Hello, My Name is Karma.

Do good things and good things happen to you. Do bad things and they’ll come back to haunt you.

Do you watch My Name is Earl? Yeah, about the redneck who learns about doing good things and karma and all that? Some of us knew about the lessons of karma before the show. Some of us were taught integrity and that if you wait patiently enough, people get what is coming to them.

My maternal grandparents planned for their retirement pretty much from the time they had kids in the 1940’s. My grandfather was a bus driver for the Los Angeles RTD and my grandmother was a special education teacher in the San Gabriel Valley. They owned their home, had two kids, worked hard for what they had, and made strong and solid investments.

My grandfather died in 1982, leaving my grandmother in charge of whatever funds they had. In the early ’90’s, however, it became clear that grandma was losing her grip. The dementia she exhibited became so great I found myself unable to visit her. She didn’t know who I was and, when she insisted she did know me, she called me by the name of a friend she knew in the 1960’s.

She was placed in the care of my aunt and uncle as my own mother, grandma’s daughter, was already very ill. When my mother passed in 1997, the battle for conservatorship (custody) of my grandmother was already in progress. The catch was her assets were now being fought over between the divorced aunt and uncle.

My uncle is my grandmother’s son. My aunt was married into the family and yet she was fighting to continue handling grandma’s living arrangements and her pocketbook. I thought this was a little weird, but honestly, I didn’t care who took care of grandma, as long as she was in good care. I didn’t know, and I don’t believe my three siblings did either, that there was a fair amount of money involved. We just knew she needed to be in a retirement home and that, as they say, was that.

Then came the shot heard ’round the world: Less than one month after my own mother died, paperwork was filed in the court case essentially calling my mother a liar. It was a grave miscalculation on my aunt’s part. The four of us grandkids would have patiently stayed out of it, but for the fact my mother had more integrity in her pinkie than most people have in their entire bodies.

I, for one, was not going to let it stand. Turns out, all of us were suddenly on board. I showed up in a California court for the next hearing, all the way from New Mexico. My aunt didn’t realize she had stirred us up and was surprised to see me, though she didn’t say a word.

Let me make this clear: My family is not a close-knit bunch. Growing up, we spent many holidays at the aunt and uncle’s house, with our two stuck-up cousins, and we were always looked down upon. We didn’t have as much money as they did, we were still renting, and there was the stench of “we’re better than you” always lingering in the air. My sister acted out with overt violence during these visits. Me, I was always a good talker … and words don’t leave bruises you can see.

Today, my dad, my sister, and my brothers all get together when we can, which is 2-3 times a year. We have our lives and we live them separately and that’s just fine with all of us. However, when there is trouble, there is nothing that can keep us apart. It is one of the traits that makes me proudest of us. And [your favorite deity’s name here] help the person who attempts to do us wrong.

My dad was there at court that day and, after our hearing, he had a major heart attack resulting in an emergency triple-bypass. We joked about suing my aunt for undue stress and damages, knowing we wouldn’t actually do it. That maternal line of integrity runs deeper in all of us than you can imagine.

At the next court hearing or the next, I’m not sure which, it became clear that our aunt had been bilking grandma’s accounts. She was divorced and living on alimony, yet found a way to remodel her kitchen and install a pool …? WTF? So the attorneys managed a plea bargain: My aunt wouldn’t be arrested for embezzlement and my uncle would take over all the accounting and grandmother’s care.

Grandma died just months afterward. My aunt didn’t say a word to any of us all through the funeral. I talked to one of my cousins briefly, but not since. I have a real case of Shadenfreude with them, because as much as we were the downtrodden, white trash relatives, their lives pretty much fell apart after the divorce. Funny that my parents, for all their flaws, really understood the words “Til death do us part.”

My uncle had remarried and his new spouse handled most of the investment paperwork. That was when it became clear just how much money was involved, because we – the grandkids – suddenly received a fat check. I mean fat. I paid off my car and my student loans and still had cash left over to pay for my then-husband’s last two semesters of school. It turned out to be a blessing, because with no real bills to speak of, I didn’t need much to live on when my husband left me just months later.

Then each of us grandkids started receiving sporadic interest checks on the accounts. They weren’t much – mine only paid for my monthly car insurance – but it was nice to have it. I’d occasionally ask my sister to check into why the property in which my grandmother had invested hadn’t been sold or her investment hadn’t been bought out, because it was a curious situation. When investors die, that’s usually what happens. My sister questioned my uncle who always said he’d get back to us on it. He never did.

