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Maxi-Aids Exposed Again Part II: Able-Vision Established to Circumvent the VA's Proposed Debarment
by Barbara Pierce
As reported in last month's issue of the Braille Monitor, early in 2000 Independent Living Aids (ILA) filed a motion in Federal Court in the Eastern District of New York alleging contempt of court by Maxi-Aids and several members of the Zaretsky Family. ILA claimed that the Zaretskys had violated a permanent injunction issued on October 24, 1998, by the Honorable Arthur D. Spatt, who had presided over the 1997 trial of ILA vs Maxi-Aids and the Zaretskys. The injunction stated in part that "Maxi-Aids, Inc., Mitchel Zaretsky, Elliot Zaretsky, and Pamela Zaretsky Stein. . . and their officers. . . and employees. . . are hereby enjoined and restrained from. . . engaging in any deceptive acts or practices in connection with the advertising or sale of their products."
Based on Judge Spatt's injunction, ILA went back into court claiming serious violations on the part of Maxi-Aids and the Zaretskys. ILA's papers, backed up by a considerable amount of documentation and research, alleged that it had uncovered a successful attempt to circumvent a proposed debarment by the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) by establishing a company virtually in name only called "Able-Vision." Even more serious, it claimed to have discovered an illegal scheme in which Maxi-Aids has been diverting Perkins Braillers from South Africa, where the Perkins School for the Blind had established a program for the charitably subsidized production of Braillers for sale to and use by blind people and organizations in developing countries.
Just as we were going to press with last month's issue, Judge Spatt denied ILA's motion on a technicality. He seemed almost to apologize by stating "The fault is mine, of course, that I signed an over-broad provision." He did not deny the validity of the issues brought to light and in fact stated in open court that "ILA has presented a thorough and persuasive presentation that strongly suggests the defendants are indeed improperly obtaining subsidized Braillers intended for use in developing countries and selling them at retail prices in the United States."
Having described ILA's "thorough and persuasive presentation" (to use Judge Spatt's own words) of the Perkins Brailler matter in last month's issue, we now turn to the allegation that the Zaretskys set up a sham company called "Able-Vision" in a successful effort to circumvent the proposed debarment by the VA. As we did last month, we will present the actual words of both sides as taken from their own sworn affidavits so that readers can draw their own conclusions. We will include explanatory passages for continuity, but we will reserve editorial comment until the end of the article.
As reported in detail in the December, 1999, issue of the Braille Monitor, the VA issued a proposed debarment of Maxi-Aids and the Zaretskys on December 8, 1998, shortly after Judge Spatt's injunction of October 24, 1998. This was followed by a directive issued by the Rehabilitation Services Administration (RSA), prohibiting state agencies from entering into contracts with Maxi-Aids or the Zaretskys as contractors or subcontractors on contracts of $150,000 or more. The VA gave Maxi-Aids the opportunity to respond to the proposed debarment, and on March 30, 1999, the Zaretskys and their attorney met with the VA in Washington. They pledged that they would adhere to a strict code of ethical conduct, using guidelines established by the VA's debarment committee. At that point they were more or less on probation, could not do business with the VA or any other Federal Agency, and were limited in the business they could do with state agencies as outlined above.
In August of 1999, about four months after the meeting with the VA and Maxi-Aids's pledge of ethical conduct, a new company, called Able-Vision, appeared on the scene. It solicited business from various state agencies and also submitted a substantial bid to the Texas Commission for the Blind on December 1, 1999, during the period when both the VA proposed debarment and RSA policy directive were in full force and effect. Able-Vision's successful bid resulted in an award of a contract with the Texas Commission of $152,575.04, well above the $150,000 exclusion figure in the RSA policy directive. Able-Vision listed itself at a post office box in Maxi-Aids's hometown of Farmingdale, New York, which is perhaps what roused Sandler and ILA's suspicions and resulted in an investigation.
