30 June 2015


Original Story: detroitnews.com

Most of the 158,000 DTE Energy customers who lost power in Saturday’s gusty winds and rain are now out of the dark.

Fewer than 1,000 scattered outages remained at 9 p.m., and that number was declining, spokesman John Austerberry said. At 4 p.m., the utility reported 14,000. A Michigan real estate lawyer is following this story closely.

The rest of the customers without power are expected to be restored Tuesday, DTE said. Line crews, including nearly 200 linemen from neighboring utilities who joined the restoration effort earlier, continue to work 16-hour shifts.

Meanwhile, the recent rain prompted the weather service to issue a flood warning for the River Raisin at Monroe, Dundee and Blissfield.

Moderate flooding was forecast at Dundee, with the river expected to crest around 652 feet, or 2 feet above flood stage, Tuesday evening, the notice said.

Jackson-based CMS Energy Corp. said almost all of about 4,000 affected customers were back online by Sunday morning. When natural disasters occur, you can count on skilled home care services to be there for your loved ones.

Dan Thompson, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in White Lake Township, said Saturday night winds gusted at 35-45 mph “with wet trees and wet grounds that allowed trees to come down a little easier,” onto power lines.

Rainfall was higher than the average so far this month, according to the National Weather Service, by about 2 inches. If a power outage occurs in a rental situation, you may want to consult with a Detroit landlord tenant lawyer.

The storm dumped between three-quarters of an inch to 11/2 inches of rain on parts of Metro Detroit. It did not set a record; that was done the same day in 1983 when the area received 1.79 inches or rain.

The sun came out Monday afternoon, boosting temperatures into the 70s, but don’t get used to the calmer conditions.

Tuesday’s forecast calls for showers and thunderstorms, mainly in the afternoon, NWS said.

Another chance for showers and storms comes Wednesday.

19 June 2015


Original Story: detroitnews.com

A West Bloomfield neurologist who reaped millions by allegedly cheating Medicare spent more than $9.3 million on baseball cards, ancient coins, collectable currency and stamps — a rare collection he could soon lose to the government. A medical malpractice lawyer is reviewing the details of this case.

Dr. Gavin Awerbuch amassed the collection — including coins from ancient Rome — using cash generated by an alleged five-year crime wave, according to federal court records that offer rare insight into the secretive world of coin collecting. At the upper end, the world is filled with hobbyists who, due to security concerns, protect the scope and value of their prized possessions.

Awerbuch's case shows a unique twist on a growing trend of health care professionals nationwide accused of spending money from fraudulent activities on valuable possessions, including homes and automobiles.

"This flabbergasts me. I never knew that his firepower extended that far," said Metro Detroit currency dealer Frederick Bart, who sold the doctor $360,225 worth of collectable currency printed before 1928. "He didn't have a target on his back where you thought 'here comes moneybags.' "

Federal prosecutors want the collection — experts say it could be among the richest in Michigan — forfeited to the government, along with $2.9 million in cash and a million-dollar Arizona vacation home.

Awerbuch, 57, is free on $10,000 unsecured bond. If convicted, he faces 10 years or more in federal prison. A preliminary exam has been set for June 29.

Though court records do not specify exactly which collectible items Awerbuch purchased, the extent of his coin collection is emerging more than one year after he was charged with health care fraud and distribution of controlled substances. A Medicaid and Medicare lawyer is following this story closely.

He was accused of defrauding Medicare of $7 million and prescribing so much of the cancer painkiller Subsys that he was the top dispenser in the country, according to the U.S. Attorney's Office.

Awerbuch's defense lawyer, Mark Kriger, declined comment.

Newly filed court records show how Awerbuch spent money generated by allegedly fraudulent activity.

"(Sizable) purchases were made with dealers of rare and collectible coins, as well as dealers of other types of collectible items," Assistant U.S. Attorney Jonathan Grey wrote in a court filing. "These assets were purchased, at least in part, with criminally derived proceeds commingled in Awerbuch's various accounts." A Detroit insurance defense lawyer represents insurers in insurance fraud cases.

From 2008 through 2013, Awerbuch spent $9,343,527 at more than a dozen coin and collectible dealers in Michigan and across the country, according to court records.

