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Theresa Yates

Consumer Control: Too Much or Too Little Info 

Consumer Control: Definition – An Independent Living Philosophy terminology; use by people in the Disability Rights Movement; to describe people with disabilities who can manage every aspect of their lives.  Taking full responsibilities for all their decision makings; unless someone has guardianship over them.

She was sipping on a Pina Colada while sitting on one of the white sandy beaches in the Virgin Islands; with the bright blue ocean rolling in to cover her feet.  She was enjoying a well deserved a vacation; although, the scam that she just finished was actually a piece of cake.  With all the money that she had from the marks which never had any clue what she was doing to them.  The first lesson that all scam artists learn was to go after targets, which are gullible, incapacitated, and elderly; she lucked out because the marks combined had all three characteristics.  Some marks don’t have any streets smarts at all, and the others are plain ill-advised, which can make it extremely easy to run scams.  She smiled as she thought back to the question that started it all; “Can you get some money out of the ATM for me?”

Linda Garcia was a home care attendant, who was in between cases, she was tall, thin, beautiful and a fast talker; with platinum blonde hair and her Latino accent sometimes, she was hard to understand.  The last case she had was a woman in her mid-thirties, who had Multiple Sclerosis and was heavily involved in the independent living movement and, was constantly yelling that she was a consumer, not a client.  In the Disability Community, people with disabilities who use services were called consumers, because they weren’t sick; they were consuming services. According to the Disabled Community, they were only clients and patients when they were in the doctor’s office.  People with disabilities were people first, and their disability came second.

Linda was at her apartment in the Northeast section of Philadelphia; when her cell phone rang; it was the supervisor from Independence Home Care calling.  The home health care agency she worked for.

“Hello,” Linda answered.

“Hello, Linda, how are you?”  Mary asked.

Linda said, “Fine.  What’s up?”

 Can you fill in on a case?  The client is an older gentleman with Rheumatoid Arthritis, who uses a motorized wheelchair and needs some personal care as well as light housekeeping.  He lives in the Rittenhouse Square section of the city.  The hours are eight to one in the morning every morning; you can go there tomorrow, and if everything goes alright between you and Mr. Michael Knots you can have the case permanently.  Someone else will do the evenings and weekends.”

Linda agreed to go there; Mary gave Linda the address to Michael’s condominium; the next morning Linda took the regional rail train to the upper wealthy neighborhood of Rittenhouse Square, Michael lived in the Hill Arms Condominiums.  She was greeted by the doorman at the front lobby; she told him who she was here to see, he called Michael to see if he was expecting anyone.  After the doorman hung up the phone, he told her where Michael’s condo was.  She got on the elevator, took it to the fourth floor, and walked a couple of steps until she was in front of the door of 467.  She rang the doorbell; she heard this voice from the other side saying, ” Wait a minute!”    She listened to a clicking sound then, the door opened, and Linda saw a slim Caucasian man in a silver-grayish motorized wheelchair. 

“Mr. Knots?”  Linda said with a smile.

 “Yes, that’s me,” Michael said.

 Michael invited Linda in, she walked into the condo she saw papers scrolled all over the place.    There were dishes piled up in the sink; the trash can look like it hadn’t been taken out in weeks.  That’s when she remembered Mary telling her the other attendant was being replaced because the guy wasn’t doing his job.  The organization that was subcontracting Independence for the attendants said that people close to Michael were saying he had an odor and was wearing dirty clothes. Now, Linda could see what they were talking about; she had already made up her mind in the first five minutes of being in the condo; this would be her first and last time there. By the time she was finished, she had reasons to change her mind.

First, Linda washed the dishes then, she cooked him some breakfast; she helped Michael get bathed and dressed.  After Michael was dressed and in his wheelchair; Linda turned her attention to cleaning up the condo. 