The procedure in a motion for contempt of court is for the plaintiffs (Sandler and ILA) to file a motion outlining the basis for the complaint. The defendants (Maxi-Aids and the Zaretskys) then have the opportunity to file a response. Finally, the plaintiffs file a reply, and the matter is scheduled for a hearing in front of the court. Here, then, are excerpts from Sandler's affidavit, followed by the Zaretskys' responses and Sandler's replies.
From Sandler's affidavit: "I submit this affidavit based on my personal knowledge after an extensive investigation revealed that the defendants, Elliot Zaretsky and family, acting through Maxi-Aids, Inc., their family-owned corporation, have flouted the judgment of this Court and continued to engage in nefarious and illegal business practices and charity fraud. Their conduct continues to prey upon and prejudice the blind and disabled population of the United States and to violate the rules and regulations of the various federal and state agencies which purchase and procure products for blind and disabled people throughout the country."
From Elliot Zaretsky's response affidavit: "all the defendants have been both diligent and energetic in complying with . . . the . . . vaguely all-encompassing injunctive provision which enjoins the defendants from . . . `engaging in any deceptive acts or practices in connection with the advertising or sale of their products.'"
From Sandler's reply affidavit: "While it is to be expected that the opposing papers would try to mask and obfuscate the truth, the responses contain evasions, non-sequiturs, half-truths, deceptions, and outright falsehoods that exceed the documents submitted and testimony given at the original trial of this case in November-December of 1997."
From Sandler's affidavit: "Despite the execution of an agreement by Maxi-Aids with the VA to take remedial actions, the Zaretskys almost immediately set about violating their agreement by `creating' a fictitious company called Able-Vision. The purpose of the creation of Able-Vision was to circumvent the sanctions and debarment that had been imposed by the government . . . .
A new name, Able-Vision, suddenly appeared before government agencies. This entity allegedly operated from Post Office Box 3459 in Maxi-Aids's hometown of Farmingdale, Long Island. Able-Vision was never incorporated, thus making it harder to trace . . . .
"Solicitations by Able-Vision were sent to various State Agencies by fax with follow-ups by mail. . . . The fax has been signed by a woman named Angela Giglio. Investigation has proved conclusively that Angela Giglio was and still is an employee of Maxi-Aids! . . . .
"A Certificate of Incorporation was filed with the State of New York for another new company named Ilgar." [Editor's Note: Ilgar was incorporated in November of 1997.] The filing was made by Pescow & Company, 128 Prospect Avenue, Douglaston, New York 11363. By using Pescow and Company to file the papers, the true identity of the person or persons incorporating `Ilgar' remains disguised. On a date that appears to be July 22, 1998, an application was made by Harold Zaretsky for a Post Office Box under the name of `Adaptive Living & Tech,' using Pescow & Company's address . . . . The Farmingdale Post Office assigned Box Number 3459, which is the same box number that was later used by Able-Vision for its solicitations . . . .
"At another point in time, an undated application was made to the Farmingdale Post Office for a mailing permit by a woman named Feige Berlin. Investigation of the identification of this individual has disclosed that Feige Berlin is the maiden name of Feige Zaretsky, who is the wife of Harold Zaretsky and is Elliot Zaretsky's daughter-in-law. The application was made on behalf of Able-Vision but indicated that the company also did business under the name of Ilgar. Thus the tie-in between and among Able-Vision, Ilgar, and the Zaretskys is conclusively demonstrated. It is irrefutable! . . . .
"Not only have Maxi-Aids and the Zaretskys engaged in a deceptive act by establishing and using Able-Vision to do business even though debarred, but they have clearly circumvented their agreement with the VA. The assignment of the Maxi-Aids employee, Angela Giglio, to participate in this deception is a clear violation of their signed agreement [with the VA] to develop `a corporate code of conduct and ethics training program.' The creation of Able-Vision and the use of a Maxi-Aids employee and Harold Zaretsky's wife, under her maiden name, as part of the nefarious scheme can only be looked upon as a willful act--as willful as those for which the jury found the Zaretskys guilty at trial."