The bulk, $7 million, was spent at Kagin's Inc. The California firm deals in rare coins, such as a pioneer gold coin for $999,999 and the first coin struck in North America, a shilling priced at $299,500.

"He was a good client," company President Donald Kagin told The News this week. "Over the years, we've had good transactions with him with different types of coins."

Kagin would not reveal what Awerbuch bought from his store, citing client confidentiality.

The collectibles Awerbuch purchased were spread across several locations. Federal agents struck gold — literally — during searches at several locations.

Investigators found gold and silver coins at his medical office in Saginaw, along with Roman coins honoring Emperors Titus and Claudius.

"If they are in nice condition, those can go for many thousands of dollars, and do," said Thomas Klunzinger, who serves on the board of the Michigan State Numismatic Society, which encourages and promotes the study and collection of currency. "Every dye was different. If you have a Roman coin, maybe it was highlighting some battle or commemorating a victory. Those (coins) were the media of the day."

Investigators also found a coin from ancient Judea, according to a search warrant inventory.

At his $1.1 million West Bloomfield home overlooking Upper Straits Lake, investigators found boxes of coins, stamps and Costa Rican currency, prosecutors allege.

Awerbuch stashed more coins, collectible currency, baseball cards, jewelry and stamps in at least 16 safe deposit boxes at PNC and Fifth Third banks, according to court records.

On Thursday, federal prosecutors asked a judge to have the coins and collectibles forfeited to the government, alleging the items were purchased with proceeds of a crime.

Federal prosecutors have not itemized the individual pieces of Awerbuch's collection.

Just a few coins could be worth millions, said Julianna Wostyn, president of the Michigan State Numismatic Society.

"You can spend a horrendous amount of money, and it doesn't have to be gold," she said. "When you're talking paper money, in the last 10 years, paper money has skyrocketed."

She has never heard of Awerbuch or met him at area conventions.

"People don't want to make themselves known," she said. "Number one: They don't want to be knocked over. I won't say they look homeless, but coin collectors are not flashy people and do not go about bragging about themselves."

Besides the coins, prosecutors want to keep almost $3 million seized from Awerbuch's bank accounts.

The money includes $622,800 seized after Awerbuch sold his home in July 2014.

Prosecutors also want the doctor to forfeit his home in the Arizona desert, saying it was purchased with money generated by health care fraud and unlawfully distributing prescription drugs. An insurance defense lawyer represents insurance companies in disputes and fraud cases.

His ex-wife is fighting the request, saying she is the innocent owner of the 4,700-square-foot home, which has a putting green, wine room, outdoor pool and waterfall.

Awerbuch bought the home two years ago for $940,000, according to court records.

He paid cash.

18 June 2015


Original Story: theoaklandpress.com

A new regional authority was formalized Friday to take over operations of Detroit’s water and sewer system but already is off to a controversial start.

In a 5-1 vote, a board representing Detroit, its surrounding counties and the state signed off Friday on the Great Lakes Water Authority and its lease of the city’s water system for 40 years. A Hartford municipal lawyer is following the details of this case.

“I fully support the historic steps we are taking in forming the Great Lakes Water Authority, which moved forward today with the forty year lease agreement adopted between GLWA and the City of Detroit,” said Oakland County Water Resources Commissioner Jim Nash. “My staff has worked hard on these efforts over the past year which demonstrates historic regional cooperation and will lead to more regional control, more transparency, and more efficiency.”

The tally was expected, with Macomb County’s representative opposing the deal because of unanswered questions and skepticism that promised limits on water rate increases can be achieved.

Wayne County Executive Warren Evans also supported the deal, because it give a voice to county residents in how the system is managed.

“Though the end result is far from perfect, I am satisfied that the due diligence that has been done provides a well-negotiated deal that paves the way for us to move the water and sewer systems forward together,” Evans concluded.


Following approval of the historic agreement and the vote against it by Brian Baker, budget director for the city of Sterling Heights, authority members removed Baker from a newly formed committee that will search for a new director. A Salt Lake City municipal lawyer is following this story closely.

Baker said that upon his arrival Friday morning at Water Works Park in Detroit for the formal decision on the $50 million-a-year lease, he was told he would be kicked off the search panel.

