a result, corporate is adding more costs for franchisees, such as big cleaning bills and promotional discounts to bring back some revenue during COVID.
However, with corporate still taking the same amount from the franchises every month, these newly instated policies threaten to drive some stores into the ground – and franchisees are fighting back.
“I get that franchising isn’t a democracy,” said a Subway franchisee, who objected to the unprofitable “2-Subs-for-$10” promotion that corporate was pushing for. “But at the same time, it’s not a dictatorship.”
What I see here is corporate greed at work; they need to keep their margins up in a sinking economy, so they’re looking to the pockets of their franchisees to make up for that lost dough.
The pandemic has not been easy on any business (with the exception, of course, of Amazon, Facebook, and Tesla, which is a whole other story). However, that’s the draw of being connected to corporate – you are tied to something bigger than your individual store, and will thus stay afloat as long as they do. It’s a big reason why many opt for starting a franchise as opposed to starting their own, independent small business.
I’m glad to see individuals fighting back against corporate policies that don’t benefit them. They held up their side of the bargain – let’s see if corporate can continue to hold up theirs.
What to do if you think you have been wrongfully terminated
(BUSINESS NEWS) Being fired hurts, but especially if you were wrongfully terminated. Here is what you can do if you need to take action.
While there are plenty of ways an employer can legally fire an employee, there’s also a long list of unethical and illegal methods. If you suspect you’ve been wrongfully terminated from your job, it’s imperative that you fight back.
Common Signs of Wrongful Termination
Research shows that around 150,000 people are unjustly fired every year in the United States. That’s more than 410 people per day – roughly 17 people per hour. Here are some common signs that you’re a victim:
- Violation of written rules or promises. The vast majority of employment is known as “at-will” employment. This means you may be fired at any time for any reason (so long as the reason is not illegal). However, if there’s a written statement or contract that implies job security, then you’re probably not an at-will employee. Review all of your employment documents to see what sort of language exists around the topic of termination.
- Discrimination. It doesn’t matter if you’re an at-will employee or not, employers can never fire someone based on discrimination. It’s illegal – point blank, period. If you suspect you’ve been fired because of your color, race, gender, nationality, sexual orientation, disability, age, religion, or pregnancy, discrimination could be to blame.
- Breach of good faith. Employers are known to breach good faith when they do things like mislead employees regarding their chances for promotions; fabricate reasons for firing; transfer or fire an employee to prevent the collection of sales commissions; and other similar situations.
Every situation is different, but these three signs are clear indicators that you have a potential wrongful termination claim. How you proceed will determine what happens next.
How to Respond to a Wrongful Termination
Emotions tend to run high when you’re fired from a job. Whether you loved the job or not, it’s totally normal to run a little hot under the collar upon being wrongfully terminated. But how you handle the first several hours and days will determine a lot about how this situation unfolds. Now is not the time to fly off the handle and say or do something you’ll regret. Instead, take a diplomatic response that includes steps like:
1. Gather Evidence
Wrongful termination cases are usually more complicated than they first appear on the surface. It’s important that you focus on gathering as much evidence as you possibly can. Any information or documentation you collect will increase your chances for a successful outcome. This may include emails, screenshots, written contracts and documentation, voicemails, text messages, and/or statements from coworkers.
On a related note, remember that your former employer will be doing the same thing (if a claim is brought). Be on your best behavior and don’t let your emotions get the best of you. Avoid venting to coworkers or firing off short, snappy emails to your former boss. As the saying goes, anything you say or do can and will be used against you.
2. Hire an Attorney
Don’t try to handle your wrongful termination case on your own. Hire an experienced lawyer who specializes in situations like yours. This will give you a much better chance of obtaining a successful outcome.
3. Get Legal Funding
If you’re like most victims of wrongful termination, you find yourself with no immediate source of income. This can make it difficult to pay your bills and stay financially solvent in the short term. An employment lawsuit loan could help bridge the gap.
As Upfit Legal Funding explains, “Wrongful termination lawsuit loans provide the necessary financial assistance they need to reach a settlement. This funding helps cover basic living costs until the plaintiff is able to get assistance from their settlement.”
The best thing about these loans is that you only have to repay them if there’s a successful outcome. In other words, if the claim gets thrown out or denied, you owe nothing.
4. File the Proper Paperwork
Work closely with your attorney to make sure that your complaints and claims are filed with the appropriate regulatory agencies (and that you meet the required deadlines). Depending on the type of claim, there are different groups that oversee the complaint and can help you move in the proper direction.
Adding it All Up
Getting fired is serious business. And while there are plenty of legal reasons for being terminated from a job, it’s worth exploring what’s actually going on behind the scenes. If it’s found that your employer stepped out of line, you’ll be compensated in an appropriate manner. This won’t typically help you get your job back, but it can provide some financial rectification.
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