Scams-a-go-go

The Examiner bills itself as “The Independent Voice of Southeast Texas” and strives to report the news without fear or favor. This leads to some uncomfortable moments for those who would take advantage of vulnerable citizens in our society, which is how it should be – and we don’t plan to stop anytime soon.

In this week’s edition, we update two cases that were prominently featured in our pages in 2012 and are still unfolding. In both instances, The Examiner has taken a lead role in shining a spotlight in the dark corners where these dubious firms operate.

We first alerted readers to a scheme to defraud Southeast Texas seniors back in August when Jennifer Johnson blew the whistle on Syam Tax Services and their scheme to illegally file falsified federal income tax returns on their victims’ behalf that the IRS inexplicably paid – then stuck the hapless seniors with the bill to repay the money.

As Johnson’s investigation progressed, law enforcement got in on the act. Federal prosecutors staged a raid on a Port Arthur house belonging to Diana Broussard, who multiple victims alleged had duped them under the Syam name. The Department of Justice can be slow and methodical but they keep coming. Witness recent indictments in a case arising from the Hurricane Ike cleanup money more than four years after the storm ravaged Southeast Texas. The feds are also notoriously close-mouthed until they actually file charges, so they typically issue no statements while an investigation is on-going. Syam apparently took this silence as a license to steal as their scam continued unabated. We reported this development in December, which finally roused the office of Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott to take action.

Now the AG has charged Syam Tax Services and two of its officers, Shannon Mays and Marshrief Shead, with fraudulently obtaining elderly Texans’ sensitive personal information to facilitate the illegal filing of those falsified tax returns. A state district judge in Houston also froze Syam’s assets and entered a temporary restraining order against all named defendants.

The case against Dan Warren and his Guardian Angel Service Dogs is a little murkier. Warren thinks he is entitled to roughly $70,000 for a puppy he himself values at (only) $20,000. The untrained Labrador retriever puppy was sold to Ryan and Tara McLeod of Groves as a diabetic alert dog for their son Racer. Warren asked 58th District Court Judge Bob Wortham to have the court case squashed in Texas on a technicality, but the judge declined. Now Warren will have to defend his greed in a Texas courtroom.

The common element running through these very different cases is this newspaper and our determination to bring injustice to light. It is more difficult to perpetrate a scam when somebody is watching – and The Examiner is watching.

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