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Small Plane Slices Into Ft. Lauderdale Home; Mortgage Relief Rip-Offs; Reliving Columbine; The Help Desk; Foreclosure Spike; Anti- Terror Tactics
Aired April 17, 2009 - 11:57 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
TONY HARRIS, CNN ANCHOR: Once again we want to bring you the very latest that we have on the breaking news story.
A small plane crashed into a residential neighborhood in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida. The spokesman for the Broward County Sheriff's Office told us just a short time ago that the small plane took off from the Ft. Lauderdale Executive Airport at 11:16 a.m. and went down a short time later.
As you can see, some gaping holes in at least this one home. And there are at least two homes, maybe three homes, that have been on fire, damaged, impacted by this small plane crash.
All right, let's get to Rob Marciano, because, Rob, you can help us orientate everyone to where we're talking about here, this neighborhood in Ft. Lauderdale. I know you're working on some mapping for us. The best information that I have is that this plane went down near Andrews Avenue north of Commercial Boulevard. Do you have that as well? Or is that close?
ROB MARCIANO, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Yes. We're trying to find the exact home. You know, with the new Google images and Virtual Earth images that are the high resolution satellites coupled with some airplane pictures as well, we can actually see the roofs of these homes. We can actually, by process of elimination, determine where exactly that home is put down.
But regardless of that, it's on the intersection of Commercial and Andrews about southwest of the Pompano Beach area and about five miles inland from where the Ft. Lauderdale airport is and obviously the beach there.
So it was heading east. We had east winds. So if it was taking off, it would be heading into those winds, which are strong today, 15 to 20 miles an hour. Not sure if that had any impact. Visibility was clear, but taking off out of the Executive Airport into that wind, seemingly wouldn't have too much of a problem.
Now, Chad Myers has been investigating exactly what kind of aircraft this is via the FAA released tail number. And what we have found is that it is a Cessna. It is a twin engine.
HARRIS: OK. We've confirmed that?
MARCIANO: It is a twin engine plane, a high performance one. It's pressurized. I mean, it's designed to fly at altitude and at fairly decent speed, so this is no run of the mill aircraft that's held together with Duct tape, although it's fairly old, about a couple decades old.
MARCIANO: But it's a plane that you would think would be able to handle this sort of situation.
But that's the lay of the land, Tony. And, of course, the more information we get as the afternoon progresses, we'll pass it along.
HARRIS: Just heartbreaking. Heartbreaking.
A Cessna 421 is the initial indication. And maybe we can pull up a model on that and we can show folks at least the size and scope of the plane that we're talking about.
But once again, this is the horrible scene and sort of the aftermath, at least of the firefighting effort. We saw firefighters just moments ago sort of dousing out the hot spots, trying to put some hot spots out.
You can still see some smoke to the rear of one of the homes. Maybe some fire as well. So firefighters still have their hands full here, and at some point they will be able to make their way into those structures to find out if anyone is -- well, if anyone is to be rescued, can be saved, and extract pieces of the aircraft.
We have not seen at this point any bits, piece of fuselage of the aircraft at this point. We will continue to bring you the latest pictures and update the story as we get additional information.
Oh, great. I'm being told that we have been able to effort up, work up a picture of what the plane looks like.
And just as Rob was describing, a twin engine prop. A Cessna 421 is the plane that we're talking about now that went into this residential neighborhood shortly after takeoff. Again, from the Ft. Lauderdale Executive Airport.
I'm being told now that this is the actual plane. Chad and Rob are working on this.
And guys, if you're available, come on up and help me understand this. So this is the actual plane, the tail number that we're talking about?
MARCIANO: That's the tail number, Tony. And much like a license plate number, it's not going to be duplicated on any other plane.
So, early indications are -- and we don't want to release the name of the actual charter company -- but this plane, from what we have been finding out, is owned by a charter company. That's probably one of the reasons that the actual plane is on the Internet. And that tail number that matches, unfortunately, the one that the FAA released to the media.
HARRIS: OK. Rob, appreciate it.
And our thanks to Chad as well.
And we'll continue to work this for you and bring you the latest information.
All right. Let's turn our focus for a minute to business news now.
The country may be bogged down in recession, but somebody is making money. Citi, General Electric and Google announced first quarter earnings. All three beat Wall Street expectations.
HARRIS: You know, over the last few weeks we have seen hints the recession may be bottoming out, but foreclosure activity certainly is not. It spiked during the first quarter.
Let's talk to Gerri Willis.
And Gerri, what about those glimmers of hope, those green shoots we heard from the president this week?