At this point it should be noted that Sandler's affidavit was the only one submitted on behalf of ILA regarding Able-Vision, but several were submitted by Maxi-Aids, including those by the Zaretskys and also by employees of Maxi-Aids and Able-Vision.
The affidavits of the Zaretskys and that of Angela Giglio responded specifically to Sandler's accusations that Able-Vision was a sham company set up to circumvent the VA's proposed debarment and RSA's policy directive. An affidavit from Mitchel Zaretsky, denying any involvement at all, contained the opening statement that he was the former president of Maxi-Aids. It was submitted with papers from a law firm different from the one used by the rest of the Zaretsky clan. The Braille Monitor has confirmed that Mitchel has left Maxi-Aids and is now running his own company. Feige Berlin's affidavit uses her full name of Feige Berlin-Zaretsky for the first time in this matter.
From Elliot Zaretsky's affidavit: "The connection the plaintiff seeks, but is unable to make between Ilgar, Inc. and Able-Vision is that Able-Vision is a d/b/a [doing business as] for Ilgar. Ilgar was started as a separate company by my daughter-in-law Feige Berlin-Zaretsky because of dissension that developed between her husband Harold and Harold's brother Mitchell (sic) Zaretsky while they were both members of the board of directors of Maxi-Aids. There is absolutely no connection or collaboration between Ilgar/Able-Vision and Maxi-Aids other than the family name, and Ilgar was not created to circumvent Maxi-Aids's proposed debarment by the Veterans Administration. . . . In fact, Able-Vision regularly ordered products from Maxi-Aids."
From Feige Berlin-Zaretsky's affidavit: "I am the wife of Harold Zaretsky and therefore the daughter-in-law of Elliot Zaretsky, and between August of 1999 and January [of 2000], was the sole shareholder of Ilgar, Inc., and (sic) New York Corporation that was doing business as Able-Vision. My father-in-law helped me start this company because, as someone who is deaf, it was important for me to try to build an entity separate and apart from Maxi-Aids that would allow me to help people who are also hearing-impaired. To help me get Able-Vision off the ground, I hired Ms. Angela Giglio, an experienced customer service representative who was working at Maxi-Aids . . . . Able-Vision did use PO Box 3459 as a mailing address. It was a post office box that was opened by my husband Harold, which he allowed me and my company to share."
From Angela Giglio's affidavit: "I was . . . employed with Maxi-Aids in 1999, but on or about August 5 of that year, I left Maxi-Aids's employ to become the operations manager with Able-Vision, a company that was founded and run by Ms. Feige Berlin-Zaretsky. I worked as operations manager and sole employee of Able-Vision until approximately January of 2000 . . . . [after Able-Vision closed] I returned to Maxi-Aids, again as a customer service representative."
At this point we move to the statements made by Marvin Sandler in his reply affidavit to the submissions by the Zaretskys.
From Sandler's reply affidavit: "The establishment of Able-Vision was certainly a deceptive act to skirt the debarment of Maxi-Aids from public bidding. The affidavits of all those involved (false in themselves) provide more questions then they do answers. The affidavit of Elliot Zaretsky states, "Ilgar was started as a separate company by my daughter-in-law Feige Berlin-Zaretsky . . . ." The affidavit of Feige Berlin-Zaretsky states that between August of 1999 and [the following] January, [she] was the sole shareholder of Ilgar, Inc. and (sic) New York Corporation that was doing business as Able-Vision. The papers of incorporation filed by Pescow and Company indicate that Ilgar was incorporated in November of 1997, more than a year and one half before Feige Berlin-Zaretsky became the sole shareholder. If Feige Berlin-Zaretsky started the company in November 1997, but did not become the sole shareholder until August 1999, then who was (were) the other shareholder(s)?
