The Perils of Being A ‘Sugar Daddy’

An article ran in the Huffington Post about the phenomena of college women engaging in paid arrangements with older men.  Around the world, there are countless websites which facilitate these “friendships” for a fee. 

An expensive fee was not all one client experienced as a “Sugar Daddy.” I recently consulted on a case involving a successful Information Technology (IT) Executive in Scottsdale, Arizona.  He was recently single following a divorce, but still wealthy, even after sharing some of his fortune with his ex-wife.  Being burnt out on relationships, he proclaimed he was ‘too busy’ building his business to meaningfully date. So his friend sent him a link to one of these “Sugar Daddy” sites and even pre-paid for the month’s membership as a “divorce gift.”  Within days he had a date.   She was from Tempe, Arizona and at least 15 years his junior.  

The arrangement was simple, a fee ($3,000) was paid to the agency for the date.  The fee was apparently divided with the ‘date’ and the agreement provided for 4 dates to occur one time a week for a month. Sex was not contracted for, as that is illegal in Arizona.  If the arrangement was working out after the month, the fee would be recharged again for subsequent months.

He met the woman and, not surprisingly, they had intercourse.  They met 3 more times to finish out the month’s agreement. My client decided this sort of arrangement was not for him (after the 4th date) and he declined paying for another month of dating.  She called and texted him persistently asking that he pay the $3,000 for another month of friendship.  He told her he was not interested and then ignored her relentless calls.

A few weeks later he received an envelope in the mail.  Inside was a handwritten note and an ultrasound picture.  He contacted me in a panic and told me that he had engaged in sex with her 4 times and wore protection each time. She texted him to see if he received the picture and said she wanted to keep the baby.  He was petrified and we needed a game plan.

I printed all of the texts and emails she had sent him since she announced the pregnancy.  Something was odd about the writing style.  After staring at them for a while, it was obvious that there were different writing styles in the emails.  Was this a scam?  Had she done this before?  Should we call the police department? 

My client did not want to contact the police, as he did not want to be further embarrassed by the situation.   A call to my close friend who is an OBGYN at Banner Hospital taught me that we could obtain an in-utero DNA test. We decided to call the bluff.  We offered to pay for the test immediately and schedule an appointment at the doctor’s office for the procedure.   When she received the email and appointment information she stopped calling and disappeared. She was not pregnant, just running a con game. We shared the ultrasound photos with gynecologist who informed us that the pictures were not only old, but of a baby that would have been conceived 2 months prior to the “Sugar Daddy” contract.  

Is there a lesson to be learned?  There are probably many.  Did my client learn it….I hope so.  

 http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/07/29/seeking-arrangement-college-students_n_913373.html

This story had a few key facts changed to preserve the privacy of those involved.

Foreign Adoption: A Tragic Ending to a Happy Story

The nature of my practice exposes me to stories that you would not believe.  Some of them play out like Lifetime Television movies.  When the story ran in the New York Times about the Russian adoptee who was simply put on a flight back to Moscow when the adoptive parents decided it ‘wasn’t working,’ it made front page news.   Sadly, unsuccessful foreign adoptions do happen and sometimes with horrific consequences.

I am sharing this hypothetical which is based on nearly identical events that have occurred in a number my cases.  Despite thousands of miles of distance between the countries of origin, the stories are strikingly formulaic:

1. A loving couple in Phoenix, Arizona wants to grow their family through adoption.

2. They are open minded and willing to adopt older children from other countries.

3. They are willing to adopt a sibling group.

4. An adoption agency presents them with pictures of the sibling group and some rudimentary information about the children.  They learn that the siblings have a common Mother but different fathers who have abandoned or are otherwise unable to care for the children.

5. The family flies to an impoverished country to visit with the children they have only seen by picture.

6. The children do not speak English, but they are starved for attention that they deserve and quickly the adoptive family is smitten.

7. The adoption agency, ostensibly in conjunction with the foreign government, provides further information regarding the children’s history. 

8. Through the legal process, the children are adopted and come to live with their new families in America.

9. For many of Arizona’s adoptive parents, this is the best decision of their lives. But for some, this is the beginning of a nightmare. 

10. Parents start noticing behavioral issues that go beyond the language gap.  They ask their pediatrician for guidance and are referred to behavioral specialist.

11. There a preliminary diagnoses such as R.A.D.  (Reactive Attachment Disorder).

12. Parents start to reconcile that this is not going to be a problem that is fixable with simple behavioral modification or medication.

13. Then, the parents learn that the older child has been sexually abusing a younger sibling.  The police are called and CPS begins their investigation.

14. Quickly it is determined that the younger child is at grave risk while in the presence of the older sibling and CPS will intervene with a Dependency action through the Court.

15. During the investigation the child discloses he has perpetrated not only on the sibling, but on neighborhood children since moving to America.  It is also confirmed that he was sexually abused while in his native country.

16. Court hearings for the Dependency/CPS matter will be scheduled and CPS reunifying the family may be impossible.

This story is not meant to discourage adoptions.  It is intended to remind parents to fully contemplate the adoption commitment.   You cannot simply send the child home as the parents did with the Russian boy.  Adopting parents must demand full disclosure.  If it is remotely possible that the children were sexually or physically abused, you need to consult with a local psychologist with an expertise in these issues and line up qualified therapists to proactively address the psychological damage done to the child who was likely sexually victimized themselves. 

