tv NBC Bay Area We Investigate KNTV March 2, 2019 6:30pm-7:00pm PST
bigad shaban: hey, my name is bigad with the investigative unit. donald woodard, jr.: oh, yeah, yeah. announcer: we confront a landlord accused of an elaborate scheme to kick out renters in oakland. plus. ariana: you can't force somebody into a relationship. announcer: court-ordered family bonding. that costs tens of thousands of dollars. we examine a bay area program that claims to help children of divorce, but first, snakes in cans and birds in pants. we take you inside california's exotic animal black market. here is senior investigative reporter, stephen stock. stephen stock: good evening and thanks for joining us. it's a multibillion dollar black market that federal agents say grows every year, the sale of exotic animals here in the u.s. as pets. we spent the last few months behind the scenes of this underground world, where everything from tigers to cobras are smuggled across our borders nearly every day.
stephen: this may look like some indian or african safari, but these wild animals actually live here in the hills of northern california, and they were all rescued from backyards and roadside zoos. sanctuaries like these say they are now at capacity due to the growing demand for exotic animals as pets. in california it's illegal to own wild animals without a permit, but those laws do little to deter smugglers or breeders. just go on the internet and look to buy an exotic animal as a pet, and you're swamped with options. here is just one example. this video of two white tiger cubs for sale sent to our investigative team in southern california as proof that the seller wanted to deal. will travers: well, i think it's--it is a very big problem. stephen: will travers serves as president of born free usa,
a nonprofit based in washington, d.c. dedicated to reducing animals in captivity and protecting endangered species in their natural habitat. born free is named after the 1966 wildlife film starring travers's parents. will: i would estimate that it runs into hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of individual animals, when you take into account reptiles, snakes, primates, birds, mammals, and everything in between. stephen: to get an idea of just how big this smuggling problem really is our team went behind the scenes with border patrol and u.s. fish and wildlife agents, with dogs sniffing at the and at a secret facility where a quarter million pieces of international mail are scanned and inspected every day, and at los angeles international airport, where exotic animals are intercepted often. michael ferguson: it's crazy.
it's such a fine line to work, because you don't want to slow down commerce. it's the needle in the haystack type of situation. stephen: among the animals recently seized coming into the country: a tiger cub being smuggled in the backseat of a car coming across the border from mexico, three live cobras smuggled in potato chip cans from hong kong caught at the secret mail facility, and live birds strapped to a passenger's legs under his pants when he arrived from east asia at los angeles. erin dean: we're considered, you know, the frontline for wildlife detection. stephen: it's all up to erin dean and her team, a handful of wildlife agents, to intercept more and more smuggled animals coming into the country every day. stephen: i mean, how do you address this issue? erin: well, i can say that when i started with this agency 27 years ago we had the same number of officers that we do now. stephen: once the animals are successfully smuggled into the u.s., laws about owning or possessing them vary from state to state.
florida, texas, and nevada have few to no laws that prevent residents from owning exotic animals as pets. here in california, it's a bit tougher. you must prove to the state that you have enough space and training to care for these animals and obtain a permit. since 2013, regulators have cited 73 different owners for illegally keeping wild animals, like this fox living in a house with two kids near sacramento. ed stewart: tigers. this would never happen in the wild. stephen: when all those tiger cubs, elephants, and other big catch grow up and become more dangerous, they end up in places like this, paws, short for performing animal welfare society. ed: i started to get angry. stephen: ed stewart cofounded paws back in 1984. stephen: all these animals, and they're from somebody else who was keeping them in a zoo or in their backyard. none of these were ever bred here. ed: no, no, we didn't breed anything here. stephen: this is 1 of 16 big-cat alliance sanctuaries located throughout the united states, housing animals like these taken
from backyards and roadside zoos, and all of them are full. stephen: stewart says there is plenty of blame for this problem to go around. ed: if you want a cat, go to the shelter. stephen: from lawmakers dragging their feet, to celebrities who make owning an exotic animal trendy, to those who smuggle, breed, and sell these live exotics. ed: as soon as they see mike tyson has white tigers, you know, they forget that the white tigers escaped and jumped somebody, you know? i mean, there are some downsides to this. there are more pet tigers in the united states than there are wild tigers in the rest of the world. stephen: that's why organizations like paws and born free want congress to step in. those organizations say without strict federal laws that forbid keeping exotic animals in homes, the black market trade will continue with no letup in sight. announcer: coming up next. bill mcgee: it was just this huge cloud.