Then the checks stopped. We knew there was more money due us because now we had a handle on just how much of it was there, but no one at the place who sent the checks was answering the phone anymore. Then the news hit the Southern California papers: The investment company and all its partners were bilking millions of dollars from senior citizens in the area. They had been arrested and their properties seized.

No wonder my aunt had thought she could do it. Everyone was doing it.

In the past couple of years since the arrests, we’ve traded paperwork and information. We’ve talked to attorneys and had class-action paperwork sent and received. We’ve ensured the court-appointed receiver, with thousands of people involved in this case, knows who we are and what investments we mean. We’ve watched the online reports as property of the guilty has been sold or auctioned to pay off investors.

About 2 weeks ago, we each got a check for the first 15% of what is owed to us. I paid off my credit cards (again) and I have a very important gift to get with the rest of it (I’ll report on that after he gets it, since he reads this page pretty regularly). I had enough left over to get another corset for myself. But the best news was yet to come.

The best news in all this is one of the principals in the embezzlement case, Mr. Larre Schlarmann, the very man who signed our interest checks, got 15 years for his participation. This means the real guy, the big cheese, the one who really masterminded it, Mr. D.W. Heath, will get his soon, too.

I don’t know if my aunt ever learned the lesson of karma for herself or not. Part of me thinks she has just continued on with her life, wondering why everything in which she’s been involved has turned to shit. Meanwhile, I’ve got 85% more of my grandparent’s good planning coming to me in checks over the next several years, as the assets of the investment company jerks are sold and distributed.

My uncle is suffering his own personal hell right now, one which he truly deserves. His karmic lesson is in full swing and while part of me hopes he’ll learn from it, part of me doesn’t think he’ll get out alive. The choice, however, is – and always has been – all his.

Do good things and good things happen to you. Do bad things and they’ll come back to haunt you.

6 Responses to “Hello, My Name is Karma.”

  1. vix Says:

    Bravo! Don’t Mess With The Eytch!

  2. Yikes Says:

    Of all of the ignorant, self-serving blogs i’ve read, this is is a topper. Good Job!

  3. Dad Says:

    The idea of a $3,000 pool was his idea while married to #1. The idea of a $10,000 driveway was his on her money, wife #2. The trouble was he met his match in a woman that had guarded herself.She sold the proprety for $500,000 It was her money that bought the home in her name with her money in Navada. He didn’t get screwed; he got justice. He married again for he can not live any other way. I truly feel sorry for him in my own way. NOT.

  4. James Schlarmann Says:

    The time for silence on this matter has passed. My father is Larre Schlarmann. He was imprisoned on largely false charges from a District Attorney that sought for more job security than any form of justice you or I would recognize. The man that you speak of as just “signing the checks” was an honest and forthright man, who was railroaded into accepting a plea after nearly a year and a half in jail, going large amounts of time without hot water, being abused before he had a chance to stand trial.

    As someone who saw life “from the other side of the fence” I can assure you that my father neither flaunted his wealth, nor did he revel in it. He gave more to charities and helped all those he could. He worked hard in these business in order to at least make some honest attempt to return to investors what they had put in. I can also assure you that he had no clue as to the depth that Mr. Heath and his salespeople had gone to in order to secure these investments.

    If my father was never guilty of making the sales and taking the money, an admission among others that the D.A.s made to him whilst signing the plea agreement, then why did he get such a raw deal. And why did so many of D.W. Heath and Associates sales people get off essentially scott-free?

    I’m sure you wont read this, nor will you even consider the idea that my father has been made essentially a patsy in this Post-Enron world, but the truth is my father is no Lay or Skilling. My candor here is made “public” after two plus years of sitting on the sidelines watching Lady Justice be pummeled by the very people sworn to protect Her.

    You don’t speak of Karma in this blog, maddam. You speak of an Abomination of Justice. My only hope is that Karma is real, because the truth will be heard. Silence is done.

  5. Diva Says:

    For further on this topic, see http://www.divatology.com/deeper/?p=560.

  6. Dad Says:

    Okay. What can I say other than I love my family just as the same as Mr. Schlarmann loves his family. I don’t get anything out of this mess nor do I care about money. I do however understand that money was misused. A Patsy or equating it to ENRON is another story.

    Mr. Schlarmann you stated your father was a smart and wise man. Then WHY did he take THE DEAL? Please understand I am not at odds with you, just at a loss why no defence. Why cop a plea?

    More to say is WE did NOT start this investigation. It was done through repeated inquires for money from [a relative] and when he would receive it. Then the SEC got involved.

    If I misunderstood any of this please correct me Diva.

    DO YOU KNOW HOW SHORT LIFE IS? IT IS NOT WORTH CONFLICT OR HATE.

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