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Affinity Fraud hits Mormons

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In February 2009, I wrote about the cancer called "affinity fraud," where investors with the same religious affiliation, ethnic background or come from the same group get preyed upon by a crook, who takes their money based on a false sense of trust.

Now a $50 million scam targeted Mormoms.

“Affinity can be a powerful element,” says Mitchell Zuckoff, a professor of journalism at Boston University and author of “Ponzi’s Scheme: The True Story of a Financial Legend,” a 2005 book about Charles Ponzi’s 1920 fraud. “That’s what gets people to lower their inhibitions. There’s this attitude, ‘He’s like me. I can trust him.’ It’s almost hard- wired into our DNA.”

Madoff Trustee to \"clawback\" funds from charities

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The bottomline is this: If a charity invested in Madoff's ponzi scheme, took money out of the Madoff Fund, those funds can be clawed back by the bankruptcy trustee for distribution to victims.

Irving Picard, the liquidator for Bernard Madoff’s investment business, said he might sue charities that took out more money than they invested with the imprisoned con man to force them to return the difference.

Picard, a lawyer with Baker & Hostetler LLP, declined to discuss specific nonprofit institutions. “We will look at charities on a case-by-case basis before determining what action may be appropriate,” he said.

Picard so far has pursued only charities that he claims should have known about the fraud. He sued longtime Madoff investor Jeffry Picower, a philanthropist and lawyer, and his charity in May for allegedly taking fake profit of $6.7 billion for himself and his affiliates over a 20-year period. His charity is now closed.

Limiting 'government control' a new article of Catholic faith?

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A pastoral statement, titled “Principles of Catholic Social Teaching and Health Care Reform,” issued by Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann of the Kansas City, Kansas, archdiocese, and Bishop Robert W. Finn of Kansas City-St. Joseph appear to wed Catholic articles of faith with current Republican Party articles of faith.

Health Care: Just Pass A Bill

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As Congress returns to Washington, all eyes turn to the issue of health care reform. The month of raucous town meetings and showing up at events where the President is speaking with firearms did little to advance the debate. The media has begun to look at the lies of both left and right to discern where the truth can be found: Yes, there is abortion coverage in the current bills and no there are no death panels. What happens now?

Some Democrats, especially those from swing districts, may be convinced that too many people are worried about the effects of the changes for them to vote for the final bill. This is a mistake. Most Americans want reform, especially reforms that will put an end to the denial of coverage for pre-existing conditions. They also are worried, but remotely, about the escalating costs of health care. Some Americans, but not enough, and certainly not enough religiously motivated voters, worry about the uninsured.

Church fraud in Denver and Cleveland

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With so much church fraud going on in the U.S. Catholic church, it's sometimes hard to keep track of the stories. Now we have two church employee fraud cases announced at the same time.

Starting in the Archdiocese of Denver:

"A 58-year-old former Catholic [arch]Diocese of Denver employee was charged today with felony theft on accusations she diverted more than $391,000 meant for The Denver Foundation's "Concerns for Others Fund."

Ruth Gonzales, most recently the Archidioceasan Housing construction director after a 21-year career with the diocese, is free on $10,000 bond.

In an interview with an investigator, Gonzales admitted to the scheme and said she had spent all the money she had taken."

Now moving eastward to Cleveland:

"A Cleveland Catholic Diocese worker is under investigation for taking several hundred thousands of dollars.

Bob Tayek, spokesman for the Cleveland Catholic Diocese, said that Deacon Larry Cermak is no longer employed at St. Peter and Paul and St. Terese churches in Garfield Heights.

George Will: 'Time to get out of Afghanistan'

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Citing Charles De Gaulle, influential conservative commentator, George Will, says it is time to get out of Afghanistan. Writes Will in a Washington Post column: "Genius, said de Gaulle, recalling Bismarck's decision to halt German forces short of Paris in 1870, sometimes consists of knowing when to stop." His column could open the doors to other conservatives (and others) in calling for creative ways to disenage from Afghanistan.

Was Martino pushed? The speculation begins.

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David Gibson, writing in Politics Today suggests Scranton Bishop Joseph Martino's resgination might not have been entirely his own idea.

Writes Gibson: "Now, in a stunning turn that has taken even veteran church-watchers by surprise, Martino on Monday resigned his post under highly unusual circumstances -- citing the stress of the job and saying he could not continue in a post that should have been his for another dozen years, at least.

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September 12-25, 2014

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