Doctors diagnosed Joseph with Progressive Glaucoma, which is an eye condition that causes damage to the optic nerve resulting in permanent vision loss. He was told his eyesight would gradually fade over several years until he was blind, but little did he know he would be involved in an accident that would dramatically change his life sooner than he thought.

While at work in late 2009, a heavy box fell on the back of Joseph’s neck, back and shoulders, damaging his optic nerve, which controlled his vision. Joseph went completely blind in a matter of months instead of years.

Being remarried and raising a teenage son, Joseph realized he needed to apply for social security disability in order to have an income that, along with that of his new wife, would support both of them and allow them to support their household. After a few months, Joseph was granted Social Security Disability. When someone is awarded Social Security income of any kind, they are no longer required to file a tax return because their income is no longer earned. Although he was no longer required to file, he was included in his wife’s filing as her dependent.

Upon filing, Joseph and his wife were confused and frustrated because they did not understand why they did not receive a tax refund. In addition, his social security benefits were cut off because it appeared to the Social Security Administration that he was working. Joseph did his research and started to believe he might be a victim of identity theft.

LSLA accepted his case and got started right away, requesting 2848 to access his tax refund history, which included a timeline of submitted documents such as W2’s. LSLA instantly noticed W2’s posted from Florida. Also uncovered were three dependents in Florida listed on his report which made no sense since Joseph and his wife only had one child. His attorney immediately knew and confirmed that he was in fact a victim of identity theft.

On top of not receiving a refund, Joseph’s disability income was discontinued since the IRS was able to see reports of a steady income, actually reported by the identity thief. With continued efforts, LSLA made a Freedom Of Information Act (FOIA) request to identify the back and forth communication Joseph had with the IRS, proving his attempts to inform the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) that he was disabled and the W2s from Florida were not his own.

All of this overwhelming information about his social security being discontinued due to identity theft was stressful for Joseph and his wife. Over time, his wife became ill and could no longer work. Without her supportive income and no income from his disability award, the family was getting desperate for money.

LSLA submitted an identity theft claim to the IRS, which was accepted. The IRS ended up giving Joseph a protected PIN number that can block others who are trying to access his tax information. LSLA helped Joseph re-qualify for social security disability. LSLA also obtained all of Joseph’s wife’s refund money. Finally, LSLA obtained a determination that Joseph did not owe any money to the IRS.

“I really appreciated the great work you did. The IRS can be a stressful process. Your legal services helped my family recover from financial loss.” Joseph said. “You brought me peace of mind and besides being able to get a refund, getting a peace of mind was by far the greatest result.”

*Names were changed to protect the identity of the individuals involved.

Identity Theft – Financial Eligibility & Identity Restored

The children were crying, screaming and covering their watery eyes while their mother starved them, neglected them and continually drowned herself in drugs. The children deserved to be loved, looked after and cared for. They didn’t deserve to be abandoned, neglected and left to fend for themselves, especially at the ages of seven and nine.

Valerie, the daughter in law of Sarah, had legal trouble her entire adult life. She had been in and out of jail, wanted for stealing cars, and arrested for prostitution, dealing drugs, and possession. Ever since the children were babies, Valerie would neglect them in ways that were coldhearted. She starved them, ignored them when they cried and left them in the hands of their grandparents so that she could take off and not look back.

The children told their grandmother about the neglect and abuse they were experiencing and how they were deprived of their most basic needs.  “She was a horrible, horrible mother. She would verbally and emotionally abuse those children. She wouldn’t take them to school, she broke their belongings, wouldn’t wash their clothes, and talked to them like they were trash,” Sarah exclaimed. “She would hit her daughter with spoons. And worst of all, she would lock up her step son in a closet and wouldn’t feed him all day.”

In addition to neglecting the kids, the living conditions were astounding; Sarah could not believe the filth they were living in. Valerie would sleep with men who had body lice, then bring said lice into the house. You could not walk through the house because there was trash everywhere.

