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<p>CNNMoney.com reported this month on what it called a "new legal trick: fake hospital sites for finding clients." A writer found that dozens of websites bore names such as "VA Medical Center Palo Alto." But they had no affiliation with the Veterans Administration. They were plaintiff law firms fishing for clients with asbestos-related claims. After the writer made some inquiries, the websites made slight changes: they added tiny disclaimers saying "not affiliated with with the Department of Veterans Affairs." Shortly, the sites disappeared. One of the law firms was the office of Melinda J. Helbock in Encinitas, which bills itself as a firm representing victims of asbestos-related illnesses. I called her office yesterday afternoon (April 22) and also sent an email with questions. I got no response to either. Of course, neither did CNNMoney.com.

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Visduh April 23, 2010 @ 7:07 p.m.

That's really crappy. Many of the veterans who really need the support provided by the VA are not getting it due to usual governmental indifference and sluggishness. I have two service-related conditions, and cannot complain, much, about the services I receive. But many of these old guys are really befuddled, and anyone who comes along and further confuses them ought to be hanged, drawn, and quartered. (Figuratively, of course.) This goes along with notices that appear to be from the IRS, FTB, county assessor, Social Security Administration, and . . . you name it, that keep appearing in the mailbox. Most are obviously bogus, a few require some study (15 to 30 seconds of effort), and for me so far none have drawn me in.

I wonder if Melinda J Helbock is a graduate of one of the local non-ABA accredited law schools. Whatdoyathink Surfpuppy?


CuddleFish April 23, 2010 @ 7:16 p.m.

Agree with Visduh. It is despicable that businesses would take advantage of the elderly. Law firms who do this ought to be sanctioned, IMO.


Don Bauder April 23, 2010 @ 9:42 p.m.

Response to post #1: This is typical of so many questionable pitches that show up online. Most are variations on the kinds of things that used to be in the mail. Nigerian letters are a good example. I first started writing about them around 1990. The grammar and typing were crude. They came in the mail. Within a few years, the English improved. Soon clean copies were coming online. Now they come from all over the world. Best, Don Bauder


Don Bauder April 23, 2010 @ 9:44 p.m.

Response to post #2: I agree; such misleading pitches are despicable. The victims don't deserve such treatment. Best, Don Bauder


vetadvocate April 24, 2010 @ 8:26 a.m.

I looked at the sites when the story broke, they were not misleading in any way, they simply directed people to their local va hospitals with the local va med centers address's and phone numbers an add appeared at the top of the page that said if you have asbestos lung cancer call this number, that's misleading? My father died of mesothelioma and my uncle I had two front row seat's at the va and the unfortunate pleasure of watching my dad and uncle take their last breath's due to asbestos. They did not inform us it was from asbestos or that their were bankruptcy trusts we could apply for to offset our medical bills nor did they pay for my fathers private health care which cost me over 200,000 dollars trying to save his life. Veterans and families that have a loved one that died or is dying have a right to these funds and slandering lawyers who are trying to recover funds for these families only hurt vets "by the way it's not a claim against the governement only the manufacturers who made asbestos". Sounds like you all should go to the va oncology department sit there day in and out and inform everyone of their rights or better yet through up the money to support their families after their gone. By your comments your all experts on this matter. "misleading pitches" as stated by Don! Do you have any idea what you are talking about? Any knowledge of how many people die from this disease? Any knowledge of how many people are simply diagnosed with lung cancer and have no idea it was caused by asbestos? Any knowledge of how many people lose their homes or can't pay for their childs tuition on top of that they lose one of their loved ones. Who will educate them? You? The va? I applaud anyone or any lawyer who makes an effort to educate and assist the "elderly" or vets.


Vet Advocate!


Don Bauder April 24, 2010 @ 11:29 a.m.

