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by Janet Phelan
Thursday, Jan. 15, 2009 at 7:15 AM
Taking down the whistleblowers...
On July 17, 2007, in an unprecedented move to control internal dissent, George W. Bush signed an Executive Order "Blocking Property of Certain Persons Who Threaten Stabilization Efforts in Iraq." This Order potentially affects anti-war protesters, and thus has a chilling effect on dissent. Barreling out of the White House cannon in quick succession came an Executive Order signed August 1, "Blocking Property of Persons Undermining the Sovereignty of Lebanon or its Democratic Processes and Institutions." Bush declared a "national emergency to deal with (the) threat" of those who sought to "undermine Lebanon's legitimate and democratically elected government or democratic institutions......" This is widely interpreted to also affect those contributing monies to Syria, which is high on the list for invasion, according to Bush-watchers.
Of special note in both directives is the use of the following phrase: "to have taken, or to pose a significant risk of taking, actions...." The implications of this phrase are far-reaching. One does not need to have taken any actions in the manner suggested, only to "pose a risk" of acting. And the question remains, In whose mind? By what yardstick? In this framework, the Patriot Act authorization of FBI snooping into bookstore and library records assumes a chilling spectre--the proverbial "thought police" of George Orwell's 1984 may swoop down for the mere suspicion of dormant pacifism.
The concept of asset seizure as a means to control internal dissent and potential dissidents is a shocking development on the political landscape. Not since the removal of the Japanese to internment camps during WWII has our country used property seizure as a weapon against the residents of this country.....or has it?
Many of the "anti-terrorism" directives were tried out in the "drug war." Law enforcement officers now regularly seize property of drug suspects. And it does not take a conviction in a drug-related crime to invoke property and financial "seizures"--only an arrest for such. Without clarifying that "innocent until proven guilty" had been gutted by this practice, law enforcement tested the constitutional waters and found them suitable for their purposes.
However, asset seizure has been deployed in some arenas that are unrelated to drug activities and far afield from the "war on terror." The obvious intention of such practices is to "bring down" a party whose behavior has generated alarm at some higher level. Greed is a secondary motivation, but cannot be completely discounted, as monies and property are in this mix.
As this is a country of laws, or at least attempts to appear that way, asset seizure poses some obstacles. Primarily, this constitutes theft by the government inflicted on a private person, and without compensation, which is patently illegal. However, we have seen that this Administration has little regard for the Constitution, and now regularly bypasses Constitutional protections. The favored gambit appears to be by Executive Order. Our Constitution repeatedly states: “Congress shall make no law abridging…..” and by deploying Executive Orders in clear opposition to what the “Congress shall not abridge,” the Bush Administration is able to keep the appearances of Constitutionality while ripping our rights and protections to shreds.
However, many are unaware that asset seizure has already been deployed against a number of parties. Gary Nagel is one of the last people one would think could be attacked in this manner. A former federal police officer with the Department of Transportation, Nagel, 54, carries himself with a slight swagger and the air of self-confidence typical of that profession. Only his voice occasionally betrays the impact of the systemic assault that this whistleblower has endured.
Nagel had left federal employ in 1989, and was working as a truck driver for Nature’s Best, a Fortune 500 company, when his troubles began. Nature’s Best was trying to get the Union to agree to a decrease in wages, and the Union had threatened to strike. A couple of the senior drivers, including the shop steward, got targeted as a result, according to Nagel.
It was on a run from Brea, California to New Mexico. Randy Beekman, who had been a driver for Nature’s Best for over fifteen years, was on his way to a truck stop to pick up David Flores, the Union shop steward. But Beekman never made it to the truck stop. Five minutes out of the yard, he was pulled over by the California Highway Patrol. Nature’s Best had filed a false police report, claiming that Beekman and Flores had falsified their log book. Beekman was arrested and the CHP went to the truck stop, looking for Flores.
At that time, Nagel had been working for this company for only about six months. The former police officer made a call to the Sheriff and got Beekman released. Flores turned himself in the next morning, and was released on his own recognizance. Nagel and Beekman were subsequently fired. At Beekman’s trial, Nagel testified concerning the validity of the onboard computer system, which Nature’s Best was claiming provided the evidence of driver’s log book falsification.
And Nagel found himself in a pile of trouble, which continues on to this day.
Beekman was eventually exonerated, but both he and Nagel had been terminated from employment by Nature’s Best. Beekman had been Union and Nagel, as a newer employee, was not. They turned around and sued Nature’s Best for wrongful termination and lost. They filed an appeal and the retaliation against Nagel swung into full gear.