GERRI WILLIS, CNN PERSONAL FINANCE EDITOR: Well, you've got to question them, I think. That's right, foreclosure filings jumped 24 percent since a year ago, as banks lifted moratoriums on foreclosures. And that really flooded the market with more foreclosures.
Analysts had expected that the numbers might be better, particularly since a report released a month ago showed a sharp uptick in both existing home sales and new home sales. And this, it's just the latest evidence that the fundamental problems remain in the housing industry.
Let's take a look at some of the states hit the hardest by foreclosures.
Nevada had a total of 41,000, more than 41,000 filings, almost up 111 percent over last March. Arizona, also a big problem area, one in every 54 households, Tony. Imagine that, up almost 80 percent year- over-year.
California has been the home of the mortgage meltdown. Filings increased over 35 percent year-over-year.
Florida, a big problem, 120,000 foreclosure filings.
Even Illinois a leader here. Foreclosure filings there increasing over 68 percent.
So you can see a lot of the areas that led in the housing boom are also now leading in foreclosures. Not a good thing.
HARRIS: No. And Gerri, how does this activity impact people who want to refinance?
WILLIS: Well, you know, it's sort of a vicious cycle. Even if you're current on your mortgage, and there are foreclosures in your area, it brings the value of your home down, and that means refinancing is just more difficult.
Plus, banks are getting strict about who they're lending money to. So if you're looking to refi, there's good news, lusciously low good rates, 5.12 percent, no points, according to BankRate.com.
But to really take advantage of it, you have to have a great credit score, 700 or better, and a lot more equity than you've ever had to have before for a refi. So the hurdles are high, but I have to tell you, the best personal financial advice I can give you today is to take advantage of these low rates if you haven't already locked them in.
HARRIS: Boy, I hope they're not killing you on closing costs, though I know that's different from state to state.
WILLIS: Three percent to 6 percent is the average. You've really got to watch out for it. And those pesky fees they give you...
HARRIS: That's right. That's right.
WILLIS: ... copying, document fees. You've got to negotiate.
HARRIS: Very good.
Gerri, great to see you. Have a great weekend.
WILLIS: Thank you.
HARRIS: Thank you.
President Obama headed to the Summit of the Americas and a possible showdown over Cuba. Venezuelan President Chavez threatens to veto the summit declaration because Cuba is excluded from the gathering. He is the same leader who called President Bush the devil.
Here's what he said about President Obama last month.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
HUGO CHAVEZ, VENEZUELAN PRESIDENT (through translator): Obama is going to accuse me now of exporting terrorism. At the very least, you could say he is a poor, ignorant man. He should study, read a little bit, so he learn what is the reality of what he is living and the reality of Latin America, and the reality of the world.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS: My goodness. President Obama says he is pushing for new relations with Latin America, and he talked with Juan Carlos Lopez of CNN en Espanol about crossing paths with President Chavez.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JUAN CARLOS LOPEZ, CNN EN ESPANOL CORRESPONDENT: Now, more than the issues at the summit, a lot of people are focused on how you will interact with other leaders. For example, how you will face Hugo Chavez.
Have you thought about that? Is it going to be different than any other president?
BARACK H. OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: No. Look, he's the leader of his country, and he'll be one of many people that I have an opportunity to meet. And the whole message that we've tried to send throughout my campaign, throughout my recent travels overseas, at the G-20, for example, has been that the United States, I think, has a leadership role to play in dealing with many of the big problems that we face.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS: Cuba's president has a message for the United States: Let's talk. Cuban leader Raul Castro spoke at a meeting in Venezuela hosted by President Chavez. His comments came just days after the Obama administration lifted travel restrictions on Cuban-Americans.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RAUL CASTRO, CUBAN PRESIDENT (through translator): We told the North American government in private and in public that we are prepared wherever they want to discuss everything -- human right, freedom of the press, political prisoners. Everything, everything, everything that they want to discuss.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS: The U.S. trade embargo against Cuba will be one of the hot topics at the Summit of the Americas.
Our Josh Levs will examine some of the other regional issues and how they affect you. That's ahead this hour.
We are learning more now about the investigative techniques used in the days after 9/11, when America was looking for terrorists. A Bush-era memo made public yesterday reveals just how far some investigators went.
Our Tom Foreman has that.
TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): As the war on terror raged in the years following 9/11, the new documents paint a graphic picture of what was happening to some suspected terrorists in American hands, suspects like Abu Zubaydah, identified by the CIA as a top al Qaeda operative.
In memos to the spy agency, the Justice Department approved shackling so-called high-value suspects, forcing them to stand, and keeping them from sleeping for up to 11 days, making them assume stress positions, such as standing with only their hands touching a distant wall, or kneeling while being forced to bend sharply backward, locking them in a tiny, cramped space for up to two hours at a time.
