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Howard makes headway on two big stories

NEW YORK — We’ve got some news on two stories we’ve been covering for a while.

We’ve been following Alex Dwek for about three years now. We’ve told you how the Rutherford, New Jersey man is trying to care for his handicapped daughter, Maya-Rose. She suffered a mystery illness that left her unable to walk or talk. It finally was diagnosed as a genetic defect that prevents her brain from properly communicating with her muscles. Alex says she’s the only known case of this particular genetic abnormality.

Alex has had a problem with his mortgage company. His interest only mortgage ran out. He now had to pay part of the principle and he just can’t afford it. He’s desperate for Maya to stay in the only home she’s ever known.

But the mortgage company, OCWEN, refused any modification. After we got involved, they took another look. But again claimed there was nothing they could do.

So we asked U.S. Senator Robert Menendez’s office if they might be able to help. They lobbied OCWEN themselves. Still nothing. But they also came up with a state grant that can keep Alex going for a while. He’s applying. But he needs a letter from OCWEN. It took the company quite a while just to cash a consolidated check to set up an escrow account through them. So we hope they realize how important the letter is and act expeditiously.

We’ll see.

Also, we want to tell you about Arie Gal, a guy who’s become a bit of a financial terror for new homeowners in Long Island. He sends them letters appearing to be from Nassau County and containing an application for a STAR property tax rebate. Homeowners can file it for free. But if they don’t realize Gal’s mailings are his bid to mail it in for them, then they wind up on the hook to him for their first annual rebate. And that’s often more than a thousand dollars.

We did a story on his scheme in April. I chased him down a courthouse corridor but he wouldn’t defend his business. Now he’ll have to defend it before the New York Attorney General’s office. The AG has gotten a temporary restraining order freezing his assets and preventing him from doing business. And it’s suing him for restitution for the homeowners he’s bamboozled. The AG says he’s taken advantage of thousands of people and pulled in at least $1.5 million!