Sarah knew the kids would never make it in life if they did not have proper care, love and affection. They desperately needed parents to nurture them. Enough was enough. She knew what she had to do. She turned to Lone Star Legal Aid (LSLA) for a protective order and full custody of both children.

As soon as LSLA accepted Sarah’s case, her lawyer prepared and filed the necessary paperwork with the county court. Soon thereafter, Sarah was able to get a protective order and custody rights over the children.  Sarah is pleased with how the children are doing since they came to live with her and her husband. Sarah wants both of them to have the most normal life as possible. This includes learning their manners, going to school and giving back.

Both children have depression, anxiety, ADHD and PTSD resulting from the traumatic conditions they were faced with. Even though they both see therapists and are working on their mental health, they are still afraid to go to school and even go outside. It took a while for them to get comfortable being at their grandparent’s house.

“They now have a nice, clean bed to sleep in, in a bed of their own. They get three meals and a snack every day,” Sarah said. “We help them with their homework, they are learning to do chores, learning to have friends, and learning how to volunteer in the community.”

Sarah’s grandchildren were mistreated until LSLA helped her gain custody rights to call those children her own and save them from growing up in an abusive home.  “Lone Star Legal Aid changed our lives. They fought for us and made it beautiful. Your office did amazing things by helping us get those kids. Now they have a chance at life.”

  • Names were changed to protect the identity of the individuals involved.

Child Neglect – A Chance at Life

Mary’s insurance denied her the coverage she needed to keep seeking treatment and surgeries for the genetic illness that she was diagnosed with when she was born. Von Hipple Landau (VHL) is a type of cancer that causes malignant tumors to form in multiple organs of the body which initiated her permanent blindness in 2007. She also experiences numbness, weaknesses and loss of balance throughout her body. She cannot eat with her hands as they are asleep at her sides. Constant treatment including scans and MRIs are necessary to keep up with her changing body. After 10 years of receiving insurance coverage at MD Anderson, her provider refused to pay for the rest of her treatment.

MD Anderson is one of the most respected cancer treating facilities in the United States. As a Medicaid recipient, Mary was informed MD Anderson was no longer in network with her provider, United Health Care. United Health Care suggested she request out-of-network treatment stating it was medically necessary. Mary was able to continue to receive treatment until 2018. In the same year, United Health Care denied her request for out-of-network treatment.

United Health Care suggested an in-network provider that could see her and assist with her treatments. However, the in-network doctor had limited knowledge on her illness and even failed to diagnose her with a pancreatic tumor. Mary was skeptical of his diagnoses as her long-time treating physician told her that he was surprised the in-network doctor didn’t detect any tumor, as the one he diagnosed her with had actually increased in size since he last examined her.

Mary exhausted all of her appeals through United Health Care and was referred directly to Texas HHSC. She then appealed directly to Texas HHSC. Texas HHSC held a hearing where Mary and her treating physician were able to testify regarding the medical necessity of treatment at MD Anderson. The treating physician testified that the in-network provider did not specialize in her form of cancer and misdiagnosed her with a pancreatic tumor. Texas HHSC upheld United Health Care’s denial for out-of-network treatment.

Mary turned to Lone Star Legal Aid for assistance. Her attorney, Channing Guidry, filed an Administrative Review of the Texas HHSC decision within 30 days, as required by their policy. With her attorney and enough supporting documents, Texas HHSC reversed its decision to uphold United Health Care’s denial of out-of-network treatment. As a result, United Health Care is ordered to cover Mary’s treatment at MD Anderson.

“Lone Star Legal Aid has given me confidence and made me a stronger person. Working with them taught me to not let negativity stop me from getting what I deserve.” Mary said. “Don’t let obstacles slow you down.”

  • Name changed to protect the client’s identity.

Healthcare – Coverage by Medical Necessity

Imagine not knowing if you would be alive to see the next day. Imagine having to protect your children from someone who would hit them, push them and drag them out of the house. Sharon Smith was terrified when she was married to James, as he would threaten her and abuse her to where she thought she would never escape her fear. She felt trapped.