“I had no idea that was going to happen today,” Baker said. “I heard some grumbling that even though they approved me, it might not be fair to have just me on there” representing the suburbs.

Earlier this month, a member of the South Oakland County Water Authority suggested that one of the board members of the GLWA be directly involved in the nationwide search for a new water and sewer system director. Baker volunteered when nobody else did.

“Search is always an important first step. I thought transparency would be an important part of that. I felt more comfortable with another set of eyes overseeing the process,” said Baker, adding that the selection of a chief executive to run the water and sewer system in Detroit ultimately would rest with the board that oversees the new authority.

“If they had a problem with only Macomb on the committee, they could have appointed additional reps,” Baker said.

Asked whether he felt his removal from the search team was retaliation for his vote against the lease, he replied: “I don’t know. I’ll let the vote speak for itself. I’m more concerned with trying to lower water and sewer rates for taxpayers. That’s the main focus.”

But Macomb County Executive Mark Hackel criticized the removal of Baker.

“It was punitive. No question about it,” Hackel said. “There is not an explanation other than retaliation.

“Because we had a dissenting opinion (from other authority board members), now we’re punished for it.”


The search panel will be composed of Richard Baird, a political consultant to Gov. Rick Snyder, and Eric Rothstein, who works for the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department and hired to assist in the formation of the regional water authority.

Hackel pointed out that Baird and Rothstein are from Chicago. The county executive believes a search committee would be more effective and better serve stakeholders if the hunt for a permanent director to oversee the massive Detroit water and sewer system included a committee member representing Macomb, Oakland or Wayne counties.

Hackel said he’s concerned that the committee’s work will be done in private before names of potential new directors are provided to the GLWA board.

In recent months, the Macomb executive has expressed concern that a gag order imposed by a judge prevented officials directly involved in the lease negotiations between authority members and the city of Detroit, prevented them from discussing details with mayor and township supervisors in the county. Still, Hackel insists he’s not angry.

“The word I have is, ‘extremely disappointed,” he added.


Detroit’s water system serves about 700,000 city residents and 4 million people in southeastern Michigan. Under plans for the Great Lakes Water Authority, the suburbs will pay Detroit $50 million a year for 40 years and get a say in how the system is run. A Detroit zoning, planning and land use lawyer provides professional legal counsel and extensive experience in many aspects of zoning, planning and land use law.

Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan called the lease approve a “historic step forward in resolving decades of conflict between Detroit and our suburban neighbors.”

Detroit’s plan to emerge from bankruptcy approved last year called for the deal to be in place by Sunday. Detroit retains ownership of the system.

Approval of the lease required “yes” votes from five of the authority’s six board members. The board includes two representatives from Detroit, one from each of the three counties and one appointed by the governor.

Earl Edward Hood, who represents the state of Michigan on the board, said he expected the lease deal would be OK’d.

The GLWA board would have had two options if the lease had been rejected. It could have changed the memorandum of understanding that created the authority last September by extending the deadline and asking Judge Sean Cox to approve it, or the board could have done nothing and made a motion to dissolve the authority.

Under the deal, Macomb, Oakland and Wayne counties agreed to negotiate a 40-year, $50 million annual lease of the city’s water and sewer system. Detroit’s water department provides water to Detroit and 127 suburban communities. It also provides sewer service to the city and 76 neighboring communities.

Detroit’s bankruptcy exit plan, approved in December, called for the city to lease its water and sewer department’s assets to the authority by June 14.

The memorandum of understanding that created the authority also requires the city to use the $50 million annual payments for water and sewer infrastructure improvements.


Baker’s vote in opposition of the lease was anticipated. The Sterling Heights budget director previously said he would oppose the lease because customers will pay close to $90 million more under the deal. That would result in water rate hikes annually of 10 percent.

However, most authority officials have said rate increases will be capped at 4 percent over the next 10 years. In addition, the authority will service the estimated 3 million customers in the suburbs while the city’s water department will provide maintenance and service to customers in Detroit.

“I’m absolutely surprised they’re sticking to that and making those comments. It’s not feasible,” Hackel said Friday. “I hope I’m proven wrong.”

