Okun Sentenced to 100 Years: Guilty on 23 Counts of Fraud

The final chapter is over for the prosecution portion of the Ed Okun 1031 Tax Group rip off. The victims continue to watch their restitution go down the drain but in a show of force Ed Okun, the architect of a $126 million ponzi scheme, was sentenced to 100 years in prison today. Okun’s lawyers were seeking a sentence of 10-15 years. Thankfully Okun’s attorneys had no power in making that sentence a reality.

The Richmond Dispatch Times article.

The article that started it all 1031 Advance Private Exchange Company Missing In Action In Silicon Valley.

Top deansguide Ed Okun articles from the archives:

http://deansguide.wordpress.com/2007/06/20/one-of-the-350-victims-of-ed-okuns-bankrupt-1031-exchange-empire-speaks-outthe-most-compelling-case-yet-for-action-to-be-taken/

http://deansguide.wordpress.com/2009/03/19/okun-juror-speaks-out-okun-guilty-could-face-400-years-deansguide-odyssey-ends/

http://deansguide.wordpress.com/2009/06/23/usa-vs-ed-okun-amended-preliminary-restitution-report/

http://deansguide.wordpress.com/2009/02/14/ed-okun-victim-cautions-landamerica-victims-challenges-government-admonishes-1031-exchange-industry/

http://deansguide.wordpress.com/2008/04/18/mystery-caller-claims-okun-broke-without-representation-gordon-gecko-a-cautionary-tale/

http://deansguide.wordpress.com/2007/06/29/ed-okun-promises-to-make-good-is-this-a-checks-in-the-mail-statement/

Thanks to Leanne Follis for her timely tip to the Okun verdict. Here is Leanne’s comment:

Dean,
Have you seen this?
http://www2.timesdispatch.com/rtd/news/local/article/OKUNGAT04_20090804-142201/283992/

Ed Okun.. sentenced to 100 years!!! Finally, some justice. Now we wait to see Lara Coleman and the
others to rec. their new sentences, what they pled to.

Check it out!!!

from: a former employee

Ed Okun Victim Cautions LandAmerica Victims, Challenges Government, Admonishes 1031 Exchange Industry

Note of Disclaimer: The following comment, story, and opinion(s) are that of the commenter Elizabeth Callanan and not that of deansguide or the author of deansguide Dean Guadagni. Those of you who have read this blog in the past know where I stand. I am a victim’s advocate and simply creating a place for victims or industry pro’s to communicate.

The following are opinions, experiences and stories of the trials and tribulations of the 1031 exchange industry from long time contributor and commenter Elizabeth Callanan one of the 350 “Trainwreck Victims” of the Ed Okun 1031 Tax Group Ponzi scheme. This is a warning, it is a plea, and it is her argument for the complete overhaul of the 1031 exchange industry–or it’s outright Abolishment.

Note: Not all of the 1031 exchange companies are bad, fradulent, or subversive. There are well respected, honest, and worthwhile 1031 exchange companies doing business.

——————————————-

To Daniel Lowe and the other victims of the LandAmerica debacle,

You have my most heartfelt empathy.
Having been myself a victim of Ed Okun’s embezzlement of exchangers funds on deposit with the 1031 Tax Group, I truly feel your pain. I’m not an attorney, an accountant, and have no expertise apart from what comes of painful firsthand experience. It was in the hopes of warning other potential exchanger/victims that I started posting on Dean’s List and elsewhere.

At the end of the day, though, I agree totally with Yaco Tiamo, who has posted here. The entire 1031 industry is superfluous and that aspect of the IRS’ 1031 regulations should be expunged. It is a wildly unregulated industry that answers to no government oversight at any level (apart from some half-hearted oversight incorporated in a couple of recently enacted regs by a handful of states (Nevada, California?) and, as evidenced, by the recent spate of embezzlements or gross mismanagement puts all exchangers at great risk for no good reason. Doing a 1031 isn’t brain surgery. The forms are pretty standard and the process pretty simple, really.

Since the IRS has shown no interest in overseeing, licensing, demanding accountability from, providing meaningful insurance for (as the SEC does) or otherwise regulating the industry it created, it should kill it – NOW!