The affidavits of both Elliot Zaretsky and Feige Berlin-Zaretsky aver that Ilgar was started by Feige Berlin-Zaretsky in order to have a company separate and distinct from Maxi-Aids, which she and her husband Harold could operate as an independent entity in order to help people who are also hearing impaired. There is already such an entity, owned by the Zaretskys, named Hear-More. Harold Zaretsky is the president of Hear-More. The question arises as to why Feige Berlin-Zaretsky would start a company called Able-Vision (a direct reference to vision products) `to help people who are also hearing impaired,' when her husband is already the president of a company specializing in products for the hearing-impaired, and which bears a name that clearly states its purpose. Furthermore, the catalog and literature distributed by Able-Vision does not contain a single product for the hearing-impaired. It should be noted that Mrs. Berlin-Zaretsky purports to have set up her company to help hearing-impaired people but submitted a bid to the Texas Commission for the Blind. To add another element to the deception, it must be remembered that everything involving Able-Vision, including the application for the postal permit and the bid submitted to the Texas Commission for the Blind, bears the name of Feige Berlin and not Feige Berlin-Zaretsky."
As mentioned earlier in this article, Sandler and ILA claimed that Able-Vision successfully submitted bids to the Texas Commission for the Blind and was awarded a contract worth $152,575.04. Maxi-Aids also submitted bids but was automatically disqualified because of the VA and RSA debarments. The Maxi-Aids bids were rejected because Maxi-Aids was a "party excluded from Federal programs." The reader should also keep in mind that the RSA Policy Directive prohibited Maxi-Aids and the Zaretskys from becoming contractors or subcontractors (as mentioned earlier in this article), yet Elliot Zaretsky, in his affidavit cited above, stated that "Able-Vision regularly ordered products from Maxi-Aids . . . ." Following are excerpts from Sandler's affidavit and responses from the Zaretskys, Angela Giglio, and Teresa Butler, the procurement employee for Maxi-Aids, a position established as part of the meetings between the VA and the Zaretskys. Ms. Butler is the employee who submitted the bids to the Texas Commission for the Blind which were rejected.
From Sandler's affidavit: "The RSA debarment applied to Maxi-Aids and its principals both as contractors and subcontractors. Notwithstanding the Maxi-Aids debarment, both Maxi-Aids and Able-Vision then submitted bids to the Texas Commission for the Blind . . . in time to meet the bid deadline of December 1, 1999 . . . . At the time the bids were submitted . . . both the VA and RSA debarments were in full force and effect. The Maxi-Aids bids were immediately disqualified by the Texas Commission for the Blind, which was aware of the VA and RSA debarments. However, they were deceived by the Able-Vision bid since they were obviously not aware of the Maxi-Aids/Able-Vision connection. They awarded over $150,000.00 in contracts to Able-Vision, an amount that was well beyond the amount prohibited by the RSA debarment of Maxi-Aids and the Zaretskys.
"She [Teresa Butler]. . . signed a document containing an affirmation . . . that there has been no collusion with another company. An examination of the bid tabulation sheets . . . show[s] . . . . that there is clear evidence of collaboration and collusion between Maxi-Aids and Able-Vision with respect to the bids . . . .
"The tabulation sheets prove beyond any doubt that the Maxi-Aids and Able-Vision bids were not submitted independently . . . . There are 124 items on the bid. Both Maxi-Aids and Able Vision bid on the identical eighty-eight items! Both Maxi-Aids and Able-Vision did not bid on thirty-six–-the identical thirty-six items! Of the eighty-eight items on which they both bid, Able-Vision beat Maxi-Aids by the identical figure of two cents on eighty-five of them (on items #18 and #52 it was three cents, and on #26 they tied). The odds of two parties independently arriving at a two-cent differential on eighty-five of eighty-eight items are so high as to constitute a statistical impossibility . . . . Furthermore, on item #22 the name of the manufacturer is Tops, and Maxi-Aids and Able-Vision have coincidentally both made the identical misspelling of Top . . . .