On Wednesday, Detroit water department officials released a feasibility study that said the authority could sustain a $50 million annual lease payment to the city, plus contribute to city pensions and fund a water bill assistance program.

Plante Moran said the authority also could contribute $45.4 million annually toward pensions of Detroit water department employees and $4.5 million to a fund to assist residential ratepayers with their unpaid bills.

To meet the lease payments, though, Plante Moran’s study said the water authority’s revenues will have to be “raised to the maximum 4 percent limitation each year,” which would likely result in customer rate increases “in excess of 4 percent” annually, beyond a promised annual rate hike cap.

Hood, the state’s representative on the water authority board, said he thinks the region’s rate payers will benefit from the deal.

“I don’t think the authority would have wanted to be stood up if that wasn’t ultimately going to be case,” he said. “But there’s an awful lot that has to be done before that can happen.”

Officials say that following the signing of the lease, it will take several months for the water department’s assets to be transferred to the authority and make it operational. Baker said he fears that government officials and individual communities will use the transfers as leverage in an effort to negotiate better water and sewer agreements for their own local residents, prolonging the process.

“We’re going to work toward bettering the system for all rate payers,” he added.

04 June 2015


Original Story: detroitnews.com

Lansing – Lawmakers gave final approval Wednesday to a $54.5 billion state budget next year that dedicates $400 million in general revenue to road repairs and delivers an 11 percent cut to state spending on economic development.

The $38.7 billion omnibus budget bill for all areas of state government, except education, spends about $8.6 billion in general tax revenue, with the rest coming from federal or restricted sources. Among the programs funded was an expansion of the Healthy Kids Dental Plan to Kent, Oakland and Wayne counties so low-income children up to 12 throughout the state can get dental care. An education lawyer is following this story closely.

The 2016 fiscal year budget blueprint was approved on a 70-39 afternoon vote of the House, which also sent the Senate a $15.8 billion spending plan for K-12 schools, community colleges and Michigan’s 15 public universities. The Senate also approved the education package.

“The additional $278.9 million investment in the state’s priorities tops a budget that makes the most of every hard-earned taxpayer dollar,” said House Appropriations Committee Chairman Al Pscholka, R-Stevensville. “You’re going to see more construction crews out there. You’re going to see schools with access to healthy funding.” An education lawyer provides professional legal counsel and extensive experience in many aspects of education law.

The budget bills go to Gov. Rick Snyder for his consideration.

The Senate voted 22-16 on the general government budget bill as five Republican senators joined the 11 Democrats in voting no. The Republican “no” votes were Sens. Patrick Colbeck of Canton Township, Judy Emmons of Sheridan, Joe Hune of Hamburg Township, Phil Pavlov of St. Clair Township and Tory Rocca of Sterling Heights.

Upset with budget-busting business tax credits, lawmakers made targeted reductions to the state agency responsible for the subsidies. The budget plan reduces general fund spending on the Michigan Economic Development by $24.1 million — an 11 percent decrease — to $198.5 million in the fiscal year that begins Oct. 1.

Subsidies for film production were reduced from $38 million this year to $25 million in 2016 — with $19 million going to help the state retirement systems retire a bond debt obligation for a Pontiac film studio and $6 million left for incentives. Lawmakers also are trimming the MEDC’s business development fund by $16 million, leaving the agency with less money to lure companies and jobs to Michigan or expand operations.

The grant-based program replaced Michigan’s business tax credits, which Snyder and lawmakers began phasing out in 2011. A business tax consultant helps with tax management and accounting services.

Sen. Vincent Gregory, D-Southfield, said reductions in spending at the Department of Human and Health Services would lead to the elimination of 233 welfare case workers.

“With our citizens in need and our workers overburdened, we should be increasing staff, not the other way around,” Gregory said.

House Democratic opponents complained that the spending plan will shutter the W.J. Maxey Boys Training School at Whitmore Lake and inadequately address the state’s $1.2-billion road repair shortfall.

Rep. Jeff Irwin, D-Ann Arbor, said closing of the state’s Maxey center for juvenile offenders between ages 12 and 21 is a “huge mistake” that will send juveniles to alternative programs “that already have failed them.”