 

If you are interested in reading the New York Times adoption article, I have provided the link below.

Read Here.

 

Help! I Got Arrested In Wellton, Arizona!

Where is Wellton? An old client called my paralegal the other day in hysterics. “I got arrested in Wellton for pot possession.”  You may be asking…“Where the hell is Wellton, Arizona?”

Having had many clients arrested in Wellton, I can tell you that it is more than just a great place to top off your gas tank outside of Yuma; it is also a popular place to get arrested for drug possession. The Interstate 8 Checkpoint is designed to catch major drug traffickers and for immigration purposes.  I-8 is a major artery for human and drug smuggling.  It has also recently become a hotspot where my clients (ranging from doctors to ASU students) are being arrested for possession of Marijuana (POM).  With unreliably well-trained sniffing dogs inspecting freight trucks, they also hone in on the casual pot smoker who may have left a joint in their pocket or car from their fun-filled weekend in San Diego.

My client is now facing charges in Yuma County.  Fortunately, we have a good working relationship with the Yuma County Prosecutor’s office.  She is also lucky because the quantity of marijuana found was only a few ounces.  We will work hard to help her avoid a felony conviction and repercussions to her professional license. Yes, I’ve been to Wellton. Nice people, nice town…but not a place where anyone should want to spend jail time.

Remember, if you are arrested in a small town like Wellton, just like in a major city like Phoenix or Tempe, you have an absolute right to an attorney and to remain silent.  Politely inform the officer that you would like to speak to your attorney before answering any questions… and call your lawyer. 

The Doctor’s Wife…Who Left Her Kid In The Car

A child being left in the car is usually front-page news in Phoenix.  It is a tragic death, as the inside of a car in the summer can reach 200 degrees. In Maricopa County, parents who leave children in the car, even when there is no real injury, are often charged with child abuse/neglect.   Child Protective Services (CPS) will be contacted and children can be placed in foster homes.   Depending on the injury to the child, temperature and policies set by prosecutors of these cases, the charges can run the gambit from misdemeanors to negligent homicide.

Everyone has heard stories about men intentionally leaving their kids in the car while going into a bar or strip-club.   Remember the lady in Scottsdale who left her kid in the car but took her dog into Nordstroms?

A few years ago I represented a mother, who despite what she thought were good intentions, left her son in the car while she went into a bookstore.  The events occurred at the Target Shopping Center adjacent to Paradise Valley Mall.   My client and her two (2) kids were heading to the “1/2 Priced Books” in the strip mall.  The children, ages 3 and 7, were in the back seat of a Honda Oddessy minivan.  The 3-year-old boy had fallen asleep in the car on the short drive from their home in Paradise Valley.  Mom decided she did not want to wake the child, and found the closest parking spot to the “1/2 Priced Books”.  She opened the sliding door so that she (and anyone nearby) could see into the van and where the boy sleeping and still strapped into his car seat.

Fortunately, the weather was pleasant (70 degrees) and was not an issue when she left the car and walked about 150 feet (as measured by the Phoenix Police Department) into the “1/2 Priced Books”. As the minutes ticked on, pedestrians in the parking lot took notice of the little boy sleeping unattended in the vehicle.  They gathered near the car wondering the whereabouts of the child’s parent.  Someone called the Phoenix Police, who arrived a few minutes later and confirmed that the child was in good health and just sleeping.  Ultimately, the roof-lights of the squad car caught the attention of my client who frantically came running out of the bookstore.

The Mother approached the Phoenix police officer and tried to explain that she was watching the child from inside the bookstore.  She indicated that she could see her son the entire time through the open car door and that he was okay. While the police were deciding what action to take, Mother called her husband, who was a physician at the Mayo Clinic in Scottsdale.  He quickly arrived at the shopping center and attempted to deescalate the situation. Notwithstanding his efforts, the Mother was arrested.

Defending a parent accused of intentionally harming a child is always challenging…but defending a parent who unintentionally (certainly not maliciously) exposed a child to harm is often more difficult.  My client was a PhD candidate and extremely intelligent (at least with book smarts). Yet, despite her formal education, she clearly exercised poor judgment by leaving her son in the car.  In defending the case, we obtained video surveillance from the parking lot and were able to asses how long the Mother had left the child unattended…a total of 14 minutes.  The State argued that the Mother must not have been watching from the store, as she did not see the small mob of onlookers until the police arrived with lights and sirens.

In addition to criminal charges, Child Protective Services (CPS) was called.   Our job was to assure that the CPS ‘unsubstantiated’ the child neglect allegation and that the criminal matter was successfully resolved by trial or reasonable compromise.  Ultimately, we convinced CPS to ‘unsubstantiate’ the allegation, as the child was not harmed, and State of Arizona agreed to drop the felony charges.

While we all think we would not make a mistake as serious as this, the reality is that it could happen to anyone.  Unfortunately poor parenting decisions do not discriminate based wealth or education.  My client made a bad decision, and fortunately, with our assistance, was able to avoid CPS taking her children or being convicted of a serious crime.