[The Texas Bid Document] "contains a certification stating that `The awarded contractor certifies, by signing the IFB, that neither it nor its principals is presently debarred, suspended, proposed for debarment, declared ineligible, or voluntarily excluded from participation in this transaction by any federal/state department of (sic) agency.' Teresa Butler signed the IFB, despite the fact that Maxi-Aids and the Zaretskys were debarred at that time by both the VA and RSA. This brings into question the code of conduct and ethics training to which the Zaretskys pledged themselves and agreed to in their efforts to have the debarments lifted. The falsity of the certification is apparent on its face!
"The Able-Vision bid has been signed by Feige Berlin, who identifies herself as the president of the company and who investigation has shown to be the wife of Harold Zaretsky and the daughter-in-law of Elliot Zaretsky. The contact person is listed as . . . Angela Giglio, who is the same person who signed and sent the faxes soliciting business [back in August]. Like Teresa Butler of Maxi-Aids, Feige Berlin has also signed a document containing the same anti-collusion paragraph and affirming that she has not `communicated directly or indirectly the bid made to any competitor or any other person engaged in such line of business.' The same certification regarding debarment has been signed on behalf of Able-Vision and its principals, who are clearly the Zaretskys . . . .
"The cover page of the bid documents from the Texas Commission for the Blind required all bidders to list a street address. The address for Able-Vision was stated as `150 Rte 110 #2, Farmingdale, New York 11735.' At the time the bid was submitted, 150 Route 110 was a Merrill Lynch Corporate Center, containing offices for their stock brokerage activities plus additional offices occupied by attorneys, accountants, and other professionals . . . . Able-Vision is not listed on the building directory. There are no warehouse or shipping facilities at 150 Route 110. Phone calls placed to the telephone number listed on the Able-Vision literature and fax were never answered even though the calls were made during normal business hours. All calls were answered by a click, indicating a ring-over to another location, followed by an answering-machine message suggesting that the caller leave a message or send a fax . . . .
"A complaint was filed by Independent Living Aids with the Texas Commission for the Blind, expressing concerns that Able-Vision was a sham company set up by the Zaretskys, who are principals of Maxi-Aids, in an effort to circumvent the VA and RSA debarments. In response . . . the Texas Commission for the Blind [contacted] Able-Vision asking for clarification as to whether there was any connection to Maxi-Aids . . . . [in answer] a phone call was made . . . . by Angela Giglio on February 10, 2000, asking that the award be cancelled since Able-Vision was no longer in business."
The attorney for Maxi-Aids responded to Sandler's charge of collusion between Maxi-Aids and Able-Vision by saying that it ". . . is only substantiated by what is called a statistical impossibility. The affidavits of Ms. Giglio, Ms. Berlin-Zaretsky, and Elliot Zaretsky reveal that it is possible for statistics to be misleading, especially in the face of the reasonable explanation that Ms. Giglio, a former and present employee of Maxi-Aids (with experience in preparing bids) prepared the Able-Vision bid." We invite readers to examine the response affidavits in search of these "reasonable explanations" of why statistics may be misleading.
From Angela Giglio's response affidavit: "I prepared the bid that was submitted to the Texas Commission for the Blind by Able-Vision referred to by the plaintiffs. I did rely on both my previous experience as a customer service representative with Maxi-Aids and on consultations with Ms. Berlin-Zaretsky in preparing the bid, but the bid was solely the product of Able-Vision, and there was no input or assistance that was provided by any other company."
From Feige Berlin's response affidavit: "Angela Giglio and I worked together on preparing the bid that was submitted to the Texas Commission for the Blind referred to by the plaintiffs, and we received no assistance whatsoever, nor was there any involvement from Maxi-Aids. Ms. Giglio and I were both able to utilize her past experience at Maxi-Aids, and we prepared and submitted an independent bid on Able-Vision's behalf.