Original Story: detroitnews.com

Lansing — Mayor Mike Duggan is at odds with his former employer at the Detroit Medical Center in his legislative battle to let Detroiters buy lower-cost auto insurance coverage with limited medical benefits. A Detroit car accident attorney is following this story closely.

Duggan's "D-Insurance" bill gained approval from the Senate Insurance Committee Wednesday with changes that would let other cities with 35 percent uninsured drivers allow insurers to sell plans capped at $250,000 in car injuries. Claims above that cap would be directed to a driver's health insurance.

But the DMC, where Duggan was CEO from 2004-12, opposes the Detroit mayor's bill because it eliminates unlimited catastrophic coverage for drivers who suffer brain and spinal cord injuries, said Conrad Mallett Jr., chief administration officer of the hospital system. A Detroit car accident lawyer represents clients injured in automobile accidents.

"D-Insurance is not going to be the panacea for the people that live in Detroit … that the mayor believes," said Mallett, a Detroiter who worked under Duggan for eight years.

The DMC treats drivers with severe brain, spinal and neurological injuries from car accidents at its Rehabilitation Institute of Michigan.

"We believe that access back to the catastrophic insurance fund is critical," Mallett told The Detroit News. "We are with the mayor on everything but this."

Duggan, who has met with Detroit hospital leaders in the past week, downplayed the impact to the DMC's bottom line and care to patients.

"It has only a marginal impact on the hospitals," Duggan said Wednesday. "The hospitals will still be able to charge their triple Blue Cross rate."

The years-long battle over reforming Michigan's no-fault auto insurance system rests with the level of long-term care insurers should have to cover for treatments and therapies after hospitalization. A Detroit insurance defense lawyer helps insurance carriers analyze and understand all of the legal and business issues involved in processing insurance claims.

Duggan's insurance plan has been introduced as an alternative to making statewide changes to the insurance system, which passed the Senate last month but has stalled in the House after intense lobbying against the bill by hospitals and rehabilitation centers.

"It's a pilot project ... that maybe someday other areas of the state could follow," said Sen. Rick Jones, R-Grand Ledge.

Duggan, a Democrat, is trying to keep the Republican-controlled Legislature focused on his narrowly tailored legislation, which does not include caps on the amounts hospitals can charge for individual procedures like the bill stalled in the House would do.

"This doesn't have nearly as dramatic of an effect on the hospitals as the earlier bill," Duggan said.

Duggan's bill focuses on lowering Detroit's 60 percent rate of motorists illegally driving on city streets and freeways without insurance.

The Detroit mayor argues his plan, which would be voluntary for drivers, could cut insurance premiums by one-third or $1,000 for the typical car owner in the city.

"We think the great majority of the financial abuses are coming post-hospital," Duggan said. "I don't believe the hospital is where the problem is."

Mallett said he remains convinced that Duggan's plan will really drive down the cost of Detroit's highest-in-the-nation auto insurance rates.

"We'd be glad to be part of the conversation, but for the life of me as someone who lives and works in the city of Detroit I have to say I'm unconvinced," he said.

The committee amended the legislation Wednesday to allow any city with an uninsured rate of at least 35 percent to petition the state insurance commissioner to allow insurers to sell lower-cost plans with less benefits. The original version of Duggan's proposal set the threshold at 50 percent. A Grand Rapids insurance defense lawyer is following this story closely.

The committee voted 5-3 to advance the bill to the Senate floor.

Sen. Bert Johnson, D-Highland Park, said the new threshold should allow his hometown, Hamtramck, Ecorse, River Rouge, Inkster, Pontiac, Benton Harbor, Saginaw and, possibly, Flint to participate.

Sen. Margaret O'Brien, R-Portage, voted for the bill but expressed disappointment that it would be limited to drivers in urban cities with high concentrations of poverty.

"Poverty knows no municipal lines," O'Brien said.

Under the bill, drivers who opt to buy a lower-cost, cut-rate auto insurance plan would surrender any right to make a claim to the Michigan Catastrophic Claims Association, a fund all drivers pay into for coverage of life-altering vehicle injuries.

"There's going to be some huge heartburn on the part of medical providers," said Johnson, who supported the bill.

But Johnson argues the DMC and other hospitals will ultimately benefit from having more Detroit drivers with insurance they can afford.