For Zubaydah, one memo even OK'd throwing in an insect of which he was to be believed deathly afraid, though that step was not taken, and simulated drowning through the process known as water-boarding.
(on camera): The memos make it plain that only some detainees faced these extreme measures. And, even then, some techniques were not taken to the approved limit. Furthermore, the Justice Department repeatedly warned that physical injury was forbidden, as well as anything that produced prolonged psychological stress or lasting effects.
(voice-over): The memos stress that thousands of American soldiers have endured these techniques in training, and that they do not constitute torture.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GEORGE W. BUSH, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: This government does not torture people.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
FOREMAN: Still, the list goes on -- also approved, slapping suspects in the face or stomach to startle and humiliate, dousing prisoners repeatedly with water, and forced nudity in front of both male and female interrogators, especially if that's taboo in the prisoner's culture.
The American Civil Liberties Union says, all this is torture. And just as it fought for the release of these papers, the group now wants something more.
AMRIT SINGH, ATTORNEY, AMERICAN CIVIL LIBERTIES UNION: Torture is illegal. It is immoral, and it is essential that individuals who conducted torture be held accountable.
FOREMAN: Not likely, the Obama administration says, but the president is making it just as clear that such interrogation techniques are now forbidden.
Tom Foreman, CNN, Washington.
HARRIS: Our political and legal analysts are weighing in on these Bush-era memos. Jeffrey Toobin calls the memo shocking. David Gergen agrees, but suggests we recall just how frightened Americans were after 9/11.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: I have to say, these were some of the most shocking legal documents I've ever seen.
ANDERSON COOPER, HOST, "AC 360": Really?
TOOBIN: To see the United States government and assistant attorney general say that waterboarding was not torture, a position that is totally without legal support, even in the same memo, pointing out -- or same collection of memos -- that countries that do engage in these kind of tactics like Indonesia, we call it torture, but they say, oh, but that's just diplomatic. I mean, this was shocking and appalling stuff.
COOPER: David Gergen?
DAVID GERGEN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, it was wrong. And I think it's good these memos have come out. People need to wrestle with realities.
I also think that we need to join as a country and condemn this kind of practice. I also think that before we go way overboard, that we ought to remember what people were going through.
This is the first administration in history that people had to run from their lives from the White House in order to escape attacks. This administration, when they got these daily reports, I think there was a natural -- about the terror threats around the world -- people became almost obsessed with the danger of new terrorism in the United States, and somehow it would happen on their watch unless they took effective action. So I think it's abhorrent, but I think it's more understandable than some of the critics are saying.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS: All right. And once again, we want to bring you the latest pictures that we have of the situation and the breaking news we've been following for the last hour here in the CNN NEWSROOM.
A small plane has crashed into a residential neighborhood in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida. The spokesman for the Broward County Sheriff's Department told us a short time ago that the small plane, a Cessna twin engine turboprop, took off from Ft. Lauderdale Executive Airport at 11:16 a.m. and crashed a short time thereafter. We have no idea how many people have been injured in this crash.
We will bring you the latest information as we get it in the CNN NEWSROOM. But first, a break.
HARRIS: All right. We are following a breaking story out of Florida this hour. Take a look at the pictures. These are new pictures into the CNN NEWSROOM. Not sure from how long ago, but these are certainly new pictures.
A small plane crashed into a residential neighborhood less than an hour ago, and -- OK, and these are the live pictures, the very latest pictures of the situation.
Chief Donald Widing is on the phone with us, and he is the chief of fire for Oakland Park, Florida.
And Chief, first of all, walk us through this. We saw pictures within the hour -- we saw some small explosions. When did your department first get the call? And describe the scene as your team members responded, if you would, please.
CHIEF DONALD WIDING, OAKLAND PARK, FLORIDA, FIRE & RESCUE: The Oakland Park Fire & Rescue and other agencies in Broward County were dispatched to an aircraft that impacted a single family residence in the city of Oakland Park approximately an hour ago. At this time, we have the fire under control. We're making preparations to do a search and rescue operation to find out if there's any survivable victims in the residence or how many souls were on board and their survivability among the aircraft wreckage.
Right now we have got our traffic control and environmental issues that we're dealing with, awaiting the arrival of the National Transportation Safety Board representatives. And what we know right now is it was a Cessna twin engine aircraft. We're trying to confirm the fuel load on the aircraft and occupancy load and/or if there was any cargo.
HARRIS: Well, Chief, I think we understand the traffic issues. Are you having a difficult time getting the personnel you would like to have at the scene to the scene?