James was an alcoholic, an abuser and an attacker, but he was also a husband and a father to a wife and four children; two daughters ages 23, 20, and two sons ages 9 and 7. James had a habit of driving the children while drunk. He would also emotionally harass them with hateful, descriptive text messages. All four of the children were terrified of their father and did not want to be near him. They feared he would hurt them again. Sharon didn’t tolerate his behavior but when she attempted to call the police, James threatened her life.

“If I tried to call the police he would tell me I would be dead before they got here and I believed him,” Sharon said.

There were times when their 20-year-old daughter would supervise visits if her mom wasn’t home to look after the young boys. She would not only have to take care of her brothers, but respond to James’ violent behavior and physical abuse.

“She would stand up for what was right. She would get in his face and do whatever it took to protect those boys,” Sharon said. “She was the other parent. Not him.”

Sharon knew she was a victim of crime and turned to Lone Star Legal Aid (LSLA) to file for divorce. She knew enough was enough. “God had answered a prayer,” she said about LSLA accepting her case. LSLA fought for Sharon and won. She was able to keep her property, her children and James was only allowed supervised visits on every first and third weekend of each month. Sharon felt relief for both herself and her children.

To overcome the trauma and abuse she and her family suffered, she has begun counseling and has her friends for emotional support. Sharon wants others going through domestic violence to always keep searching for justice.

“Never give up. There is a way out. Someone will help you and accept you. You can’t keep living in that situation, Sharon said. “Lone Star Legal Aid impacted my life. They have changed my life. If I hadn’t of found them when I did, I would have been dead by now.”  

*Names were changed to protect the client’s identity.

Domestic Violence – Filing for a New Life

 
Richard Deed made a career out of his service in the United States Army. For the seven years preceding his discharge, he was stationed in Fort Hood, Texas where he met his now ex-wife Molly. He and Molly had a child two years after he moved there. He never imagined planting roots in Texas as he envisioned himself back in Nevada where he grew up. “I guess a year is not long enough, I didn’t know her as well I thought,” he says when referring to how, and when, his relationship with Molly dissolved.
 
After their divorce was final, Molly claimed that Mr. Deed had attacked her and quickly sought a protective order against him. He was arrested and ordered to complete a pretrial intervention program through the Bell County Veterans Treatment Court. Life seemed to be quickly rolling downhill as the charges resulted in Mr. Deed being booted out of the military.
 
A veterans’ treatment court serves a large segment of the justice-involved veteran population as opposed to business as usual: having all veterans appear before random judges who may or may not have an understanding of their unique experiences and issues. A veterans’ treatment court judge better understands the issues that a veteran may possibly be struggling with, such as substance addiction, PTSD, traumatic brain injury, or military sexual trauma. A veterans’ treatment court judge is also more familiar with the Veterans Health Administration, Veterans Benefits Administration, State Department of Veterans Affairs, veterans service organizations, and volunteer veteran mentors and how they can all assist veteran defendants.
 
Upon completion of the pretrial intervention program, Mr. Deed’s criminal case was dismissed, but his arrest record was still preventing him from getting the government job he desired as well as visitation with his child. Without work, he was living on limited means and facing the possibility of homelessness. To keep busy, he volunteered with local police and firefighters.
 
The Bell County Veterans Treatment court referred Mr. Deed to LSLA’s Belton branch office, where he sought the legal assistance he required to remove the arrest from his record so that he could find a job as well as start seeing his child. His case was accepted and a Petition for Expungement was filed on his behalf. His attorney argued that the assault charge should be dropped because there was no evidence to support it. The matter was set for hearing and Mr. Deed’s petition was granted, allowing his criminal arrest records to be expunged. Mr. Deed says he is “carefree of charges and now I can get my life back together. If it was not for legal aid, I would probably be in jail or in the system somewhere. I would probably be up a creek.”

 

 
*Names were changed to protect the identity of the individual(s).