From Elliot Zaretsky's response affidavit: ". . . it was Ms. Giglio, as someone who had experience preparing bids on behalf of Maxi-Aids during her term of employment there, who prepared the bid that was accepted by the Texas Commission for the Blind (the Texas Commission). This would account for the similarities that were bid upon and the fact that Able-Vision was able to underbid Maxi-Aids by the same amount of two cents on eighty-five of eighty-eight items that comprised the competitive bids of Able-Vision and Maxi-Aids."
From Teresa Butler's response affidavit: "I was responsible for the preparation of the bid that was submitted by Maxi-Aids to the Texas Commission for the Blind. I am very well acquainted with Ms. Angela Giglio, who worked for Maxi-Aids as a customer service representative before she left to work for Ms. Feige Berlin Zaretsky at Able-Vision. I am aware that Able-Vision also bid on the aforementioned Texas Commission contract and that its bid competed with the bid submitted by Maxi-Aids. Therefore I can state with absolute certainty that I did not in any way collaborate with either Ms. Giglio or Ms. Berlin-Zaretsky in my preparation of this bid and that the Maxi-Aids bid was the sole product of my efforts, and my efforts alone."
Editor's Note: Having examined the statements in the four affidavits, we have failed to find the "reasonable explanations" that the Maxi-Aids attorney said would support his claim that Sandler's statistics might be misleading. Sandler apparently felt the same when he submitted his reply.
From Sandler's reply affidavit (referring to Teresa Butler's response affidavit): "This is an absolute non-sequitur! In what way does knowing Ms. Giglio and being aware that Able-Vision was also bidding provide a conclusion that the bids were prepared independently? It also defies the statistical impossibility that eighty-five out of eighty-eight items wound up with the identical two-cent differential and does not explain why both bids contain the same misspelling of the name of the manufacturer of Item #22 (Bacon Crisper) on the bid. The Maxi-Aids bid and Able-Vision bid each listed the manufacturer as `Top Mfg. Co.,' whereas the correct name is `Tops' and not `Top.' This identical error is proof positive that there was collusion on the Able-Vision and Maxi-Aids bids, which definitely constitutes a deceptive act under the regulations of the bid document . . . . [Referring to the affidavits of Feige Berlin-Zaretsky and Angela Giglio] Both Mrs. Berlin-Zaretsky and Angela Giglio have submitted sworn affidavits claiming that they prepared the bids independently, and both have denied that there was any `input or assistance provided by any other company,' (Angela Giglio's affidavit) `nor was there any involvement from Maxi-Aids' (Feige Berlin-Zaretsky's affidavit). It's a careful choice of words and avoids mention of whether there was input from another person. The two affidavits make no mention of the statistical impossibility of eighty-five out of eighty-eight items having the identical two-cent differential, nor do they address the identical misspelling of the name of Tops."
Editor's Note: As quoted above, Sandler also claimed that both Maxi-Aids and Able-Vision had violated the Texas Commission's requirement that the bidder certify that the firms bidding and their principals were not debarred, suspended, proposed for debarment, declared ineligible, or voluntarily excluded by any federal or state agency. Maxi-Aids was clearly not permitted to bid by virtue of the VA's proposed debarment. Able-Vision was also ineligible to bid, since their own bid documents indicated that they intended to supply most (if not all) of the items using Maxi-Aids as the source-–and the RSA Policy Directive prohibited Maxi-Aids from being a contractor or subcontractor. No response was given on behalf of Able-Vision, but Teresa Butler and Elliot Zaretsky did include statements certifying that Maxi-Aids was not debarred or proposed for debarment, when, in fact, it was. The VA's proposed debarment was lifted by the VA's debarring official by means of a letter dated February 4, 2000. The RSA policy directive (which actually governed the Texas transaction) was not rescinded until April 27, 2000.
