By Sean Pendergast
By Sean Pendergast
By Jeff Balke
By Richard Connelly
By Jeff Balke
By Casey Michel
By Craig Hlavaty
By Jeff Balke
In Only Five Years?
Just bouncing around from one site to another here in the newsroom -- CBS-TV, Toronto -- and happened onto your piece about the murderous fellow with the new social security number and the fascinating job in the insurance business ["Making a Killing," by Steve McVicker, October 22]. One of the best pieces of journalism I've read in the last five years, and I've read a lot.
Back to the Bizarre
Oh, brother. I went to high school with Walt Waldhauser at Westchester High School in the Spring Branch Independent School District. He was one of the photographers for the school newspaper and yearbook. Back when all the news first broke about the Duff-Smith et al. (murders), It just seemed totally surreal. (My ex husband had gone to high school with Duff-Smith. We were seriously weirded out.) This update just added to the sense of unreality. Great story.
Big D Slimed
I was pleased to see that you followed Walter Waldhauser's slime trail to Dallas. You did the world a favor by outing him. Also, I've been meaning to tell you how much I enjoyed your piece on Clarence Bradford ["Breaking the Blue Code of Silence," by Steve McVicker, October 8]. He seems quite a departure from the traditional Texas cop, and I mean that in an entirely complimentary way.
On behalf of the National Viatical Association (NVA), I would like to commend the Houston Press for a public service by exposing the past actions of Mike Davis, a.k.a. Walter Waldhauser Jr. Houston consumers should know that Southwest Viatical, which employs Mr. Davis, has falsely claimed to be an NVA member. Southwest Viatical has been repeatedly asked to cease and desist these false claims.
The NVA is a national trade association dedicated to financially assisting and effectively promoting the needs of people coping with life-threatening illnesses in a compassionate, professional and ethical manner. All of its members undergo both a civil and criminal background check before admittance into the association.
For those considering either a viatical or senior settlement, I encourage them to contact the National Viatical Association at (800)741-9465 or at www.nationalviatical.com.
Valerie Bergman Cooper
National Viatical Association
Texas Department of Insurance staff would like to offer clarification on two points:
The article said there is no evidence that Southwest Viatical registered with the state in either 1997 or 1998. The fact is, Southwest registered in 1996, renewed in 1997 but failed to renew in 1998.
The article states that the legislature placed viatical settlement companies under TDI regulation in 1995, "but rather than regulate, what the department actually does is register viaticals." This inference that TDI does not regulate the viatical settlement industry is unwarranted by the facts. The 1995 law requires registration, but registration does not mean an absence of regulation. As required by the statute, TDI adopted rules, effective February 26, 1996, under which we regulate the viatical settlement industry in numerous ways.
We mandate contract provisions that protect viators' interests; approve or reject all viatical settlement forms; require confidentiality for viators; review advertisements and marketing materials for truthfulness and fairness; prescribe certain information that viators must receive; assure that viators can cancel unsatisfactory contracts within 15 days after getting their money; prohibit viatical companies from inquiring too often about a viator's health; and, when necessary, take enforcement action against companies and brokers that violate our rules and Texas statutes.
Lee Jones, Assistant Director
Public Information Office, TDI
Writer Steve McVicker responds: Southwest Viatical's registration status was based on information provided by the State Department of Insurance. If it is in error, that is because the Department of Insurance did not fully comply with my request for information filed under the Texas Open Records Act.
As for the state's role in regulating viaticals: Registration is still the only regulatory function actually performed by the Texas Department of Insurance. Most of what Lee Jones lists as his department's responsibilities are things that viaticals are required to do by state law.
Thank you for your recent front page article, "Making a Killing" [by Steve Mc-Vicker, October 22] on Walter Walt-hauser/Michael Davis. I just hope now that Walt/Michael has moved back to Texas so that more policemen like Johnny Bonds can keep a close eye on this unsavory character, and be ready to put him away for all of the underhanded schemes he seems to have pulled off his whole life.
Unfortunately, my family has known Walt/Michael for over 20 years -- my younger sister was married to Markham Duff-Smith back in '76 -- after Walt set up Mark's mother's murder, and during the time Mark's sister and family were murdered. My little sister had no idea what kind of men Duff-Smith and Waldhauser were. Their little insurance fraud schemes shed a lot of light on what they were up to.
It took Detective Johnny Bonds to make my sister wake up and understand that her life was in danger because she was next on their hit list. Bonds found out about an insurance policy Duff-Smith was going to take out on her.
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