Nondisclosure – Put The Record Straight

Although 17-year-olds in Texas are not allowed to vote, buy cigarettes, serve on a jury, join the military, or enter into a binding contract, they can be charged as adults in criminal matters and even sent to prison. Irene Andrews, now 22 years old, found herself being charged as an adult when she was 17. Still in high school and forced to defend herself against the typical cause of most teenage angst, school bullies, she fell into a confrontational situation with some of her peers that led to her arrest for assault. While Irene is far from proud of the fight she was involved in, she is ready to move on with her life without this record preventing her from reaching her full potential. She is currently in school working to earn a Bachelor’s degree.
The Texas Government Code Section 411.081 allows an individual who has successfully completed probation (or deferred adjudication community supervision) to petition the  court that placed him/her on probation for an order or nondisclosure. An order of nondisclosure prohibits criminal justice agencies from disclosing to the public the criminal history record information related to the offense that is the subject of the petition. Criminal history record information subject to an order of nondisclosure is exempt fro mthe required disclosure under the Texas Public Information Act.
Successfully completing probation (or deferred adjudication community supervision) is required in order to get an order of nondisclosure approved by a judge. But, Irene’s case wasn’t black and white. Irene was arrested a few months after she completed her probationary period, which would normally disqualify her from such a benefit. The reason for her arrest: protesting on behalf of raising the minimum wage for all low-wage workers, especially those of color. Irene applied for legal assistance with Lone Star Legal Aid and was assigned to attorney Fallon Hamilton in the Civil Matters in Criminal Justice Project. Attorney Hamilton reviewed Irene’s criminal record and believed that if given a chance to explain Irene’s subsequent arrest, a judge might grant an order of nondisclosure for her.
At the hearing, the prosecutor contested the petition for nondisclosure claiming that Irene was not eligible as she was arrested within the two years following the completion of her deferred adjudication. Attorney Hamilton knew that this client deserved a chance to be heard despite the objection of the prosecution and asked to approach the bench and provide testimony as to Irene’s criminal past and how despite her violation of probation, she should be granted a nondisclosure. The judge agreed, granted the petition for nondisclosure, and Irene was ecstatic! She no longer dreads the “have you ever been convicted of a crime” question listed on apartment applications as well as applications for jobs and school. As of the date of the signed order, Irene’s records will be sealed from all criminal record databases.
*Names were changed to protect the client’s identity.

Nondisclosure – Winning a contested case

Water had never entered the home Pamela McCarty has lived in for over 20 years.  Spending most of her life in Texas, she spent time in New York and Ohio before moving back in 1994 to care for her aging father after her mother’s passing. As the youngest of 13 children and her father’s caregiver at the time of his death, the home was left to her.
 
Slowly, but surely, McCarty was fixing up the home. Fresh paint here, new furnishings there. She loved her home. Her world was completely turned upside when along came Harvey. She had seen the streets fill up, but water had never entered her family home. Her sister’s home, a few streets away, flooded before hers, so she came over to stay with her and borrowed some dry clothes. They both got comfortable for the night and fell asleep. “I jumped out of bed in the morning thinking I was going to go make us some coffee and I stepped into the water.” The water was rising fast, so she and her sister decided it was time to get out of the house. They walked outside, through the water, to find a man driving a city dump truck rescuing residents. “He took us to the corner store where other people were waiting for help, waiting for someone to tell us all where we could go.” No one could go home at the time.
 
McCarty stayed with a nephew for about a week before staying with another one of her sisters. She was never required to have flood insurance in her area, so she didn’t have it. She lost everything in the home; the water rose higher than the top of her bed. Even with her low/fixed social security income, FEMA denied her assistance for repairs to her home because it was still legally titled in the name of her deceased father. She called everyone she could think of to see who could help her. Lone Star Legal Aid had helped her with other legal matters years ago, so she dialed straight in.
 