WIDING: Negative. We have the appropriate people either on the scene or en route. Right now, we have all of the emergency responders that we need. Like I said, the fire is under control. The emergency is contained.
What we're doing now is making sure that the scene is safe enough to introduce our first responders to do a complete primary and secondary search of the aircraft wreckage itself and the occupancy. Our remaining concern right now is, of course, fuel load. We want to make sure that the fuel in that aircraft is stabilized to such a point that we can introduce our first responders without further jeopardizing their safety.
HARRIS: Do you have -- and maybe this is speculation and you won't go here with me, but do you have any idea at this point if anyone on the ground was injured in this?
WIDING: No, sir. At this point I do not know that.
WIDING: We will do a complete search of the entire premises, but again, our priority is to get a crew in and to an assessment of the occupancy and, of course, the wreckage. And we expect we can initiate that operation in maybe another 10 to 15 minutes.
HARRIS: Got you.
It looks like -- you mentioned that one home was clearly engaged. At various times in our coverage it looked like from the smoke we were seeing and the flames we were seeing that there may have been additional homes involved. Is it just the one home or were more homes in that vicinity impacted?
WIDING: We're still assessing the damage, but we did an effective exposure control operation, so other occupancies that were around that, I'm sure they suffered some heat damage, maybe some minor fire damage. But fortunately, we were able to get a quick enough response time to keep the fire -- a majority of the fire contained on the property that was affected.
HARRIS: All right. Let me just -- again, Chief, just a moment longer here. I just want to put a clock on this in terms of when you think you will be able to get into the home and do an assessment. You think it's about 15, 20 minutes between now and the time that you get the necessary personnel or a team there to do that?
WIDING: Fifteen to 20 minutes at the earliest. I'm waiting on a report from my incident commander. They are making that determination. They're doing personnel assignments right now to accomplish that task. So, once we feel that we get the wreckage and the entire incident cooled down and stable -- like I said, our outstanding concern is trying to find out how many fuel may be remaining on that aircraft, and what measures we need to do to make sure that it's safe before we introduce our first responders and add any more harm to this unfortunate tragedy.
HARRIS: Chief, that makes good sense.
Donald Widing is the chief of fire for Oakland Park, Florida.
And Chief, we appreciate your time. Thank you.
WIDING: Yes, sir.
HARRIS: We appreciate it. Thank you.
We are going to listen now to some sound we were able to get into the CNN NEWSROOM from just a couple of moments ago from a witness.
Oh, let's listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Oh, yes, there's always concerns, because there's always planes going down in the neighborhood. When they go down, it's always around our area. So there's always a concern in the back of your mind.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS: All right. A bit of sound from a witness to the plane crash and the resulting fire.
We're going to continue to gather information. I'm looking at some new information right now. Let me sort of put this together for you.
We'll give you a complete update and a reset on this story in just a couple of minutes.
You're in the CNN NEWSROOM.
HARRIS: All right. Just want to bring you the latest pictures again and the latest information we have on a small plane crash.
A Cessna twin-engine prop plane has gone down in this residential neighborhood in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida. We just heard from Donald Widing. He's the chief of fire for Oakland Park, Florida, and he told us he is still about 15 or 20 minutes away from having a team that can go inside the building and assess the situation inside, and get some kind of determination on the people who were aboard the plane, if anyone was in the home, the impacted home, at the time of the crash.
We will continue to follow the developments on this story. Pictures -- these are earlier pictures of the intense smoke and the flames associated with that fire from the chopper, the WSVN chopper, our affiliate in Miami. And you can see there was a gaping hole left in this one home by the crash.
So we are continuing, obviously, to follow the story. And we will get you more information as it comes to us here in the NEWSROOM. We will pass it on to you.
President Obama headed to a summit in the Caribbean after wrapping up a visit to Mexico. Former U.S. ambassador to Mexico Tony Garza was on the program yesterday. In a letter posted on his Web site, he suggested the president "... view Mexico as your gateway to the Americas, a perfect bridge both north and south. Take this opportunity to draw on the key regional insights President Calderon can offer."
Radio talk show host Eduardo "El Piolin" Sotelo joins us from the Univision studio in Los Angeles to talk about the president's Mexico trip.
Eddie, good to see you. Thank you for your time today.
EDUARDO "EL PIOLIN" SOTELO, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST: Oh, it's an honor to be here, Tony.
HARRIS: All right. Well, I appreciate you saying it's an honor to be on our program.
You know, Eddie, we like a certain amount of touchy-feely, particularly on this program. We appreciated the comments from the former ambassador, Tony Garza. We even like some talking and, well, less talk and more listening.
But did anything get done in this meeting? Do you believe Mexico has a real partner in the Obama administration?