From Teresa Butler's affidavit: "I failed to realize that there was language certifying the (sic) Maxi-Aids was not proposed for debarment was buried within the attachments. However, now having had this brought to my attention, I can state that I may have signed the bid anyway because I was aware that the lifting of the proposed debarment was imminent as of December 1, 1999, and that it would have been lifted by the time any of these bids may have been accepted and a contract would have been created with said attachments."
From Elliot Zaretsky's affidavit: The "Debarment Committee . . . . intended to lift the proposed debarment of Maxi-Aids prior to December 1, 1999, and . . . the letter dated February 4, 2000, was simply a written confirmation of said intention. As a matter of fact, the only reason that the Texas Commission for the Blind disqualified the bid dated December 1, 1999, is that the VA was extremely lax in notifying other agencies of the lifting of the proposed debarment. Additionally, since Ms. Butler was aware of the Debarment Committee's decision to lift the proposed debarment . . . she did not believe that she was making any misrepresentation with respect to certification regarding the proposed debarment . . . ."
Sandler strongly opposed these statements as follows:
From Sandler's reply affidavit (referring to Teresa Butler's affidavit): "It is not Ms. Butler's place to speculate when or whether the proposed debarment was to be lifted. The fact remains that the VA's proposed debarment was not lifted until February 4, 2000, more than two months after Ms. Butler submitted the bid on November 23, 1999. The debarment was in full force and effect until the day it was lifted, and she failed to disclose this in her bid. Her statement was false when made. In fact, Maxi-Aids remained on the Rehabilitation Services Administration List of Parties Excluded from Federal Procurement and Non-Procurement Programs until April 27, 2000. This was more than four months after Ms. Butler signed the certification and falsely certified that neither Maxi-Aids nor its principals was [proposed for debarment] . . . .
[Referring to Elliot Zaretsky's affidavit] "Elliot Zaretsky states in his affidavit that his attorneys had been notified that the Debarment Committee of the VA `intended to lift the proposed debarment of Maxi-Aids prior to December 1, 1999, and that the letter dated February 4, 2000 was simply a written confirmation of said intention.' Despite Mr. Zaretsky's protestations and attempts to shift blame for his deceptive acts and conduct, the letter from the VA is quite clear. The VA letter . . . is dated February 4, 2000, and advises that the VA and Maxi-Aids executed an Administrative Agreement `which became effective on January 25, 2000.' It ends with the VA's Debarring Official, in his letter of February 4, 2000, declaring `I hereby lift the proposed debarment . . . . ' It is clear that the debarment was lifted on February 4, 2000, as per the Debarring Official's statement. Despite Elliot Zaretsky's claim that the letter was simply a confirmation of the VA's intent to lift the proposed debarment as of December 1, 1999, there is no reference to that date in the letter. As a matter of fact, how could Elliot Zaretsky claim that the lifting of the proposed debarment was scheduled for December 1, 1999, when the Administrative Agreement was not even signed by his son Mitchel, the President of Maxi-Aids, until January 25, 2000?"
The end of Able-Vision provides an almost amusing coda to this part of Sandler's claim that it was a sham company which had been set up by the Zaretskys to circumvent the VA and RSA debarments. Readers will recall that Sandler wrote that Able-Vision went out of business with a phone call from Angela Giglio to the Texas Commission for the Blind in response to an inquiry from the Texas Commission as to whether there was any affiliation between Able-Vision and Maxi-Aids. The phone call was made on February 10, which coincidentally was less than a week after the VA had lifted its proposed debarment of Maxi-Aids. Sandler claimed that the end of Able-Vision came about partially because the Zaretskys had been caught and partially because Able-Vision was no longer needed, now that Maxi-Aids had been reinstated. Three affidavits contained responses to Sandler's claim.
From Elliot Zaretsky's affidavit: "The only reason Able-Vision went out of business was because Feige Berlin-Zaretsky became pregnant and therefore was unable to continue operating Able-Vision. After Able-Vision stopped its operations, Ms. Giglio returned as an employee of Maxi-Aids."