While Linda was cleaning up, Michael was on the phone with a friend telling them all about this “attendant extraordinaire” who are doing an excellent job cleaning his place.  Michael grew up in a wealthy family that took excellent care of him. At the age of fifteen; he was diagnosed with Rheumatoid Arthritis, and the disability quickly progressed to the point where Michael was unable to walk.  Up until five years ago; he lived with his elderly mother until she died of natural causes at the age of ninety.   Michael moved into his first apartment at the age of fifty-five; his nephew made all of the arrangements.  Since Michael already was receiving attendant care services; it wasn’t a hardship when he moved.  Although the attendant services were for Michael, it was Mrs. Knots who managed her son’s attendants.  Now that Michael is on his own, he still hadn’t figured out how to be in control over his life.

When Michael hung up the phone, Linda asked in a teasing tone if he was talking to his girlfriend.  He told her that he was speaking to Susan, who had been his girlfriend for six months; he said it with a big smile on his face.  Linda inquired if she would get to meet Susan.  Michael informed Linda if she stayed with him as an attendant and go with him to the shop.  Michael was a wanna be a computer whiz; the only problem was he knew absolutely nothing about computers.  Linda finished up, and before she left, she asked Michael if he wanted her to come back.  Michael told her that he very much wanted her to be his permit attendant in the mornings.  Linda went home; in the late afternoon, she received a phone call from Mary confirming that she was indeed Michael’s fulltime morning attendant.

The next day Linda went back to Michael’s home; once Michael was bathed, dressed; and also had food in his stomach; he and Linda walked six blocks to the office.  The Resources for Printing and Graphics Inc. was a small business started by a group of people with and without disabilities who recognized that grassroots organizations and small businesses like themselves needed an alternative cheaper way of getting their printing jobs done other than Kinko’s. 

The company was located at Second and Front Streets, a block away from Penn’s Landing where the Delaware River was.  The office looked like one big giant cubicle; they had five desks with printers and two-floor size copy machines.  Rick Josef was the CEO of RPG, he was a tall, medium brown skin African-American with a muscular built and an ego the size of the old USSR.   The reason why people tolerated him was that he knew how to bring in money.  He was talking to Karen Collins and Susan Hunter; Karen was a redheaded Caucasian woman in her mid-fifties; she was involved in a car accident when she was eighteen years old.  The accident left Karen paralyzed from the waist down, limited use of her arms, she had to use a communicator (a computer that speaks whatever is type into it) to talk because she had a tracheotomy.  Karen was a genius when it came to designing artwork on the computer.  Susan Hunter was a Japanese-American medium, height, a large set with a neurology disability; she shook whenever she was in motion.  She truly believed that it was her mission to help everyone in the world. She was always involved in some shady scam that her so-called friends would get her to participate in. She had been in and out of jail since she was a teenager, now she was Rick’s assistant. 

Michael introduced Linda to everyone; they were thrilled that Michael finally had an attendant who seemed to care about his wellbeing and less about getting a paycheck.  Gregory (Michael’s former attendant) used to sit around watching television and talking nonstop on his cell phone.  The only time Michael went to the office is when Gregory felt like accompanying him.   Since Michael’s nephew owned the building, Rick allowed Michael to be a part of the company, and they didn’t have to pay him.

Rick reminded everyone that Disability Pride Day was five months away and Resources for Printing and Graphics were providing all of the printing materials, banners, and computer graphics for the event.  They needed to get their focus back on the task at hand.   The Disability Pride Celebration was a celebration of the fact that disability was just another characteristic of people makes up; such as their race or ethnic heritage.  It usually took place on the anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).  The law states that all public establishments and services must be made accessible to people with disabilities.  Every year the event would have a theme; this year theme was Consumer Control.

As the day went on, Linda worked her hours and left; Michael was delighted that his attendant was attentive to him.  Susan asked him if Linda was going to be handling his money for him.  Michael had a bad habit of giving away his money to homeless people, then he would come up short when it came time to pay his bills.  Rick, Susan, and Karen all tried to tell Michael to take care of himself first, and if he had extra money left over, it could go to helping the homeless.  Michael’s mother left an inheritance of $3,000.00 a month; his expenses came to $2,000.00; that left $1,000.00.  Karen tried to encourage Michael to pay his bills online or have the bank’s employees assist him; like she did.  He was always used to someone else managing his money; even though he took a class to learn how to do it himself.