getting cleaned up? hunter's point is a prime piece of waterfront land in san francisco that's slated for a massive new development, but decades of naval operations contaminated the area. despite a long toxic history, you might be surprised to learn that just a portion of the superfund site was ever tested for radiation. now we're asking why. liz: the toxic legacy of hunter's point started in the pacific in 1946. male: three, two, one. liz: the military detonated two bombs in the bikini atoll, the explosions reported by nbc radio. male: there was the most tremendous great and grave blue burst of--
liz: operation crossroads, as the experiment was called, set out to test the impact of atomic weapons on ships and sailors. bill mcgee was one of them. bill: it was just this huge cloud. liz: the first bomb exploded in the air, but mcgee says it was the second one set off under water that did the most damage. bill: all that water going up and up and up. the scariest part was when the water started coming down and creating these huge waves. male: are all completely obliterated. liz: two hundred and forty ships pummeled by radioactive debris. the navy sent 79 of them, including 18 at the center of the blast, to hunter's point. bill: those 18 ships were very contaminated when they left bikini, and they were contaminated when they got to san francisco. liz: sailors tried to clean the ships, including one of the most radioactive ones, the uss independence. gillie jenkins: it was hotter than a $2 pistol. it would melt a geiger counter. liz: gillie jenkins stood guard on the independence at
hunter's point to make sure nobody removed anything. crews burned hundreds of thousands of gallons of radioactive fuel from that navy found to be below harmful levels of radiation at the time, but jenkins believes the wind likely spread contamination across the shipyard. gillie: there's no doubt about it. they didn't do anything to control it. liz: through the 1960s, the navy managed a radium paint shop inside this building and ran radiation experiments on animals. it even operated a radiological defense lab out of two dozen buildings, where scientists handled radioactive isotopes, but in this report the navy identified 91 out of the 882 locations across the shipyard as contaminated. that's just 10% of all the sites, but more than 10% of the land. officials performed tests to figure out just how radioactive those places were, but some critics say the whole shipyard should have been investigated.
gillie: you trust the navy. i don't. i would check it all. i think you'll have less and you may have some areas that will not have any, but i'll be darned if i take their word for it. daniel: they have taken a look at old records, which are incomplete, and has said, "this building, we don't have a record of radioactive use inside it. therefore there can't be any contamination near it." liz: daniel hirsch, a retired nuclear policy lecturer at uc santa cruz and vocal critic of the cleanup, says the navy should have tested everything to be sure. liz: how contaminated is it compared to other sites you've seen? daniel: so, it would be one of the handful of most contaminated nuclear sites in the country. under the superfund law guess who gets to be in charge of cleaning up the mess that the navy made? the navy. liz: we asked derek robinson about it. he is the navy's cleanup coordinator for hunter's point. liz: why not look at the entire site? derek: you look at sites that have the potential to have radiological contamination left behind. liz: robinson says the navy considered all areas
by reviewing past use and conducting interviews with former workers, but he says officials concentrated on the places where the navy actually performed radiation operations. liz: and you're not looking anywhere else? derek: that's where we're starting. liz: how can you be sure that there is no radiological contamination if you don't take a closer look, if you don't test? derek: what we're doing is we're focusing on areas where radiological contamination may have been used and could have been released. liz: we mapped the sites the navy says based on the shipyard's past may be contaminated. we asked if it's added any new places, and the navy pointed to one additional area where it says it performed radiation scans or collected soil samples. robinson stressed the navy tested 28 miles of storm drains, and he says it now plans to scan some other places it hasn't looked at before. daniel: the whole site has the potential for being contaminated, and the navy knows that. liz: the public is not allowed onto most of the shipyard, but we've put together a virtual tour of
i mean, there is a huge financial incentive for landlords to kick out longtime tenants in order to find new ones willing to pay a lot more in rent. well now, some landlords are accused of taking bizarre and even illegal steps to evict renters. bigad: april thomas and ben allen have lived in their oakland home for four years. april thomas: yeah, it will be hard to leave. bigad: they pay about a thousand a month for their rent-controlled apartment, but thr ts them out. april: even for a smaller place than this would be at least twice what we're paying. bigad: landlords who own duplexes or triplexes in oakland and actually live there are legally allowed to evict everyone else in that's what ben and april's landlord is trying to do,
except the couple says there is one problem. april: our landlord doesn't live here. he's never lived here. he would have already needed to live here before he ever issued the notice, and he didn't even start trying to make the appearance of living here until at least a week later. bigad: what makes you so convinced he's not living here? april: we put up a surveillance camera. bigad: the married self-taught private eyes have recorded more than 3,000 hours over the past 4 months to see how often their landlord stays there. april: we have continuous video footage that shows him coming by once or twice a week, staying for a few hours, and then leaving again. bigad: the couple even keeps a running log of when the landlord is home and when he isn't.o,ow s his driveway empty? april: his driveway is empty almost all of the time. ben allen: you'll also notice that donald woodard's parking space is not occupied. bigad: april and ben started keeping tabs after receiving their eviction notice and say their landlord only came by the house 11 of the next 50 days.