SOTELO: That's what I saw yesterday when President Obama ride (ph) to Mexico. And that's what a listener said, that they hoped not only to see that they have a really good reunion, but they keep the promise of helping both, as neighbors, the United States, a great country, and Mexico, that can help so we can have peace in our -- both countries.
HARRIS: Yes. How are your listeners reacting to the president's trip to Mexico?
SOTELO: They say that it's really important. I think that as neighbors, we need to work together. And we see that President Obama is making a difference, and that's a result after 100 days after working as a president of the United States, and then visits Mexico. It means a lot.
HARRIS: How disappointed are you that a real discussion on immigration wasn't on the table for this meeting with President Calderon?
SOTELO: Well, President Obama, he was with us in the studio, and he said that he was going to give his promise that he was going to bring a comprehensive immigration reform. And I think he's moving forward. You know, I believe that he will find a solution for the immigration problem that we have for several years.
HARRIS: Yes, but honestly, come on, Eddie, April is Immigration Awareness Month, right? I mean, it has to be somewhat disappointing at this point that immigration reform hasn't been a part of the administration's priority mantra, you know, of education, health care and energy. Come on. That has to be a bit disappointing.
SOTELO: Well, yes. But at the same time, you know, I had straight communication with the president. We had that opportunity that -- we passed that with my listeners, and we listened to what he's been telling us.
He's saying, you know what? We know that it's really important to find a solution with the economy, and then I will be able to work with the energy and then find a solution for immigration. So I believe that we're going to have good, comprehensive immigration reform pretty soon.
SOTELO: Yes. Yes, I do.
HARRIS: Really? You believe that?
SOTELO: Yes, because he promised that, and I know that he's trying to find solutions. He's working. So, at the same time, we have to do our part, at the same time. Not blaming. HARRIS: Got you.
Well, let me drill down on this. On a percentage basis -- play along with me here, Eddie -- what are the chances of getting a comprehensive immigration package passed through Congress this year? What are the chances of it? Ten percent? Fifty percent?
SOTELO: I believe that there's a lot of chances. Because everybody understands some of the people they have to understand that when you have more than 12 million people illegal in this country, it's going to be a chance to create more business, more employees, and that's what we need in our great country.
HARRIS: Oh, Eddie, you're being overly optimistic. You are being so overly optimistic there isn't even going to be a major immigration speech from the president this year. You disagree with me?
SOTELO: Like I say, he knows what's -- the things that he needs to fix. And we need to support, you know, our president. And that's what we need to do. And just follow what he tells us so we can find a solution because, you know, by having a chance to legal so many people that already demonstrate that they're good citizens, they're going to school to learn the language and they bring in business and that's what we need to do in this great country. So I believe that soon we're going to have a green light to have immigration comprehensive reform sooner than you think.
HARRIS: All right, Eddie, OK. All right. Eddie, it's great to see you. Great to talk to you. Let's do this more often.
SOTELO: Thank you, Tony. Thanks a lot.
HARRIS: All right. My pleasure.
Many homeowners facing foreclosure have been targeted by scammers. Our Special Investigations Unit found one that was running commercials nationwide.
HARRIS: So we continue to follow the latest developments on the breaking news story of the day so far. And here it is. You can see the pictures to the right of your screen there. This small plane crash in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida. And you see that gaping hole in that one home. At least one other, maybe two other homes impacted by this crash. We have no idea if there are any injuries on the ground, how many people were on the plane at the time of the crash. Chad Myers is helping us gather information on this breaking news story.
Appreciate it, Chad. What do you have?
CHAD MYERS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Looks like the plane tried to take off at 11:13 here from the executive airport FXE, not Ft. Lauderdale, FLL, that you might fly into if you're going on a cruise or something out of Ft. Lauderdale. This is the executive airport area here. This is runway 13. This is 08 -- 080. So the planes would have been either taking off to the southeast or just a little bit north of due east and the plane actually crashed over here on just to the east of the screen.
We'll zoom out right there. There is where the plane actually went down. So very, very close to the airport. Probably the duration of less than two minutes.
As we know right now, it was a plane much like this, if not this exact plane, which was a Cessna twin engine. A very fast plane. And as we know, if this truly is the plane, I've done a lot of research on this plane, it came out of Cozumel April 15th, landed in Ft. Lauderdale, took a couple day rest and was on its way up Fernandina Beach, on up to the north, up near Jacksonville.
Here is the wind condition at the time from the east at 16 to 18 miles per hour. So there would be no way that this plane was doing anything except taking off into this direction, into the wind. Would never try to take off that direction because the wind behind it would have been certainly, certainly to strong.