There have been several months where Michael (the person with the highest income in the group) would ask to borrow from the others.  This is why his oldest nephew was the one who oversaw the trust fund; he told his uncle that if he ever got in a situation where he has no money, his nephew would place him in a nursing home.

In two weeks, Linda and Susan had developed a close friendship with each other through divulging Michael’s personal information.  Linda revealed the intimate details of Michael’s daily routine; right down to the rash on his inner thigh.  Susan repeated the rumors that he might have had sexual relationships with his mother’s housekeepers.  Most of the times, Michael just sat there listening to the women tell his business; as if he wasn’t in the same room. 

 It was time for Linda to leave, but before she left Michael asked her if she would go to the ATM machine to get him $200.00.  This was the first time Michael had asked Linda to do the task.  Linda was hesitant at first,

 “Well, Mr. Michael, I don’t know if I’m allowed to do that.  I’ve never done this before.”  She said.

That’s when Susan decided that she would be the “Good Samaritan;” she said that she had withdrawn money for Michael previously when he had attendants who were untrustworthy… 

She announced to Michael and Linda “From now on, I’ll go to the ATM for Michael.  We don’t want Linda to feel uncomfortable or get in any trouble, she is the best attendant you ever had.”

Linda asked Michael, “Is that ok with you?”

“Of course, it’s ok with him; I’ve been doing this off and on for three years,” Susan said, sounding like Michael’s mother was still alive.

Karen overheard the whole conversation and tried to remind her comrade (Susan) that she was still on probation for the scam her low life boyfriend had gotten her involved in.  Bryant Morgan was a short very heavy-set street thug, who instead of getting a legitimate job, thought robbing ATMs was a good career move.  The last heist they did together went wrong from the second it started.  Most of the robberies took placed late at night or on the weekend; Bryant thought hitting a PNC Bank’s ATM on the first day of the month, which was on a Friday at seven o’clock would net them the motherlode.  What actually happened was the employees inside the bank called the police without Susan or Bryant noticing.  They didn’t know that just because the bank closed at seven, doesn’t mean the employees went home at that time.  Bryant was sentenced to five years in the state’s prison.  Susan record as a juvenile was sealed; that’s why the judge put her on probation for five years.

“First of all, I’m not robbing an ATM machine; I’m withdrawing money for a friend upon his request.  And how many times do I have to tell you to stay out of my business?” Susan said in a nasty tone to Karen.

Just at that moment, Karen’s attendant Cathy Jackson walked in the shop.  She was a light skin African-American woman in her late forties, who was short and chubby with her hair braided into twenty long dreadlocks.  She had been an attendant ever since her aunt was diagnosed with breast cancer, her aunt didn’t have any children of her own; Cathy took care of her aunt until her death.  That’s when she went to work for Independence Home Care, she had filled in on many cases; she was so well liked that at least a few times some week consumers called requesting Cathy.  She treated consumers with respect and dignity; she never tried to tell them what to do.  The second consumer she was assigned to was Karen; that was eight years ago.  Karen had numerous attendants before meeting Cathy; too many of those relationships went astray due to the blurring of the lines between work and personal relationships.  By the time Karen met Cathy, she knew how to be friendly while maintaining a healthy work relationship.

Cathy only came to the shop when Karen asked her to help with projects around the shop.  Otherwise, she would meet Karen at the house in the Germantown section of the city; Karen’s house was accessible.  Karen bought the house on her own by taking a class for home ownership. Cathy worked Monday thru Friday; mornings and evenings, she had the weekends off.

Before a full-blown argument broke out between Susan and Karen, Rick told both women they could go home if all they were going to do were argue.  Rick’s only focus was preparing for Disability Pride Day; as far as he was concerned nobody at RPG had any time to waste.  Susan, Michael, and Linda all agreed that Susan would get the money for Michael since there was an ATM down the street from her apartment building.  Several times a week, Michael gave his debit card to Linda to take to Susan so she could withdraw funds and to pay Michael’s bills.