Response to post #5: The sites for the various VA Medical Centers began with a paragraph describing the actual VA institution in question, sometimes providing the institution's correct address and phone number. People were urged to call a "hotline." The person who answered the hotline was at a law firm. CNNMoney interviewed two legal ethics professors. Said one, "The first impression, and maybe the last one before a user replies to a questionnaire, is that the site offers assistance on health, not law. I consider the home page misleading and misleading advertisements are forbidden." Another said, "It seems highly misleading. Both the substance and the look-and-feel convey the impression that the VA is offering the services." He thought the case might be a "slam dunk for any regulator that went after this." Best, Don Bauder


Visduh April 24, 2010 @ 11:56 a.m.

This was once called "ambulance chasing." It was, even when done without violating legal ethics, looked down upon by the legal profession and the public at large. What Don describes here is unethical for attorneys.


CuddleFish April 24, 2010 @ 2:43 p.m.

Exactly. Visduh. I was actually going to mention "ambulance chasing" in my post, but thought that might be going too far. Certainly seems unethical.


Don Bauder April 24, 2010 @ 2:47 p.m.

Response to post #7: Ambulance chasing comes in many forms. It is a sad reflection on the legal fraternity that many forms of ambulance chasing are NOT considered unethical. Best, Don Bauder


Don Bauder April 24, 2010 @ 2:53 p.m.

Response to post #9: Mentioning ambulance chasing in this context is hardly going too far. Best, Don Bauder


a2zresource April 24, 2010 @ 3:03 p.m.

RE #7:

I've been at VA La Jolla earlier this year to see flag-draped gurneys rolling down the hallway. Over thirty years ago, I used to fire three volleys in Old Guard final honors over flag-draped coffins at Arlington National Cemetery.


Any attorney who is so without professional ethics, as to mislead anyone regarding her or him running a "legit" information service by means of faking any VA web site, ought to be made to wear a dress-blue Army uniform with plain buttons and without insignia, then be air-dropped into Tehran on a Friday, just ahead of the call for afternoon prayers.


Don Bauder April 24, 2010 @ 9:39 p.m.

Response to post #11: Excellent idea. Suggest it to your local political representative. Trouble is, he or she is probably an attorney, and may well have been an ambulance chaser while practicing the law. Best, Don Bauder


delilahw April 27, 2010 @ 5:59 p.m.

Dear Mr. Bauder, Thank you for your continuous efforts thatbring to light “Scam Diego”. I enjoy 'following the money' as a personal hobby and followed the cnn.money article and looked up the registered domain name: in this case, CMTM.Inc. On that website I found that Michael Helbock is the CEO. Any relation to Melinda Helbock?
This paragraph of the article really confuses me: "I don't know these guys Flood and Helbock," Seeger continued. "I've instructed them to pull our name off and take them down," Weiss said. "I was contacted by them and told they don't have the resources and asked if we were interested in accepting referrals ... I don't want my name on a Website that purports to be a government site. I haven't accepted a case from them yet." It looks like CMTM.Inc also owns another site known as Ejustice.com who specifically designs web sites for lawyers. Another Helbock company? Coincidental? I think not! The veteran advocate reply to your article? Again…I think not.


Visduh April 27, 2010 @ 7:45 p.m.

That rant in post #5 from vetadvocate is similar to things I hear at meetings of my veterans organization. We tend to give the benefit of doubt to the person claiming to be an abused vet who did not get any help. But it is very hard to tell who is sincere and who is not. Chips on shoulders, axes to grind, and a whole host of other cliched circumstances are on display. Some attorney using misleading contact information is not the veteran's friend just because he/she is willing--or so claims--to take on the vet's case. If they were really trying to help the veterans, the first step would be to present an accurate picture of themselves minus any hype of any type.


Don Bauder April 28, 2010 @ 7:20 a.m.

Response to post #13: Yes, it is my understanding the Helbocks of Encinitas are a married couple. He has CMTM and ejustice. I only tried to reach her. It was her firm that was listed in this misleading attempt to recruit veterans. Best, Don Bauder


Don Bauder April 28, 2010 @ 7:23 a.m.

Response to post #14: Yes, some vets are defensive and tend to think anyone claiming to help vets is actually doing so. That's too bad. Best, Don Bauder


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