There are still planes on the way to FXE. Even with this crash, the airport is not closed. What do you have, Dave (ph), 13 planes in the air? Some 13 planes still in the air. There are a couple of them.
And this is a typical plane to fly into an executive airport like this. Little small little jets and also, obviously, these twin-engine Cessnas.
MYERS: Go ahead, Tony.
HARRIS: Chad, if I can jump in for just a second. Our executive producer, Jim Cook, just sent me the latest information on this.
Seconds after takeoff, the plane reported trouble. The tower cleared it to come back and try to land at Ft. Lauderdale Executive Airport. The plane crashed attempting to return to the airport. Four passengers were on the aircraft, including the pilot.
MYERS: It could hold eight. So only half full.
HARRIS: Yes. OK. That is the latest information.
Chad, I appreciate your help so much and helping us gather this information.
MYERS: Sure, Tony.
HARRIS: Boy. We will bring you the latest.
Let me just repeat that again. Four passengers on the aircraft, including the pilot. Seconds after takeoff, the plane reported trouble. The tower cleared it to come back. It tried to land at Ft. Lauderdale Executive Airport. The plane crashed attempting to return to the airport. The latest information that we have. You can see the gaping hole and you can see the results of that crash into that one home. Maybe two other homes impacted as well. Firefighters still on the scene. We're about 15, 20 minutes away at last check from having a team that can actually go in and make a full damage assessment.
We will continue, of course, to follow developments on this story.
The federal government has made a promise to crack down on foreclosure rescue scams and deceptive mortgage modifications. Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner said these mortgage relief scams target desperate homeowners who are looking for some kind of help. Instead, vulnerable consumer end up in more trouble and many times out thousands of dollars. Special Investigations Unit correspondent Abbie Boudreau joins us now.
And Abbie, you've been looking into these companies today. What have you been finding?
ABBIE BOUDREAU, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, you just have to be so incredibly careful. The Federal Trade Commission recently announced it filed five complaints against companies for using deceptive marketing methods. Basically the federal government is targeting governments that either make lofty promises to consumers about saving their homes or that ask for money up front.
Well, one of the companies it's investigating is called Federal Loan Modifications out of California. And even though it has a pretty official sounding name, it's not. The FTC says the company marketed its services by giving a false impression it was somehow affiliated with the federal government. I want to show you part of this commercial the company's been running on TV networks, including right here on CNN.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE, TELEVISION ADVERTISEMENT: When you went to bed last night, was it to find rest or an escape from your adjustable rate mortgage? Do you ever bury your face in your hands because bankrupt is becoming your only option? Bankruptcy is not your best option.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BOUDREAU: All right. Now we actually found someone who saw this commercial and called. Michael Nelson is a garage door repairman who lost his job. He was about one month behind on his mortgage and he was desperate, like so many other people out there, for help. So he paid $3,000 up front for a loan modification, even though the contract says nothing is guaranteed. And this is what he said happened.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MICHAEL NELSON, VICTIM: When I tried to contact them and I asked them for any kind of proof, I just wanted to see some kind of documentation, some kind of paperwork, just e-mail it to me, just send me a copy, anything, they continued to ignore my calls. They continued to just basically do nothing. I thought I was paying for them to negotiate for me to get the payments down. What did happen was nothing. They took my money and ignored me.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BOUDREAU: But he tells us he did end up getting his money back after he reported the company to the Federal Trade Commission, but many people never get their money back and they never get any services.
HARRIS: Abbie, I have -- I saw that commercial.
HARRIS: Here in Atlanta. And it's a commercial that was in many parts of the country, nationwide.
HARRIS: OK. So what does this company saying about all of this?
BOUDREAU: Right. Well, we did talk to the man who runs Federal Loan Modification and he tells CNN that he stands behind his company. He says he's only been in business since December, but he's already been able to help save the homes of about 20 percent of the company's 5,000 clients and he's still trying to help the rest of them, he says.
We asked him about Nelson's case and he did say he was sorry that he wasn't happy with the service. Ad when we asked him what he thought -- like if he thought his company's name was a little bit misleading, he said well, you know, I would consider changing it in the future so there's no more confusion. But bottom line is...
HARRIS: Well, he reeled everyone in at that point. I mean, come on, the name has been out there for a while now.
BOUDREAU: Well, he claims that he has helped people. So, I mean, maybe this is just one case. We do know that the FCC is looking into this and that's why we wanted to bring this to people because there's still tons (ph) of commercials. Anytime someone says, OK, here's a guarantee. You know, anything like that, you just have to be so incredibly careful. And you can contact HUD and HUD will give people sort of their advice about who they should go to. A HUD approved agency in your area.