This went on for three months; during this period, Linda had visited Susan home numerous times.  Sometimes they would meet up on the weekends and go to the clubs.  The time came when Michael was receiving phone calls about the electric, gas, and T-Mobile bills; saying that all of the bills were past due.  He couldn’t understand why the bills collectors were calling since Susan always paid his bills on time.  The reason he knew that she was spending all his bills was that she would show Michael the receipt.  One-night Michael’s nephew called him demanding to know why there wasn’t any money in his checking or savings accounts.  Michael was totally baffled and dumbfounded; the next day, Michael’s nephew Jeff, came to show him all of the bank statements where someone had taken a vast amount of money out for two months.

1010 Deco Drive was right down the street from Susan; that’s where every withdraw happened.  It was ten o’clock in the morning when Jeff was at Michael’s apartment, he asked if Linda knew anything about the missing money.

“Oh no, Mr. Jeff. I never took any money out of the machine for Mr. Michael.  I would always take the debit card to Susan and let her get the money out.” She said,

By this time, Jeff was beyond being frustrated; he knew that his uncle never splurged on himself.  Michael was satisfied as long as he had food, halfway decent clothes and some money to get candy he was pretty much set for the month.  So, Michael, Jeff, and Linda went to RGP to confront Susan.  When the three people walked in the shop, about fifteen volunteers were buzzing around along with the regular staff trying to put the finish touches on the flyers, signs, and banners.  Rick and Karen both saw Jeff; they instinctively knew something horrible was about to go down.  If they were right, it couldn’t have come at the worst time; it was three days before Disability Pride Day.

“Where’s Susan?” Michael demanded, sounding like he found someone else’s backbone.

Rick replied, “She’s running some errands for me.  Why?”

“She took my money!” Michael yelled.

“I can’t believe she took Mr. Michael’s money. Linda said in disbelief.

Karen and Rick didn’t believe that Susan would take Michael’s money; Linda had told Jeff all about how she was involved with robbing ATMs machines.  She had also informed him that Susan was the only one who was taking money out, and Michael confirmed it.  Karen reminded Michael that he willingly agreed to the arrangement.  Jeff asked Michael why he allowed a criminal to handle his money.  Michael answered that Susan had been trustworthy in the past.  Jeff told the group he was going outside for a minute.

“I knew she shouldn’t have done this.”  Karen typed out on her communicator; while looking at Linda.

Cathy had told Karen all about her conversation with Linda and how she really felt about working with senior citizens and people with disabilities.  Susan came in with five giant plastic bags that were full and a big smile of accomplishment.  She saw the looks on their faces and asked what was wrong?  They told her what was going on.

“Michael, you know I only took out what you asked for,” Susan screamed.

Rick yelled that this couldn’t be happening just days before Disability Pride Day.  The last meeting of the steering committee to finalize everything for the event was at RPG.  It was very chaotic in the shop already with one of the printers running out of ink, and they still had seven thousand copies to make for several different organizations.  He was hoping to be the permit designer graphics for the event from here on out.  Having one of the staff stealing from another isn’t the image Rick wanted to convey to the world.

Susan reminded Michael that in the past few years that she was the one who always pointed out when his attendants were stealing from him.  Michael responded by saying Linda had told him that it takes a thief to know a thief.  Susan was beyond hurt; she thought she and Linda were BFFs; they went out every weekend since they met.  They were on their cell phones for hours talking each day.  She didn’t understand how her best friend could turn on her so quickly.  Susan gave Linda the “How could you?” look.

Linda looked at Susan and said, “Remember, it was your ideal to handle Mr. Michael’s money, not ours.”

Yeah, everyone heard you.” Michael shouted back, like Karen, Rick, and a couple other people nodded their heads.

