Investor’s Warning: Ed Okun, FEA, Bonding & Insurance Still Major Barrier To Entry

Reuters.com published this deansguide article on 11-8-08

When deansguide readers have important comments that effect and provoke the thought process on a particular issue–we listen. When the comment comes from a very reliable source, a trusted confidant, and someone very close to a “situation”–we listen. And when that person is Elizabeth Callanan, one of the ‘experts’ following the Ed Okun 1031 Tax Group debacle–we stand back and give her the floor.

Standards of Due Diligence

Elizabeth Callanan’s comment (11-9-08) and indictment of the 1031 industry’s lack of due diligence standards, the FEA’s less than honest assessment of their own insurance policies, and investor’s lack of investigation (electing to avoid massive taxes by choosing a 1031 exchange) is a cautionary warning-before you even think about this industry you must read this information.

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“I’m very interested in learning how prospective 1031 exchangers can “look at the longevity of ownership, management, and employees as well as bonding and insurance and experience.” In the case at least of the 1031’s quietly acquired by Ed Okun, who then proceeded to plunder the exchange funds held by each of them to acquire other 1031’s and finance his lavish lifestyle, nearly all of them had been in business for decades. The fact that the owners, in some cases known personally to exchangers over a long history of 1031 transactions, did not publicize or share with their client base the fact that they’d sold out to Okun and, in fact, remained on board in their former roles and capacities, along with their staffs, appears to have been part of a deliberate strategy (perhaps even a condition of the sale?) to hide from exchangers that any transfer of ownership had occurred. Where/how would a potential exchanger learn that ownership had changed? To what agency (federal, state, local) must a 1031 report its ownership. What requirements are there that demand that such information be published. What regulations or reporting exist governing the behavior and conduct of 1031’s at any level?

As to insurance, what should a prospective 1031 client look for in an insurance policy provided by a 1031? The fidelity bonds provided to customers of those acquired by Okun gave false assurances of coverage in the millions, but in fact, like the fidelity bond offered by the Federation of Exchange Accomodators (according to their website), “Q: How does the policy limit under the FEA Fidelity Bond apply to claims?
A: The policy limit applies on a “per occurrence” basis, meaning each separate loss event or series of related loss events has the full benefit of the policy limit. Losses are usually considered related, i.e. a single occurrence, if they arise out of the same set of circumstances. The limit does not apply per customer, per transaction or per account.” While exchangers to whom these Fidelity Bonds are routinely presented as some kind of assurance regarding the security of the funds held by the 1031 would reasonably interpret their transaction as the “per occurrence” covered by the bond value, FEA’s FAQ’s attempt to limit that coverage to each incident and insurers in the case of Okun are already attempting to construe him and his ongoing series of embezzlements from multiple 1031’s he acquired over time as a single occurrence. Since collectively he embezzled $150 plus million, these bonds are wholly inadequate in terms of providing any kind of security to exchangers. So, what should exchangers be demanding to see from prospective 1031’s they’re considering in order to assure themselves the 1031 is in fact a “safe harbor” and their funds will in fact not be absconded with? What regulations is the FEA promoting at any governmental level that would ensure the security of exchanger funds, the integrity of 1031’s, their owners and staff, and what penalties (criminal, financial, etc.) are they proposing in the event there is criminal activity?” –Elizabeth Callanan

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6 thoughts on “Investor’s Warning: Ed Okun, FEA, Bonding & Insurance Still Major Barrier To Entry

  1. I have heard that Lara Coleman has agreed to a plea deal – she will plead guilty and face a maximum of 10 years.

    I saw your post on Simring’s plea deal. However, I have not seen word of Lara’s plea deal.

    Has anyone else hear anything?

  2. Lara Coleman DID plead guilty on January 6 and faces the prospect of 10 years in jail (vs. the 5 years facing Richard Simring the 1031 Tax Group’s attorney (and briefly CEO) and David Field (the Tax Group’s CFO). Her actual sentence will be determined in a hearing AFTER Okun’s (due to begin March 2 in Richmond) and will likely depend on the degree to which they’ve cooperated with the US Attorney in securing his conviction with their testimony. Although all their plea agreements include a provision for restitution, the simple fact is there is little likelihood of anything forthcoming from that process that begins to approach what the victims of their conspiracy have lost ($150 million among 350 victims). Fortunately, unlike bankruptcy (wherein admin costs total about $30 million 19 months into that worthless process), the costs of administering the restitution process in the Federal Court system are not deducted from any sums that might be available to make victims whole.

  3. I served as a juror on the Edward Okun case in the U.S. Eastern District Court of VA. While we (the jury)found him guilty of all charges today 3/19/09, it was hard watching Okun as the verdicts were read. I am now able to see all of the stories that are out there about him and all the damage he has done to so many people. It helps verify that the jury made the right decision based on the evidence we were presented in court. I know that many lives were ruined, but am glad to know that I played a role in stopping him from harming anymore people.

  4. Christy,

    That is amazing and it is the basis for what may be my final Ed Okun article after nearly two years of covering this horrific case. Thank you for your thoughts as it is the basis for my latest article announcing Okun’s guilt. Best of luck to you in the future and fine job!

    Dean

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