HARRIS: And what our personal finance editor Gerri Willis, one other note on this, Gerri Willis has said to us on this program on numerous occasions is that you don't need one of these companies to do this work for you.
HARRIS: You don't need them. BOUDREAU: You could just call your mortgage company. But the problem is, is that a lot of these people say, well I did try calling my mortgage company. They didn't call me back. Or I can't get through to anybody.
HARRIS: And now you feel desperate and you feel like you're running out of time and that the walls are caving in (ph).
BOUDREAU: Absolutely. But states are cracking down on this and the federal government. So, you know.
HARRIS: That's solid stuff. Thank you, Abbie, appreciate it.
BOUDREAU: Yes. Thank you.
HARRIS: Thank you.
A student who survived the attack at Columbine has put his experiences on video. What is he saying as this tragic anniversary approaches?
HARRIS: April 20, 1999, the Columbine massacre. It is a day that most people won't forget. Now a new movie reminds us of the day 12 students and a teacher were gunned down days away from the tenth anniversary. And Nicole Lapin featured the film maker as this week's young person who rocks.
Whoa, that was pretty stunning.
NICOLE LAPIN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, it was because Andrew Robinson wasn't watching from afar like you and I. Tony, he was there. He was living it. He was breathing it. And he was running from the gunman. He was actually in the computer lab and literally ran for his life on that fateful day.
But when he actually sat down to write "April Showers" nearly 10 years later, the script just popped out in about three days. It was all there. It was tucked into the back of his memory. Still raw, still fresh. I chatted with the 27-year-old filmmaker last night and he was kind enough to take a question from our iReport community.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
AMANDA OHARA, CNN IREPORTER: Hi, Andrew. My question for you is, how much of "April Showers" is actually based on your experience at Columbine on April 20th and was it really hard to film those scenes that were real? Was it -- did it bring back certain emotions for you? You're really the inspiration to me. And keep up the good work.
ANDREW ROBINSON, WRITER/DIRECTOR, "APRIL SHOWERS": It was kind of difficult filming some of those scenes that closely resembled things that I had gone through. But it was actually harder for me to film those scenes because of having to put, you know, real high school kids who were our extras and our actors through them. You know, I've kind of had 10 years to process everything, but then I had to kind of recreate it for them. And it was difficult to know that even though it was pretend and that we would all be going home safely, that they were getting kind of a slice of some reality that they probably weren't expecting when they signed on to be an extra in a movie.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LAPIN: Andrew says that he just wants people to see more than what we saw on CNN, on TV that day. There was a lot, Tony, that happened in that community in the days and the years after Columbine.
HARRIS: Wow, can you imagine?
LAPIN: Yes. No, the guilt, imagine that. The finger pointing as well. You know, he knew some of the people who knew the shooters and they were shunned. There was a lot of post-traumatic stress disorder as well. And, you know, the stark realization that you're not invincible and that's hard to swallow as a teenager.
You can read more about Andrew by heading over to cnn.com/youngpeoplewhorock. You can also watch the full interview on cnn.com/live today at 3:30 Eastern Time. And, Tony, you can also nominate a young person doing amazing things there as well. The film debuts at the National Film Festival this weekend and it hits theaters on the 24th. It was actually just a coincidence that it happened on the anniversary.
HARRIS: You know, as I watch that, I am reminded of how many shooting incidents like this we've seen in the years since Columbine.
LAPIN: Yes, and we just had Virginia Tech two year anniversary yesterday.
HARRIS: Yes. Yes.
LAPIN: There have been more than 80 shootings. More than 80 school shootings since Columbine. So this is just a reminder that the pain, that the suffering still continues after that fateful day and we should remember it indeed.
HARRIS: And they're not kids anymore. You look at him and he's a grown man. He's 27 years old.
LAPIN: Yes, a successful filmmaker.
HARRIS: And a successful filmmaker.
LAPIN: Yes. And our young person who rocks this week.
HARRIS: Nicole, appreciate it. Thank you.
LAPIN: You're welcome.
HARRIS: A college student has a question about her credit card accounts. We get some answers from "The Help Desk."
HARRIS: College students and credit card debt and who is eligible for money from the stimulus. Just some of your money concerns from Gerri Willis and her team at "The Help Desk."
WILLIS: We want to get you answers to your financial questions. Let's go straight to "The Help Desk."
Greg McBride is a senior financial analyst with Bankrate, and Donna Rosato is a senior writer for "Money." All right, guys, let's get that first question.
Wesley asked, "I'm a senior college, and I currently have two credit card accounts. After a miscommunication with my parents about the balance, I closed one of the accounts when the balance was close to the maximum. I'm currently paying them both off comfortably, and I've not used either of them in quite some time. What do you suggest I do about my situation to avoid damaging my credit score further?"