Susan responded; “Michael I was trying to help you out, I’m still on probation, and I really shouldn’t be going near any ATMs.  If I want to get my own money I have to go inside the bank.  I did this because I care about you as a friend.”

“You mean as his girlfriend?” Linda said.

“No!  For the last time, I’m not Michael’s girlfriend! I just let him think that.”

Jeff was in the background with the Philadelphia Police listening to the whole conversation. They had heard enough, the police officer put handcuffs on Susan, and then he announced she was under arrest for violating her probation and for theft.  Susan was yelling for someone to stand up for her and tell Jeff and the police officer that she didn’t do anything wrong.  Rick really wanted to take Susan’s side, but all of the evidence was pointing in her direction.  Before the officer escorted her out; Rick promised Susan that they would get everything straightens out prior to the end of the day.  After that, Jeff announced that next Friday, Michael will be moving into a nursing home in New Jersey, ten minutes away from his home.  Five minutes later, people from the steering committee began to trickle in.  Rick had an impromptu meeting previous to the committee meeting, in which he instructed everyone who had witnessed what happened between Michael and Susan, not to speak about it while the committee members were there.

Jeff was about to leave when Linda asked to speak to him in private.  They went outside and got in Jeff’s 2017 Tar Heels’ blue Toyota Camry…  Linda explained to him that she tried to make his uncle feel masculine by performing oral sex on him.  She went to the doctor and found that she had a transmitted sexual disease in her mouth.  He told her that he would take care of everything; over the years there had been several women (housekeepers, attendants, etc.) who were either curious or took pity on his uncle would have sex with him.  Jeff never questioned the accusation because he knew how women saw Michael as a harmless child.

Disability Pride Day was a huge success, RPG finished all the jobs on time and was able to be very innovative and creative to show the sophistication of each organization banner.  Most people were so impressed with the graphics that Rick received a total of fifty business cards from people requesting that RPG handle their graphics and printing jobs.  Karen was one of the speakers for the event; she programmed a twenty minutes speech into her communicator about what consumer control meant to her.  Michael and Linda observed all of the festivities that were happening during Disability Pride; face painting, demonstrating the latest assistive technology for people with disabilities, and eating snacks from different vendors.  Unfortunately, for Michael, this was the last event he would be attending, that coming Friday and for the rest of his natural life, he would be spending it in a nursing home.  Jeff had gained guardianship over Michael the year before in case something like this happened.

Susan spent six months in jail for violating her probation; she was also about to spend five years in prison for stealing Michael’s money, luckily for her, Rick’s best friend was a defense attorney, she took the case pro bono.  Susan actually spent ten months locked up before she was released.  Susan walked into RPG to be greeted by Rick and Karen. 

Susan exclaimed she had finally learned her lesson about staying out of other people’s business.  All of the evidence did indeed point to her, and nobody believed she was innocent.    Each time the money was withdrawn from the ATM down the street from where she lived.  They had all the photos from the security cameras; clearly showing her at the machine on the dates the money was withdrawn.  Michael and Jeff were hell-bent on making sure she paid for her crime until Tori (Susan’s lawyer) found something at the bottom of the pile of photos that cleared her.

Linda had received her education in con artistry from her older foster brother at the tender age of ten, by the time she was fifteen, she was a master at conning people.  Linda had been placed in foster care when she was three years old when her mother who was a member of a Puerto Rican gang was sent to prison for life because she took out a rival gang member.  Her father was of Cuban descent who was a modern-day transit bagger.  He used women to get a meal and money to get what he needed.  He was in town for one day, and he spotted Linda’s mother from across the bar; their eyes met, they spent the next fifteen minutes in a stall in the men’s bathroom.  That was all it took for Linda to come into existence.