for the landlord to legally evict his renters without cause, that home must be his principal residence, but oakland law doesn't actually define what that means. april: i just don't think he spends enough time here to justify the claim of primary residency. bigad: to learn more we set out on a stakeout. male: we started today at 5 a.m. in front of the triplex. bigad: our investigative unit spotted the landlord, donald woodard, jr., here at this three-bedroom home near the oakland hills three days in a row. male: we finally got a shot of the landlord coming out of his house. bigad: property records show woodard owns this home with his wife. we found his truck parked here and even some wheeling garbage cans back to the house, the house he says he doesn't actually live in. he didn't respond to our interview request. bigad: mr. woodard. bigad: so, we showed up at his triplex. bigad: we're with the investigative unit. donald: oh, yeah, yeah. how you doing? bigad: nice to meet you. good, good. how are you? do you live here full-time? donald: i'm here now, and i'm here every day.
bigad: but is this your main home? donald: yes, it is, yes. bigad: if this is your main home, why are you taking out trash at another home that you own? donald: taking out trash? oh, because i actually own the home. i wanna make sure that there's no trash there, right? so, my main thing is that i just wanna make sure that even all the properties i do own, i still live here, so i've been living here for, like, almost four months. bigad: at first he said he moved into the triplex because of marital problems. donald: well, me and my wife are going through some things right now. bigad: but on facebook his own wife recently described him as someone "i live with" and poked fun about who's washing the dishes at home. woodard also told us he moved to be closer to his sick father. donald: where i was living before, it's pretty far. i need to be closer to him. bigad: but driving from the triplex to his father's home in berkeley isn't that much closer. compared to his other home, it's only about a 5-mile difference. woodard's family issues may explain why he decided to move, but why is he evicting everyone else in his building?
donald: right now i have no clue. bigad: was this actually where you were living full-time when you gave them the eviction notice? donald: i believe i was, but at the end of the day i can't even confirm anything right now. erin bernstein: we're in a housing crisis. bigad: erin bernstein is a supervising deputy city attorney in charge of oakland civil rights division, which is now setting its sights on wrongful evictions. erin: i think what we're seeing here is a need for more enforcement. any neighborhood where you're seeing increasing property values, you're gonna have a perverse incentive on behalf of landlords to try to scam the system. bigad: while the abuse may be widespread, the city attorney's office has only ever sued one landlord for trying to get away with it. bigad: can you understand why some might not be so hopeful? erin: i think once they see with the results in this case they will maybe see where some of the hope comes from our office, and we'll be able to put a big dent in this behavior. april: this is the apartment upstairs that our landlord is, you know, pretending to live in. bigad: april and ben eventually hinted to their landlord they
have evidence proving he doesn't live here, but they say soon after the landlord started spending a lot more time at the triplex, coming by just about every day. he also served the renters a brand-new eviction notice. bigad: do you think the city is doing enough to keep watch over this? ben: they're not really doing anything at all. bigad: april works at a nonprofit. ben is in grad school. if evicted, they say they probably won't be able to stay in the bay area. april: we don't really have anywhere else to go in oakland. it's a crisis. this is a housing emergency. bigad: oakland voters recently decided that landlords who live in their own duplexes or triplexes should no longer be allowed to evict tenants without cause. that change known as measure y goes into effect later this month. announcer: coming up next. we uncover the lack of oversight for a program that advertises to reconnect children with alienated parents after divorce.
advertised as a way to help children reconnect with an estranged parent after divorce. sometimes called parental alienation cases, a family judge has the power to order children to attend these workshops, but no one appears to be tracking the success rates. you're about to hear from three young people who went through a court-ordered reunification program called family bridges. it's based here in the bay area, and it is one of the oldest and most widely used workshops in north america. ariana: i do not want this to happen to a single other person. sam: i haven't been leo: i can speak for myself, and i can speak for the fact that this is the first time, vicky, i have a voice. this is it. vicky: now adults, leo, ariana, and sam open up for the first time about mill valley-based family bridges, a workshop they were ordered to attend by a family court judge. vicky: did the program help you reconnect with your mom?
