This Might Take the Cake

By LASIS Staff

The chutzpah cake, that is.

We’ve written about this kind of thing before, but a recent New York Times story really stunned us.

It seems that a couple of Romanian guys with nothing better to do and some time on their hands decided to steal a couple of paintings from the Kunsthal Museum in Rotterdam. Not particularly educated in the world of haute art, they weren’t even sure what they were stealing, but they made off with two Monets, a Gauguin, a Picasso, a Matisse, a Lucien Freud (yes, that Lucien Freud).  Unable to easily unload the fruits of their heist, they destroyed the artwork, increasing the severity of both their crime, and most likely, their punishment.

And what did one of the attorneys representing one of the thieves tell reporters?  His client “was considering suing the gallery for its ‘negligence’ in allowing itself to be breached so easily.

Now, that, LASIS readers, is chutzpah.


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Pretty Wife, Ugly Baby, Angry Hubby

By Courtney Weinstein

News from China that’s been swirling around the Internet:  A man had an ugly baby.

At first Jian Feng insisted that his wife had been unfaithful because there was no way in hell he could have sired such an unattractive child. A DNA test proved him wrong. He had produced “an extremely ugly baby girl” (his words, not mine).

And then Mrs. Feng coughed up a little secret — she had undergone about $100,000 in cosmetic procedures before they met. Mr. Feng was outraged. He felt cheap, used, bamboozled. He was not going to put up with his wife’s fraudulent behavior. Did he ask for an apology? Maybe. Did he sleep on the couch for a couple of nights? Perhaps. In fact, he went further than that: He filed for divorce.  And even further than that:  He sued Mrs. Feng on the grounds of false pretenses; he’d married her believing she was a natural beauty. A court ruled in his favor, to the tune of $120,000

While the media has been covering the story (even trying to figure out if it’s true or not), we wondered whether those of us who’ve had some botox are safe. Does concealing plastic surgery from your betrothed constitute fraud?

LASIS investigates New York’s take on secretly nipping and tucking before walking down the aisle.

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“Capturing” My Hometown

By Noah Forrest

Jesse Friedman is a convicted child molester.  And he wants your sympathy.

I hadn’t heard about Arnold Friedman’s pedophilic sexual molestation scandal that rocked Great Neck, Long Island in the mid-80s until I learned of Andrew Jarecki’s film, “Capturing the Friedmans.”  That might not be that surprising, considering most people likely knew about the scandal from the film, if at all.  But there was one crucial difference between most people and me…

I’m from Great Neck.   My house was a few minutes walk from the Friedmans.

A little background: Arnold Friedman was an award-winning high school science teacher who also taught a computer class for elementary schoolers in the basement of his home.  After a sting operation by the Nassau County Police Department, Arnold was caught with magazines depicting child pornography.  The police investigated, and then interrogated the computer students.  Several of the students reported sexual abuse at the classes, with both Arnold and his youngest son, 17-year-old Jesse, as perpetrators.

Arnold pled guilty and committed suicide in prison in 1995.  At a time when the McMartin trial was splashed on the front pages of every newspaper, Jesse was told by Judge Abbey Boklan that she would pursue the maximum sentence allowable under law – consecutive, rather than concurrent sentences for each count – and Jesse accepted a plea deal that put him in prison for 13 years.

A little about Great Neck: my hometown is a perfectly fine suburban community that’s overwhelmingly homogeneous. Practically everybody in my town is Jewish; the majority are fairly wealthy.  This has made Great Neck a popular target for a media only too happy to report on things like, say, a kid who helped others cheat on their SATs.  Or, perhaps, a television show devoted to stereotypes about rich Jews.

Typical of Great Neck at the time of the Friedman scandal was that nobody talked about it.  It was a place where things got swept under the rug or ignored., so that the town could maintain its picture postcard image of perfection.  But I suppose that’s true of most wealthy suburban communities.

Personally, I couldn’t wait to leave.  And now that my family has moved, I see no reason to go back.

A little about Jesse Friedman: despite the heinous crimes he’s accused of, despite the film’s inconclusive stance about his involvement in (possible) abuse, despite his having gone on record (in court and on “Geraldo”) to say that he was sexually abused by his own father, despite the fact that he pled guilty…he wants the court to set aside his conviction.

Jesse has had ace criminal defense and civil rights lawyer Ron Kuby on the case for the last decade. Mr. Kuby is trying to get a court to permit Jesse to have a normal life that doesn’t require him to register as a sex offender, on the grounds that he never committed any sex offenses.

On November 7, the LASIS newsroom was treated to a brand new evidence reel crafted by Mr. Jarecki , originally made to persuade the Nassau County District Attorney’s office – in the midst of a reinvestigation into the case – of Jesse’s innocence.  Public relations guru Lonnie Soury, a man whose tireless work helped free the wrongfully convicted West Memphis Three, screened the reel for us, and stayed on to answer our questions.

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PayPal, eBay, Bill Me Later: Three’s a Crowd

By Shannon Moody 

The Haggler, our favorite New York Times columnist, was recently contacted by one Shawn Guffey for help with his lose-lose situation.

Last November, Mr. Guffey listed his laptop on eBay and sold it for $611. The buyer paid via PayPal. In April, Mr. Guffey saw that PayPal had taken the $611 out of his account. He contacted the company and learned that the laptop purchaser had asked to reverse the charge, via a chargeback. This surprised Mr. Guffey since the buyer had never made any complaints about the laptop, and presumably had been using it for nearly six months.

Mr. Guffey decided to play Inspector Gadget and contacted the buyer, Larry Andrick. But it turned out that Mr. Andrick wasn’t the buyer at all. As he explained to Mr. Guffey, his identity had been stolen. The laptop purchase was made by the thief, and  PayPal had funded a buying spree by extending the thief a credit line under Bill Me Later, a PayPal service that is instant credit minus the plastic.

The Haggler lined up four candidates that could have potentially been stuck with the $611 bill  –Mr. Andrick, the woman who allegedly signed for the laptop upon delivery, Mr. Guffey, and PayPal — but didn’t provide a legal analysis.

The Haggler also wrote that he sensed something was wrong with “the reality that PayPal, Bill Me Later and eBay operate under one corporate umbrella,” but couldn’t quite put his finger on what that something was.

LASIS to the rescue.

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Spike Lee’s Twitter Vigilantism

By LASIS Staff

Back in April 2012, then LASIS  reporter (and now Credit Suisse attorney) Jessica McElroy examined the death threats made against an elderly Florida couple (who as it happened, had nothing to do with the shooting of Trayvon Martin), after filmmaker Spike Lee tweeted their address to all his followers, under the mistaken belief that it was George Zimmerman’s address.

As Ms. McElroy put it: “Mr. Lee is lucky that nothing happened to the McClains or their property. As it is, the McClains could have sued Mr. Lee for his negligent actions, and if they prevailed, the court would have reached into his deep pockets for compensatory damages (money that the defendant pays to cover the out-of-pocket costs of the plaintiff’s injury) and possibly punitive damages (to punish Mr. Lee).”

Mr. Lee’s luck may have run out.


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