Nonprofit works to make victims financially whole
Victims of crime in Arizona have a new advocate on their side.
The Arizona Crime Victim Rights Law Group was recently formed by Randall Udelman of the Udelman Law Firm, and Dan Levey, a long-time and highly respected advocate of victims’ rights in the Valley. There are a number of victims’ advocate groups in the Valley, so Udelman and Levey’s organization has carved out a niche that is sometimes forgotten amid the tragedy of a crime – financial restitution.
“There are tremendous financial and emotional costs associated with crime,” Udelman said. “Unfortunately, that’s the realistic byproduct of crime and sometimes we see tremendous financial implications, especially in the area of white-collar crime, and we see it in connection with violent crime, as well. For example, if the victim was the breadwinner in the family, trying to help a victim address their future economic losses is just one component of victim assistance needs that our organization tries to meet.”
The group, which gets clients almost entirely through referrals from other advocacy groups, helps victims of white-collar and violent crimes. In the white-collar arena, the group has dealt with cases involving mortgage fraud, financial or reverse mortgage fraud, among others, often helping elderly victims.
In one case, Udelman said an elderly woman was befriended by someone who took advantage of the woman’s vision impairment to get her to sign a power of attorney. The “friend” ended up refinancing the woman’s home and not paying on the mortgage. The elderly woman was forced to sell her home without having another place to live.
“One of the important things from a victim’s perspective, and I work with literally thousands of victims, is the importance of Arizona having a Constitutional Bill of Rights and a Victims Bill of Rights,” Levey said. “Sometimes you need a lawyer to help assert those rights and make those clear, just like the defendant has a lawyer.”
Levey credits lawyers such as Udelman for offering their services for free to those who need help. Before starting the Arizona Crime Victim Rights Law Group, the duo first met 10 years ago on a victim’s advocacy case. The two worked together so well, that they continued collaborating.
Levey’s involvement in victims’ rights goes back much further, starting with the murder of his brother, Howard, on Nov. 3, 1996. He currently works as a victim specialist with Mothers Against Drunk Drivers. He previously served as the executive director of the National Organization of Parents of Murdered Children, director of the Office of Victim Services at the Office of Arizona Attorney General, and adviser for victims to then-Arizona Governor Janet Napolitano. Levey has also been president and board member for the National Organization of Victim Assistance and worked on the Arizona Supreme Court’s Commission on Victims In the Court.
“When my brother was murdered, we had the Victims Bill of Rights, but it’s come a long way since then,” Levy said. “Now in court, judges read the victims rights at the beginning of every hearing, they’re posted in every court in the state of Arizona. We’ve come a long way in raising its visibility. I’ve dedicated my life’s career not only to the memory of my brother, Howard, but also to all crime victims. No one asks to be a victim of crime.”
Udelman, who recently was awarded the 2017 Arizona Attorney General Crime Victims’ Rights Week Leadership Award, hopes to one day expand the Arizona Crime Victim Rights Law Group to include more attorneys, paralegals and advocates in order to help more victims. Currently, the group is financed through a small grant from the Arizona Department of Public Safety.
“Unfortunately, business is good in crime right now and crime victim needs are more significant than we have the capacity to provide,” he said. “So, in order to grow our organization to meet what we believe are unmet needs out there, we need more financial support.”
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