When she turned twenty-one; she had to find a job to support herself.  Linda didn’t want to work in an office where a supervisor could stand over her.  It would be a cold day in hell, before she would be slaying over a hot oil of french fries, working in a fast food place.  A month before her leaving the foster home, the foster mother’s father came to live with the family and had a home attendant to assist him.  She noticed how the attendant did the bare minimum, no one bothered to make sure that the person did their job, and if the consumer didn’t make any complaints; the attendant was home free.  Linda wasn’t in the field of providing home care to people with disabilities and senior citizens because she was a compassionate person.  She was in it to make money, but not from the lousy paychecks the employers would give her.  Truth be known, the city’s trash collectors earned more money than home care attendants.  The only reason she did that kind of job was steadily supplies of marks.

Linda witnessed someone who belonged to a tiny group of attendants; most people who are attendants do care and try to do a decent job.  They do the job because they really want to help people with disabilities live their lives the way that they choose to.  It was appealing to Linda that she could work her own hours; the agency would call an attendant with a time slot that needed to be filled, and the attendant could either accept or deny the case. 

Six months later, she received her certificate to be a Certified Nurse Aide.  Two years of being an attendant; she worked for five different agencies she had been let go do to questionable conduct.   It was hard to prosecute someone for stealing from people who couldn’t use the ATMs by themselves, and who depended on attendants to assist them.  Some of the consumers didn’t want to admit that they had been taken advantage of.  Linda would get the clients to trust her, and when she had their trust, she would make extra money for herself.  When she had several questionable complaints against her, she applied to another home health care agency.  That’s how she ended up working at Independence Home Care.  Linda told Cathy she became attendant so that she didn’t have to do any hard labor at all. 

Linda thought she would have an endless supply of targets to run scams on.  Senior citizens and people with disabilities are easy because they have to give their attendants some lea way when it comes to trust.  It was hard not to trust people who cook your food; clean your home and for numerous consumers help them to get dress and undress; not to mention the rash near his private areas. 

When she went to Michael Knots’ home, she knew that she was in a wealthy person’s home by the building.  Once she saw the five one-hundred-dollar bills laying on the coffee table, she started planning her scam.  That’s why she made her best impression of Florence Nightingale, too gain Michael’s trust, and with Susan insisting on helping made the scam easy to execute.  Weeks into working with Michael; he would tell her to tell Susan to get fifty dollars, and she would ask Susan to withdraw two hundred dollars.  Then, she would take back the card; pretended to put the card back and get out her debit card to take out money from her bank account.   Linda told Susan it was a coincidence Linda and Michael had the same bank.  Susan never questioned anything Linda did; Linda was using Michael’s debit card every time.  She made sure Susan was with her when she took the money, Michael and Susan never bother to check with each other, because they trusted Linda cold-heartedly, even though, they barely knew her.  Susan became tired of paying Michael’s bills, so she asked Linda to take that responsibility, neither of them informed Michael.   He would glance at the receipt instead of inspecting it.  Linda kept giving Michael the same receipts for all of the bills month after month.

Linda never was convicted of any of her crimes, and Susan had a record; Linda knew all suspicions will be on Susan.  This is the reason why she made sure Susan was in the view of the camera when she took out the money.  Linda netted $5,777,630.00 thanks to Jeff Knots giving her hush money and to pay for medical expenses for the STD that she didn’t have.  Linda didn’t give Michael oral sex; she only promised him, but Jeff never confronted Michael about it.  With all that money, she quit her job at Independence Home Care and flew to the Virgin Islands. 

Now, Linda was sipping on a Pina colada while sitting on one of the white sandy beaches in the Virgin Islands; with the bright blue ocean rolling in to cover her feet.  She was enjoying a well deserve a vacation; she used all the money she stole from Jeff and Michael with Susan unknowingly assisting her.   Linda took another sip of Pina Colada; she thought about the time Susan will be spending in jail for a crime she didn’t commit.   As she was about to take one more sip she heard “Ms. Linda Garcia, you are under arrest for the embezzlement of Mr. Michael Knots money.”’ The police pulled her to her feet and handcuffed her.

Susan’s lawyer patiently looked through all the photos, and the last photograph showed Linda by herself taking out money from Michael’s account.  If Linda hadn’t been greedy and made that previous transaction; Susan would still be in jail, and she would still be enjoying the sandy beach.

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