Greg, how many times have we seen this? You know, walk away from the credit card, right?
GREG MCBRIDE, SENIOR FINANCIAL ANALYST, BANKRATE.COM: Well having closed out that card, that's water under the bridge. What he's doing right now, paying down the debt, making the payments on time, those are the two best things you can do for your credit.
Once that card is paid off, use that remaining card for a token purchase every other month or so. Just be sure to pay off in full. That's the type of habit that will get that credit score on solid ground.
WILLIS: Right, and you know, your credit score is so dependent on how you pay those credit cards. Gary in Michigan asked, "I retired November 1, 2008. I receive a pension from Chrysler and IRA withdrawals, but no Social Security. I have no income. Am I eligible for the $250 payment?" Donna, here he's talking about federal payments from the stimulus bill.
DONNA ROSATO, SENIOR WRITER, "MONEY" MAGAZINE: That's right. In February, the stimulus bill went into effect, and retirees who are on Social Security receiving disability payments, veterans benefits or federal pensions are entitled to a one-time $250 payment. But unfortunately, Gary is not entitled to it. He is not receiving Social Security yet. He may be too young, and he has a private pension. So, unfortunately, he's not going to get that $250.
WILLIS: Right, and you know, so many people who do get the "make work pay" credit, which is the most common thing, obviously, they're not seeing all that much in their paycheck. Greg, do you think that's going to make a big difference to people? I get questions from folks -- should I save it, should I spend it? I can't imagine many people are going to notice the difference. MCBRIDE: And I think that's by design. If people don't notice the difference, so it's more inclined to get pumped back into the economy. The money's just going to get frittered away and spent. That's in contrast to a year ago, when the checks came out, and people had a very high incidence of saving or paying down debt.
WILLIS: All right, guys, great answers, tough questions.
"The Help Desk" is all about getting you answers. Send me an e- mail to firstname.lastname@example.org or log on to cnn.com/helpdesk to see more of our financial solutions.
And "The Help Desk" is everywhere. Make sure to check out the latest issue of "Money" magazine on newsstands now.
HARRIS: Gerri, appreciate it. Thank you.
Want to check in on our breaking news story. As you can see, the pictures are live on the right side of your screen there as firefighters continue to work on at least one home severely damaged, as you can see as a result of a plane crash. A small plane crash into that residential neighborhood in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida.
We want to get to one of our iReporters. Ben Stinson is on the line with us.
Ben, good to talk to you.
Describe what you saw for us, please. I know you snapped a picture that we're going to be showing as well. There it is.
BEN STINSON, CNN IREPORTER: Yes, Tony. I live on Northeast Third Avenue and the house is on Northwest First. And so we see a lot of planes take off from the executive airport there from the front yard. A few of my friends and I were standing out in the front yard and we saw this plane banking very hard to the right and, obviously, shortly after takeoff, and the right engine was on fire. And then it dipped below the roof line of the house across the street. We could see the -- we could hear it hit and the black smoke came up pretty quickly thereafter.
HARRIS: Well, Ben, that's a bit of new information for us. You actually saw one of the engines on fire.
HARRIS: Boy, let me read this to you and maybe you can help fill in some of the blank spaces here. Some of the reporting that we're getting from a city of Ft. Lauderdale official is that seconds after takeoff the plane reported trouble. The tower cleared it to come back and try to land at the Ft. Lauderdale Executive Airport. The plane crashed attempting to return to the airport. Does that make sense with what you witnessed? STINSON: Yes, definitely. It was definitely turning around back toward the airport. You know, it didn't make it nearly close enough. It was way low when it started, you know, fishtailing like it lost all power to control itself towards the end.
HARRIS: Yes. And, Ben, at least the news so far is that four passengers were on the aircraft, including the pilot.
Ben, appreciate it. Thank you for your work. Thank you for getting that iReport photo for us. And thanks for the conversation. Thank you, Ben.
STINSON: No problem, Tony.
HARRIS: We'll take a break and come back with more CNN NEWSROOM in a moment.
HARRIS: A quick reset of our breaking news story for you.
A small plane crashed into this residential neighborhood in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida. The plane, a Cessna 421 twin-engine prop that was departing from Ft. Lauderdale Executive Airport, headed to Fernandina Beach, north of Jacksonville. And second after takeoff, the plane reported trouble. Our iReporter says he saw an engine on fire. Four passengers on the aircraft in total, including the pilot. No word of the fate of those people and no word of injuries on the ground.
We are pushing forward now with Kyra Phillips in the CNN NEWSROOM.