From Feige Berlin-Zaretsky's affidavit: "I found out on or about late December of 1999 or early January of 2000 that I was pregnant. This required me to make the very difficult decision to forego the Able-Vision/Ilgar venture in favor of having and raising my child. This is why Ms. Giglio informed the Texas Commission for the Blind of the fact that Able-Vision went out of business and was thus not able to follow through on the bid that had been accepted."
From Angela Giglio's affidavit: "I worked as operations manager and sole employee of Able-Vision until approximately January of 2000. This is when Able-Vision went out of business because Ms. Berlin-Zaretsky, who is deaf, became pregnant and closed the operations of Able-Vision at which point I returned to Maxi-Aids, again as a customer service representative."
Sandler disposed of the pregnancy story in a portion of his affidavit that indicated he had indeed done his research.
From Sandler's reply affidavit: "The records of the New York City Health Department reflect the birth of Maxine Beata Zaretsky to Feige and Harold Zaretsky on April 18, 2000, in the Borough of Manhattan [Sandler provided the Birth Certificate number]. If we are to believe Mrs. Berlin-Zaretsky, it would appear that she did not `find out' she was pregnant until she was five and one half months into term. If we are to believe Ms. Giglio, it would appear that the birth took place after a three-and-one-half-month pregnancy. These sworn statements are an insult to the intelligence of this Court . . . ."
With the birth of Feige Berlin-Zaretsky's child we come to the end of the Able-Vision saga. We phoned Sandler to ask for his comments. He said he thought that it would have been appropriate for the sworn affidavits of his opponents to begin with the words "Once upon a time" since he believed that they were nothing more than fairy tales. Frankly, we are inclined to agree. Sandler's affidavit, as quoted above, claims that the affidavits submitted by the defendants and their employees provide more questions than answers. In reviewing those submissions, we note that at times the affidavits even conflict with each other. For example, Elliot Zaretsky states that Angela Giglio was "someone who had experience preparing bids on behalf of Maxi-Aids." Yet Ms. Giglio twice refers to herself as having been a `customer service representative.' The avoidance of a response to Sandler's collusion charge involving the identical misspelling of a manufacturer's name also raises suspicions. Raising even more questions are the statements in the affidavits of both Elliot Zaretsky and Feige Berlin-Zaretsky implying that the establishment of Able-Vision was a mechanism for getting Harold out from under his brother Mitchel's thumb. Yet in fact it is Mitchel who has left the Zaretsky employment fold.
Elliot Zaretsky and his lawyers were offered the opportunity to comment on the facts disclosed in this article. They declined the opportunity to do so unless they were given editorial control over material contained in the article or portions of it. Of course, as has become tiresomely evident in the Zaretskys' pattern of behavior, Maxi-Aids's lawyers repeated yet again that the company and its principals had engaged in no wrongdoing, and they claimed that the Braille Monitor's reporting was unfair.
At the Braille Monitor we present the facts, and then we take our stand. To paraphrase the words of Judge Spatt in the Perkins Brailler matter, we believe that ILA has presented a thorough and compelling presentation that the Zaretskys did indeed establish Able-Vision as a device to help them circumvent the proposed debarment by the VA and the policy directive of the RSA. Although Sandler referred to the opposing affidavits as fairy tales, we see them as more grim than Grimm. Unlike fairy tales, in which people live happily ever after, a lot of unhappiness has been caused by the Zaretskys, especially in the Perkins Brailler matter, as reported last month. Not only has up to $152,000 of Hilton Foundation money wound up in the Zaretskys' pockets, but hundreds or even thousands of blind kids in developing countries have suffered as a result.
As reported above, the VA entered into a written agreement with the Zaretskys which called for a code of ethical conduct, and the ink was hardly dry when the Zaretskys set about circumventing that agreement. We deplore this behavior, and we go on record as saying so. Those who read this article and last month's story must make their own decision. We hope that people of conscience will join us in our condemnation.
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