leo: no, i don't have a relationship with my mother. vicky: did it help your relationship with your dad in any way? sam: no, i haven't spoken to him since the program ended, basically. vicky: family bridges is marketed as a program to help children bond with an estranged parent after divorce. ariana, sam, and leo attended the four-day workshop led by multiple psychologists and social workers. leo: i feel like i was robbed of all of my childhood when i was 12. vicky: leo is a national lacrosse league champion who now runs a business teaching the sport in canada. he says he was astonished to learn his experience matched so closely with these young women he's never met. after contentious custody fights between their parents, each says they wound up preferring to spend most of their time with one parent over the other, and in each case a judge ruled that parent was alienating the child from the other. as part of a court order the childrer family bridges and cut off all contact with their so-called favorite parent for three months, which turned into more than a year for leo and ariana.
ariana: you can't force somebody into a relationship. vicky: at 17, ariana and her 13-year-old sister were taken by a private transport company from a seattle courtroom straight to the family bridges workshop in southern california. invoices we obtained show it cost about $40,000. sam: honestly, the prices of this program are ridiculous. vicky: sam, also 17, was ordered to attend family bridges in toronto with her 14-year-old brother. sam: and just these programs, it felt like they were using literal fear tactics. they were just repeating information over and over. they didn't let us say anything about our real feelings or opinions. vicky: and leo, at 13, went from kitchener, canada to a hotel in san francisco. both say they were taken from court by police.seas o, where i met the judge, where he told me that i'm gonna go live with my mother now. vicky: we tried to reach dr. randy rand, the bay area-based psychologist who runs family bridges. he recently spoke at a conference in australia about parental alienation.
rand never responded to us, but we learned his license has been inactive since 2009, when the state board brought unrelated disciplinary action against him for unprofessional conduct, gross negligence, and dishonesty. the board placed him on five years' probation. he appealed in 2012 but was denied. records show his license remains inactive, but because family bridges operates as an educational not psychological workshop we found it is not under any state oversight. sam: these programs, the way they are right now, do not work. vicky: we reached out to family courts in all nine bay area counties. we wanted to find out whether they send children to these programs and how they track the outcomes. couy d. three counties told us they have not ordered children into these programs. five counties, though, told us they don't track this information at all. leo: you should never be forced to be put in one of these programs. it's a court system that needs to rethink their strategies. vicky: none of the judges involved would speak
to us about these cases. linda gottlieb: it's anti-instinctual to reject a parent. vicky: linda gottlieb is a family therapist and licensed social worker. she says her program, turning points, shares the family bridges principle of no contact with the so-called alienating parent. linda: if we substituted fondling the child's genitals for alienation, would we permit contact if the parents said, "i'm gonna continue to do it"? psychological child abuse is at least as damaging, if not more so, than physical abuse and even some sexual abuse. vicky: she says 40 children have gone through her program, but acknowledges only 9 have relationships with both parents. we reached out to the parents who took their children to family bridges to ask about their experience. they declined to speak with us, but records show ariana's court-appointed guardian testified her younger sister made amazing progress after the intervention, but ariana filed for emancipation and went to live with her father.
sam: packed up what little i had in the middle-- vicky: sam was separated from her mother for several months, until her mom was able to get the court order lifted, but her brother, a minor, is still with their father. sam: i have not seen my brother in four years. leo: you know, does the system work? does family bridges work? in my case, it didn't work. vicky: on our website we've posted gottlieb's explanation of how parental alienation happens. you can find that and digital extras from all of our investigative stories at nbcbayarea.com. and while you're there leave us a tip. you can also call our tip line at 888-996-tips or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. that's all for tonight. thanks for joining us. you can catch us every night right here on nbc bay area, where we investigate. ♪
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>> i'm still freaking out. this is me! welcome to "weekend edition," i'm scott evans. >> you can host another show and can't watch our snhow? we'll have more from "the world of dance" but first michael jackson's brothers speaking out about the allegations of sexual abuse against him. "leaving neverland" will premiere sunday. >> it has a lot of people talking. >> wade robson and james safechuck claimed they abused m.>> they sued but their lawsui were dismissed because of the statute of t the jackson familyts those claims are lies. i spoke with jackie, marlon and tito. >> the documentary might have you believe that michael was a sexual predator and master manipulator.