FEMA’s rules require a registrant or disaster survivor to prove ownership by having their name on documents such as a Deed or Official Record for the home, Mortgage Payment Book or other mortgage documents, Real Property Insurance Policy, Property Tax Receipts or Tax Bill and/or a Property Title or Mobile Home Certificate of Title. Many families in Texas live in an inherited property that has not gone through a formal probate procedure, meaning their names are not referenced in the approved/required documents and they are being denied assistance.
 
Disaster staff attorney Lasonya Mahoney took Ms. McCarty’s case. She drafted and executed an affidavit of heirship and filed it with Jefferson County property records. Once that was done, attorney Mahoney was able to send a letter on Ms. McCarty’s behalf enclosing supporting documents. After waiting about a month, constantly checking her status online and conferring with her attorney, Ms. McCarty said “I was checking my bank account to see what little money I had and I was flabbergasted. I was so happy; it was just a blessing to see. I called Ms. Mahoney right away and she was so excited for me. Now I have the money to get some contractors to come and fix my house.”

Disaster – There’s no place like home

She never thought she would be locked up by someone who was supposed to love her. He had a messed up way of loving, she thought. Hope Jones* wished she would have never gotten mixed up with a man like Carl*, but it was too late.

He was a meth dealer and they met on a binge. With his abusive tendencies disguised as intense love, Hope fell quickly in love and soon after, they exchanged vows. Then she began to notice his outbursts. Often it was when he needed a fix. He couldn’t be sober. To support his habit, Carl would often break into houses. He took whatever he could sell for a quick score. He was sent to prison for a few years once. Hope’s rage towards him heightened when her 17-year-old daughter told her that he had raped her when she was 12. Hope filed for divorce and finally felt as though she had taken a step toward safety.  He was in prison after all.

As Carl’s release date approached, Hope convinced herself that everything would be okay. She thought that since he would have an entire year to get over the divorce, that her drama with him was finally over. As she was walking home from work one day, a van pulled up beside her and Carl jumped out brandishing a machete. Hope knew better than to fight him. She got in the van and he drove her hours away to his new home. Hope’s family figured she must have gotten back together with him, as had happened so many times before.

Carl acted as if he and Hope were still together. He began a jealous psychotic path. When he accused her of cheating for the first time, he tied her up and held her mouth shut with his hands and threatened to hit her if she screamed.  That time, he choked her, pulled her hair, called her names, and raped her. She tried to tell someone, but anytime she tried to get away – he would always force her back and throw away her phone. She began to feel low and worthless and all of the other things Carl constantly told her she was. He must be right, she thought. All she wanted to do was run away, back to her children.

She’ll remember the day she got to run away forever. As much as it was a miracle to her, the day was also a nightmare. She woke up, her hair still with bits of blood and sweat from the night before, and decided to take a hot shower. As the door burst open, chills swept through her. Here it comes, she thought. Carl was shouting at her, asking her why she was cheating on him with the men pumping gas at the station across the street. She was terrified – why was he holding a drill? Carl began securing the room with screws. He dragged her out of the shower and started hitting her over and over. He covered her mouth with his hands and began raping her. She was paralyzed with fear and stayed awake all night.   When Carl woke, he told her not to go crazy and he unscrewed the doors.  Knowing this was her chance, she ran out of the house.

With nowhere else to go, Hope went to a local shelter for battered women. She began to piece her life back together. Knowing that she couldn’t stay there forever, she contacted LSLA and was put in contact with an attorney who specializes in legal assistance to survivors of sexual assault. LSLA attorney Victoria Smith filed a petition for a protective order. The judge granted a lifetime protective order to Hope Jones and her children, with whom she is now reunited. They are now safe from their abuser and he is facing charges for his crimes against Hope and her family.

*Names were changed to protect the client’s identity.

Domestic Violence & Sexual Assault – She Had Enough

Ms. Ora Morrow met Lone Star Legal Aid attorney Amanda Bosley at the George R. Brown Disaster Recovery Center shortly after Hurricane Harvey made landfall off the Texas coast on August 25, 2017. The GRB was Harris County’s first DRC and also operated as a shelter for hundreds of people who lost their homes as a result of the storm’s flooding rain. Ms. Morrow is 77 years old and has lived in her home for almost 50 years.
 