His wife’s wages were garnished for three years, in order to pay for the Nature’s Best attorneys. Garnishment while in appeal is strictly illegal, but Judge Robert D. Monarch ordered this on June 8, 1999, in knowing violation of CCP 706.051 and CCP 706.052, which forbids the court to garnish while in appeal. He and his wife were left with only $925 a month to live on. At that time, the mortgage on their three bedroom home in Moreno Valley, CA was $796.76, which left Gary and Louise Nagel less than $150 a month to pay bills, buy food, pay property taxes, etc.
In a shocking and utterly telling in- chambers meeting, Judge Monarch told Nagel that if he dropped the lawsuit, Monarch would stop the garnishment.
Under obvious duress, the Nagels began to borrow heavily from friends. Unable to keep up on his property taxes, Nagel so notified the D.A., The California Attorney Generals’ office, the Franchise Tax Board, the Board of Equalization, State controller, IRS, State Auditor and Governor Gray Davis that his wife was being illegally garnished and they were unable to pay property taxes. Gary Nagel demanded an audit from State Auditor’s office in 1999, but that office remained non-responsive.
And in 2003, according to Gary Nagel, “They stole our house.”
The Nagels had a fixed FHA loan, but suddenly and without explanation, their house payments ballooned to over $1600 a month in September of 2002. In January of 2003, his lender, Alliance Mortgage, did a Trustee-Trustee transition and delivered the note to Attorneys Equity, without ever so revealing this to the Nagels. Interestingly enough, Attorneys Equity maintained its own zip code, in Lake Forest, California, a status only accorded to government buildings. Attorneys Equity never obtained an escrow license, and when Nagel uncovered this and reported it, AE closed its doors, and dissolved the corporation.
Without their knowledge, the Nagels home was registered into the name of a Joe Harper, aka
J & K equity, and the Nagels were served with an unlawful detainer by a landlord they never had on the house they had owned for 25 years. The hearing was set for July 25, 2003.
But Gary and Louise Nagel were escorted out of their own house at 8 a.m. on July 24, 2003 by two Sheriff’s deputies, twenty four hours before their scheduled hearing. When Nagel showed up for the hearing the next day, he was informed that the eviction was an accomplished fact, and the case would not be heard. He was deprived of his right to due process.
At home in his modest one bedroom apartment in Corona, California, Gary Nagel looks every bit the fighter that he has become. His dark hair bears no trace of grey, and his voice betrays a jaundiced humor. His speech is now peppered with legalistic terms, as he refers to his continuing ordeal as “a hate crime for political affiliations,” and terms the actions of those in government as “illegal activity by a fraternity.”
His desk is buried under paperwork. In his efforts to obtain justice for the illegal garnishment which resulted in the loss of his home, he has repeatedly gone to court, and appealed to every state and federal agency which is in place to protect us from government fraud.
He maintains his first lawyer was threatened and thus resigned. Utilizing his degree in criminology and experience in law enforcement, Nagel took on the task of representing himself. In one court transcript, Judge Monarch threatened Nagel with financial sanctions if he did not stop pleading his case.
Nagel’s attempts to put other government bodies on notice as to the fraud and theft met with equally shocking results. He found records consistently altered and the attorneys for government agencies to be non-responsive. When he pressed the issue, the attorneys for the government agencies took early retirement. The list of Nagel-related early retirees follows:
Grover Trask, District Attorney of Riverside County
Gary M. Cohen, General Counsel for Department of Insurance
John W. Davies, Chief Counsel for the Franchise Tax Board
Steve Wesley, State Controller
Eileen Tessier, aka Kirkland, Assistant Chief Counsel for FTB
Susan Ambrose, Chief Counsel for Department of Fair Employment and Housing
John Snow, U.S. Treasurer
Bill Lockyer, did not run for second term as AG, took lower-paying job as State Controller
Judge Monarch, went on Retired judge program (pinch-hits for other judges)
Judge Jackman, went on Retired judge program (pinch hits for other judges
Judge O’Leary, promoted to Fourth Appellate court, and so no longer needed to respond to Nagel’s complaint against her
Nagel refers to the early retirees as a “bait and switch” gambit. “Heads would roll,” he says, if the government agencies actually acquiesced and admitted the initial wrongdoing; and so records are altered and officials take early retirement and Gary Nagel still cannot get his home returned to him, or compensation for the theft.
“Where is the relief for the consumer in all this?” asks Gary Nagel.
And once again, the tip of the iceberg exposes the icy mass below the surface. Gary Nagel, who served in the Air Force and as a Federal Officer with the Department of Transportation, simply wanted justice for a retaliatory firing. Twelve years has passed, and the act of insolence for his daring to testify against Nature’s Best, Fortune 500, has turned the former military man into a different sort of warrior--- a soldier for justice in a country where retaliation is the only reward for the act of asserting one’s rights.
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