Friends and Family Fraud
It continues to amaze the New York City family fraud attorneys associated with this Firm at the substantial number of cases that arise from egregious money damages people can suffer at the hands of friends and even family of the victim. This Firm has taken on a number of most disturbing cases where a massive and devastating fraud occurs from someone so close. We at the Firm see real life stories of small and large magnitudes, of the nature that viewers can see on a CNBC episode of “American Greed.”
From our experience, these cases engender a different adage: that money is thicker than blood. Money can put a friend or family relationship on the chopping block, and catch a victim at his/her most unawares. It normally does not ever occur to the victim that their family member could steal away with money or assets. These most unfortunate cases bring us to an adage conclusion: “The Enemy you know is better than the Friend you don’t.”
Of course, when brothers or sisters or even parents are partners with their children, we have seen where money or assets can get in the way of even that familial relationship. We have seen where trust is taken for granted among family members and still one is duped in to losing money and the hands of the other. These instances are not merely e.g. siblings quabbling over an inheritance, but they reach far more egregious circumstances where using that close trust of family, one member essentially steals money or assets away. In these case, we have found there to be a heightened sense of outrage by the judiciary who may be uncomfortable to render a judgment against family members.
Trusted friends can also take advantage. Our New York City family fraud lawyers have also seen numerous cases where a victim places their trust in a friend by investing money in his/her venture, only to see the investment disappear. Often these cases involve a friend who has a proven track record of success in a given area of investment: e.g. commercial or residential real estate, securities (stocks or bonds), or an online or “brick and mortar” business. As such, the trust the victim places in the fraudster can come from years of admiration of that person’s success, and hope to repeat that success. In the end, the victim’s money might have been safer with an “arms-length” investor, or someone who is professional and without the trust relationship.
Related to this area of fraud is that which occurs in a formal or informal partnership. As more fully described in the section on Partnership Disputes, the trust of a partner, who may not be a friend or family member, can also wreak financial havoc on the unknowing partner. Trust can therefore come not merely at the beginning of an investment relationship, but throughout the venture. The money damages are no less egregious.
The big word in these matters is “Access.” Friends and family can often have access to financial or other personal and private information of the victim. Unlike an online hacker or other identity thief, friends and family can gain easy access to that sensitive information that will, for example, fool a creditor into believing it has the right person. Sisters and brothers are common victims of this practice. Other such victims of this fraud are the elderly parents; people who may depend on someone they trust care for them at home where they keep sensitive material. A nurse or other personal assistant need only distract the victim while he/she steals the financial information with which to run hog wild.
Only some examples of this egregious fraud that the family fraud attorneys at our New York City firm have litigated are: forged or altered Power(s) of Attorney, misuse of a social security number or other personal and banking information, abuse by a limited partner of the minority shareholders, use of deceased information for credit or money, and abuse of an elderly person in signing papers.