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Published in U.S. 1 Newspaper on August 9, 2000. All rights
Bank Fraud: Tomas Norton
The biggest dollar amount of fraud in the United States
today is fraud against banks, says Tomas Norton
Group (609-409-4490; fax, 609-409-4491, www.nortongroup.com). Norton’s
forensic accounting firm offers litigation support for banks and other
financial institutions, and with a sister company, the Norod Media
Group (www.norod.com), it moved to Rossmoor Drive last year.
Norton contributed testimony to a recent mortgage flipping scheme
that was tried in federal district court in the southern district
of New York. In the civil portion of this case, Walsh Securities was
found liable for an amount yet to be determined and will have to
Citiscape Corporation, which purchased the mortgages.
In this 1997 scheme, condos or single family homes in Asbury Park
were bought at depressed prices, given cosmetic repairs, and sold
for inflated prices thanks to a questionable appraisal. A home might
be bought, for instance, for $30,000 plus $10,000 worth of repairs.
The home would then be appraised at $90,000, so a $70,000 mortgage
could be obtained.
Norton’s testimony was a comparison of purchase prices with appraisals
ranging from 122 to 714 percent, with the average rise being 370
These high spreads took place over days or weeks. "We noted that
spreads of this magnitude over a short period of time indicates the
appraisals were false on their face," says Norton. Walsh
was found liable in at least 32 cases.
Result: the mutual funds lost money and so did the homeowners.
low-income people had a $40,000 house but were liable for one worth
$70,000," says Norton. "We represented Citiscape, which sold
the securities into the marketplace to mutual funds. Citiscape sued
Walsh, and a number of appraisers have pleaded guilty to fraud. This
is the first admission of any sort of guilt on the civil side. The
people who are really being cheated are the government or people who
can’t afford it." The FBI is investigating the criminal portion
of the case.
Norton went to Seton Hall, Class of 1960, and has had 40 years of
banking experience, with jobs as CEO of several banks and deputy
of the state banking department. He founded his firm, now located
on Rossmoor Drive, in 1978, and he has four other employees plus
Another landmark case, now pending before the state supreme court,
could change the way banking services are delivered and paid for.
This fraud involves a fake certified check for $350,000 cashed by
the client. The case is known as City Check Cashing versus
Hanover (now Chase).
Norton’s client, City Check Cashing, faxed a copy of the check to
the bank that issued the check, and the bank never called back. Three
hours later, believing the check to be good, the client cashed it
and gave the money to the client. But several days later the bank
got around to notifying City Check that the certified check was no
"If you provide a service as an accommodation for free, and you
do it badly and harm results, are you responsible?" asks Norton.
"This case will set the standards for what banks can do and cannot
Consumers should guard against fraud, says Norton, particularly
identity fraud, which causes $10 billion of damage every year, and
that amount is only what gets reported. Up for litigation soon, he
predicts, will be a flurry of cases regarding banks with automated
check processors that do not check signatures on personal checks.
Insist on seeing your checks, he says, and inspect them when you get
your statement. "Banks don’t check signatures anymore, and after
60 days you are likely to be liable."
— Barbara Fox
If you want to be "professional," says Joan
Rose Spiegel, keep learning. "The train is leaving, and you
want to be on it," she says. "Ask questions. Don’t take no
easily. Work hard to be creative. Develop a new skill each
The term "professional" formerly applied only to a small
of the market, perhaps only doctors, lawyers, and clerics. Now almost
anyone can label herself a professional, says Rose, if she approaches
her work in a professional way and bolsters her skills on a regular
Just because you have skill and experience and a fancy title, she
says, does not mean you qualify. "We are professionals — not
because of our title, appearance, education, or income — but
of how we do our work and how we think about ourselves."
With the slogan "positive changes for life," Joan Rose Spiegel
offers transition consulting through the Rose Group (609-397-6097,
E-mail: email@example.com). Rose has a BA in sociology from the
University of Miami, Class of
1965, and an MA in counseling psychology from Loyola in Maryland.
She started out as a social worker for the State of Florida, moved
to marketing, did career counseling at what’s now the College of New
Jersey, and then did career management for an international
firm before starting her own business in Princeton. She is married
to Herb Spiegel
Center at Mercer County Community College (see story on page 15),
and they live in Lambertville.
To act in a professional manner, be accountable for your behavior,
says Rose. "Pay attention to non-verbal communication signs, such
as being on time to meetings, not keeping someone waiting, or
calls in a prompt time. Being a professional means showing respect
for others and yourself, and doing what is intrinsically fair and
Brokovitch,’ Erin believed in her abilities and intelligence and sense
of self. She had confidence and passion and commitment which others
saw. Feeling confident comes from within."
of the people and books you learn from. Choose a mentor or coach.
Know your values. Take a risk and follow-up on something you have
avoided. Make something happen to influence people and events —
you are in a position to do that." Rose believes that when someone
achieves a goal, that person acquires focus, direction, persistence,
so you can help to achieve them. "Everyone wants to be appreciated
— offer your talents and skills. Provide solutions when you
a problem. Contribute an idea. Volunteer for a team project."
by managing multiple tasks, prioritizing projects, and handling
is part of being a professional," says Rose.
New traditional credit programs at Mercer College this
year include certificates in aviation flight technology, E-commerce,
and engineering science. Mercer’s fall semester starts Monday, August
28, and registration is supposed to be finished by Tuesday, August
22. Registration is also available at Quakerbridge Mall on Thursday
and Friday, August 17 and 18, from 5:30 to 9 p.m. or online at
or call 609-586-4800, extension 3228. Tuition is $68.50 per credit
the qualifications needed to create a powerful and expandable
The E-commerce curriculum is designed so that students leave with
the know-how to plan, design, develop, implement, and maintain
web sites for electronic commerce. Classes for this certificate
English composition, website design, E-marketing, building E-commerce
websites, advanced E-commerce websites, and a technical/business
elective. With classroom knowledge and experience as a guide, graduate
students can build their own E-businesses, become web developers or
editors, or be successful by designing or maintaining web pages for
transfer students accelerate into the sophomore year at a four-year
college in a specific engineering program major. Certification
that 33-34 credits be earned through the program’s courses. Classes
include calculus, general chemistry, English composition, engineering
graphics, university physics, and an elective.
is for licensed or certified health care professionals who have not
yet earned a college degree. Professionals who may find this program
helpful and rewarding include dental assistants, medical technicians,
licensed practical nurses, or pharmacy technicians. Students will
be required to take English composition 1 & 2, introductory
general education electives, concepts of health and fitness, living
with health, college algebra, some core science classes, and technical
and professional electives. To graduate. students will have to acquire
door for many career opportunities in the retail industry. This
helps students become qualified managers who possess knowledge in
retailing, merchandising, advertising, sales, marketing and total
quality management — knowledge that is valuable in the retail
industry today. Courses for this program include business mathematics,
principles of marketing, retail management, retail merchandising,
personal salesmanship, principles of advertising, consumer behavior,
English composition, computer concepts, and total quality management:
a customer orientation. Altogether, the certification of proficiency
requires 30 credits for completion.
communication courses, one on global communication starting Wednesday,
September 20, at 7 p.m., and another on American business language,
starting Wednesday, October 25. On Monday evenings, a certificate
program in nonprofit management begins on September 18 with Management
Skills for Nonprofits taught by Marge Smith
of the YWCA. 609-586-9446 E-mail: ConEd@mccc.edu or call 609-586-9446.
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