Although Ms. Morrow’s house did not flood during the storm, the water did rise to the point where it flooded her vehicle that was parked in the driveway. When she met Attorney Bosley at the DRC, she had already applied to FEMA for transportation assistance but had not yet received a decision from them. Attorney Bosley followed up with her a few weeks later and Ms. Morrow said that she had received a nominal amount from FEMA for her lost vehicle, but it was not nearly enough to fix her car or even to put a down payment on for a new one. Attorney Bosley provided Ms. Morrow with advice on how to draft a FEMA appeal letter and what documents to send them. Ms. Morrow took the appeal letter and documents to the DRC to present to FEMA. Ms. Morrow said that the FEMA representatives she spoke to refused to review her documents and sent her on her way. When Ms. Morrow called and told Attorney Bosley, she agreed to make a visit to her home. Attorney Bosley took with her a FEMA appeal letter that she went over with Ms. Morrow along with the supporting documents needed so that she could send them off on her behalf.
 
Ms. Morrow says that she feels as though her independence has been taken from her. She has to call upon her daughter and nieces to take her to run simple errands; to the grocery store and the bank. Although they are happy to do it, they know that she is struggling with having to call them for help. Attorney Bosley hoped that FEMA would offer Ms. Morrow more in transportation assistance so that she can get herself back into a vehicle and regain her sense of independence.
 
On December 5, 2017, Attorney Bosley called to follow up on Ms. Morrow’s appeal. She was informed that Ms. Morrow was being awarded additional funds that will allow her to repair her vehicle. She was also informed that should Ms. Morrow face mechanical difficulties in the future with this same vehicle, she is to send a new estimate marked “Flooded – Water Damage Due to Disaster Harvey,” they will pay for that too.
 
There are many post-disaster stories like Ms. Morrow’s. When disasters strike, survivors think of finding shelter and food for their families. They think of replacing things they lost and repairing their homes or cars. Attorneys can assist when survivors are confused or when they are not being given the proper benefit they are entitled to by either federal assistance or through their insurance policies. Lone Star Legal Aid’s disaster recovery team has already picked up hundreds of cases related to Hurricane Harvey and will continue to do so.

Disaster – Personal Independence Restored

Survivors of sexual assault often fear to raise their concerns because of the possibility of retaliation from their abuser as well as feelings of shame, anxiety, and humiliation. It is essential that survivors never feel as if they have nowhere else to turn. Thanks to Texas Access to Justice’s LASSA grant, Lone Star Legal Aid is taking big steps in improving the quality of life for survivors. Here is the story of Nadia and her daughter Keira, a 4-year-old girl who was sexually abused by her father Raajeev.

Nadia married Raajeev in Bangladesh and shortly thereafter, he brought her with him to the United States. She was an immigrant, stay at home wife and mother and her husband operated multiple game rooms of questionable legality. Over their six years of marriage, Nadia found evidence of his involvement with other women. When she confronted him, he beat her. He beat her with his hands, with his shoes, with their daughter’s toys and any other object within his reach.

One day, in July of 2015, Keira showed her mom some photos that her father took of her on his iPad. The photos were of Keira naked. Overcome with feelings shock, fury and anguish, Nadia asked Keira more about the photos. Keira told her mother that her daddy took those pictures of her. Nadia felt hopeless and disgusted. She was in a state of disbelief, but she knew that it was true. How could she not? There were photographs. She feared Raajeev would beat her like he had done many times before, if she confronted him, attempted to leave him, or called authorities. Raajeev would often tell Nadia that she could never leave him because she had no family in the US and she did not even speak English. When Nadia finally felt as though she could no longer take it, she confided in a friend. Her friend supported her and urged her to contact the police and report Raajeev. The police quickly stepped in and secured a safe place/shelter for Nadia and Keira to stay. The shelter assisted Nadia in acquiring a safety plan from CPS. However, it was not legally binding. If Nadia wanted to make sure that Raajeev could not harm her daughter again, she needed a protective order.

