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Pinoywatchdog is Bander

Quirky L.A. lawyer uses tabloid to malign people

By Rhony Laigo

ATTORNEY Joel Bander, the same U.S. lawyer who faced sexual molestation charges in the Philippines and who “scammed” hundreds of homeowners in a costly but failed mortgage litigation program, is the real person behind the smear campaign against Atty. James G. Beirne and Balita Media.

This surfaced after credit card receipts showed that Bander was the one paying to print Pinoywatchdog.com , a newspaper tabloid that has been publishing articles maligning Beirne and the staff of this newspaper, including the author.

In court filings made by Beirne’s lawyers, Atty. Jack M. Lapedis said it is clear that Bander has “hatred” for Atty. James G. Beirne. Not only does Bander maligning Beirne, Lapedis said Bander is also using Pinoywatchdog to “solicit specifically Mr. Beirne’s former and current clients, but not the former or current clients of other attorneys.”

Responding to Bander’s allegation that Beirne reportedly committed violations relating to Beirne’s newspaper advertising that appeared in Balita, Lapedis also stated that “Mr. Bander is using Pinoywatchdog, a newspaper that Mr. Bander is apparently behind financially.”

Ever since Pinoywatchdog came out with its first issue in 2011, articles with malicious intent were published against Beirne and Balita Media. Although there was only one couple that complained, the paper headlined “Pinoys sue Attorney Beirne” as if so many Filipinos have sued Beirne, who has been a bankruptcy attorney for 20 years with thousands of satisfied clients tucked under his belt, including hundreds of Filipinos.

The same newspaper also has Bander as a “senior columnist” whose lengthy articles and columns occupy a whole if not several pages as if writing chapters in a book.

But subpoenaed documents revealed that Bander is indeed the one paying for Pinoywatchdog. Credit card payments made to a printer showed Bander’s signature as shown in the merchant receipts. One of at least two receipts showed that Bander paid as much as $2,800 for one issue alone. Photos of the credit card receipts show signatures which are very similar to the ones signed by Mr. Bander in court documents.

In addition, evidence gathered by Beirne’s lawyers also showed that Pinoywatchdog layouts and printing orders were coming from Bander’s office and his staff, who claims to be working for Mr. Bander.

Based on these facts, Lapedis said “it appears clear that it is the intention of Mr. Bander to not rest until he destroyed Mr. Beirne” and that “Mr. Bander’s actions can only be interpreted as those of a person who hates Mr. Beirne.”

Lapedis also submitted to the court a more telling evidence that was provided by Bander’s own lawyers at the Bander Law Firm.

In his own testimony, former Bander Law Firm Atty. Timothy Umbreit stated that “Bander had an obsession with an attorney named Beirne and his client Allen.” Luchie Allen is the chief operating officer of Balita Media Inc., where Beirne advertises. “Bander was obsessed with (the Balita case against a newspaper competitor) and had a personal involvement with the parties that far exceeded the bounds of any personal relationship,” Umbreit stated in his testimony.

Another Bander Law Firm lawyer, Filipino Attorney Norberto Reyes III, also said that he “witnessed professional negligence by Mr. Bander and his associates” that resulted in numerous clients losing their home, referring to the failed loan litigation program that was launched by Bander in 2008-09.

Reyes made this declaration to support allegations by hundreds of homeowners that Bander “scammed” them after neglecting their cases despite paying Bander and his firm thousands of dollars, which Balita Media exposed in a series of articles in addition to stories relating to Bander’s criminal case in the Philippines.

In 2006, a Filipina named Cristina San Jose went to the police and complained that Bander molested her in a Manila condominium unit while asking for his help in securing a U.S. visa. The complaint became a criminal case and a warrant of arrest was issued against Bander in 2007, but Bander was back in the U.S. promoting his loan litigation “Save Your Home, Sue the Banks” program that resulted in several cases filed against him and his firm until the latter filed for bankruptcy in early 2010.

It was only in 2011, or five years later, that Bander had his criminal case dismissed after hiring one of the most expensive law firms in the Philippines.

Atty. Joel Bander, court records show, is apparently the owner of Pinoywatchdog newspaper after subpoenaed credit card payment receipts to the printer bore his signature.

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