Ethan Bishop-Watt, Staff Attorney in LSLA’s Individual Safety Unit, interviewed Nadia and reviewed all of the evidence and documents she brought him. Attorney Bishop-Watt advised her regarding her rights to a protective order for herself and for Keira. After review, research, and discussions with Nadia, Keira and the CPS staff that assisted her at the commencement of her safety journey, Attorney Bishop-Watt filed an Application for Protective Order for a Victim of Sexual Assault in state district court. In his application, Attorney Bishop-Watt requests that a protective order prohibits Raajeev from committing future physical or mental harm or sexual assault to Keira, threatening or harassing Keira, owning a firearm as well as require him to complete a battering intervention and prevention program. The protective order was granted as to family violence. Nadia is currently in divorce proceedings with Raajeev. Concurrently, Raajeev is facing a super aggravated sexual assault of a child under the age of 6 charge, which is a first-degree felony and one of the most severe charges in the criminal code. This charge has a mandatory sentence of 25 years and can go up to life in prison. Because of the protective order currently in place, Nadia does not have to worry about custody being an issue in her divorce and she can rely upon it for her daughter’s safety throughout Raajeev’s criminal proceedings.

(Name(s) have been changed to protect the privacy of the individual(s).)

Photo Credit: Flickr – Nayeem KALAM

Domestic Violence & Sexual Assault – A Journey to Safety

Lone Star Legal Aid’s Low Income Taxpayer Clinic helps families with tax problems. Sometimes the tax problems are extreme. Here’s the story of Alamenia and her amazing recovery from a million dollar tax debt.

Alamenia had never seen the box in her attic. She was surprised when “Marty,” her ex-husband, called to tell her to find the box. Her surprise turned to curiosity as she headed to the attic. Marty had gone to prison after their divorce; he had kidnapped an elderly woman and demanded $500,000 in ransom from her family. Even though they had divorced before her husband kidnapped his victim, Alamenia was devastated and didn’t understand why her ex would commit a heinous crime when they had two beautiful children. Why risk missing out on all the milestones and events in their young lives?

The box held the shocking answers. Inside the box, Alamenia found three years’ worth of letters from the IRS. It turns out that the IRS was trying to collect back taxes that Marty had failed to pay and had kept hidden from Alamenia. Marty owed the IRS an astounding $1,000,000 in back taxes. During the 9 years they were married Marty operated a construction business and assured Alamenia that he was handling all of the accounting and tax obligations. The business was doing well and Alamenia was able to focus on raising their children, including their autistic son, while Marty ran the business and provided for the family. Alamenia hoped that when the children were old enough to attend school she would have the time to pursue her own dreams. Alamenia and Marty spent many hours apart while he worked and she cared for their children. Over the years, Marty changed from a supportive husband into someone Alamenia didn’t recognize. The vague rumors of cheating were followed by Marty’s trips abroad. Marty purchased expensive cars and jewelry, not for Alamenia, but for himself. With her focus on raising their children, Alamenia missed the signs that Marty was not the man she had married. After the rumors intensified and became her reality, Alamenia divorced Marty.

Karyna Lopez, the manager of LSLA’s Low Income Taxpayer Clinic, immediately knew what to do to help Alamenia with her tax problem. Attorney Lopez interviewed Alamenia and advised her regarding her rights to an Offer in Compromise. Attorney Lopez wrote Alamenia’s story and presented it to the IRS, along with documentation of her financial hardship. Attorney Lopez argued for a reduction in liability based upon community income, asking that the debt be forgiven due to the uncertainty of its collectability. The IRS granted Alamenia’s Offer in Compromise, lowering her debt from over $1,000,000 to $1. Alamenia gratefully paid the $1.

Legal aid helps families move forward to realize their dreams. With help from LSLA to successfully resolve her tax debt, Alamenia is now able to focus on providing a better life for her family.

Tax – A Million Dollar Tax Story