As to the LandAmerica victims, my (personal, not professional!!) advice in terms of investing in legal help is two-fold and in both cases I would act only collectively (except for those whose funds were held in traceable segregated accounts, who will no doubt make a serious (and perhaps successful) run at retrieving those funds, I see little point in acting individually — certainly not in bankruptcy, a self-funding and self-perpetuating legal and financial train wreck for everyone involved except the court appointed functionaries. (If you want to see the extent to which such a process can drag on ad nauseam with many billable hours just check out the history of the 1031 Tax Group case on either of these sites: http://www.committeeinfo.com/1031/index.htm (the official website for our Creditors Committee) or http://trustee1031taxgroup.com/component/option,com_frontpage/Itemid,1/ (the Trustee’s website).)

However, I WOULD hire a legal firm (on contingency if you can – since, by definition, you no longer have any money!) to:

1) GET YOUR CASE OUT OF BANKRUPTCY COURT!! That is a deep dark hole that will suck up every dime of funding available until there’s nothing but dust left. In the 19 months since Ed Okun put the 1031 Tax Group into “bankruptcy” (it was a criminal embezzlement plain and simple now being tried in a US Federal Court in Richmond which was known at the time the bankruptcy was filed in May 07 — the Feds having raided the offices in April 07 — and should never have been accepted as a legitimate bankruptcy to start with!) all of the various court-appointed functionaries have claimed MORE THAN $30 MILLION IN SO-CALLED “ADMINISTRATIVE FEES” and victims have received not one penny of their escrow funds. In fact, in an amazingly brazen and twisted miscarriage of justice, the Bankruptcy Court authorized attorneys for the so-Called “Debtors” (ironically the Dreier firm whose owner embezzled millions in escrow funds himself) to pursue a legal action to retrieve the only escrow funds that Okun himself had not been able to steal and the settlement cozily agreed to by the attorneys on both sides (and approved by the Court) provided for payment as well to the attorneys DEFENDING the bank where those funds were on deposit — the end result of which is that the costs of BOTH SIDES of that court case will be paid by Okun’s victims. (So, to our point of view we were mugged first by Okun and then by the Bankruptcy Court!) The only way to get that Bankruptcy action derailed is to get the Committee itself on board (not easy since the Committee’s attorneys will understandably vehemently argue against the prospect of losing their cash cow), but I’d consider that a first priority.

2) Get a class action going to pursue all the parties involved, including especially LandAmerica to force them to use the proceeds from the sale of its other two arms to repay the exchange funds it squandered on worthless investments.

I sincerely hope you are more successful than we’ve been to date in retrieving even a dime of our life savings. The key is acting collectively and getting a junkyard dog of an attorney who is willing to work on a contingency (which means you’ll get 25% less than you otherwise might, but most of Okun’s victims would happily settle for that today!). Unfortunately in bankruptcy there is absolutely NO incentive for settling anything quickly. It’s all about billable hours — for attorneys, for management companies, for accounting firms, and all the other hangers-on who can get their licks in. If I were you, I’d follow the lead of the creditors in the Southwest Exchange Case – which happened just a few months prior to our’s and in which there’s been a settlement of $92 million of the $97 million lost (minus the contingency and other costs incurred by the attorney) while WE HAVE NOTHING and dismal prospects ahead.

You’ve gotten off to a better start than we did, it appears. You have a website (noted above by one of your fellow victims), your Committee seems to communicate with you (our’s has maintained a nearly absolute silence and shares NO information whatsoever for reasons none of us can fathom), and I understand you’re collectively discussing a civil class action which I encourage you to pursue.

Good luck to you all — sincerely.

LandAmerica LES Victim Speaks Out: Victim’s Google Group

Another victim of the LandAmerica debacle, Vivian Hays, has stepped forward to lend her voice of warning. If you are new to the Ed Okun 1031 Tax Group swindle or this latest bankruptcy by LES aka LandAmerica’s Exchange Service, consider these stories a warning. Perform extensive due diligence before taking on any 1031 exchange investments. Good luck to all!

I am one of the latest victims in this unbelievable fraud by LandAmerica. I want to say thank you, thank you, to the author of the article “Okun victims speak out on LandAmerica”, for the concise, if depressing, assessment of the situation. I personally would rather be informed than befuddled, or deluded. I have circulated your article to as many of the other victims as I can find. If you are a victim and want to get in touch with others who are taking action got to: landam1031exchangers@googlegroups.com

People really need to be warned that anyone planning such a transaction is completely without protections or safeguards under any current law. Once caught up in purposeful fraud, or bankruptcy by the 1031 “accomodator”, you will likely never get your money back, or get pennies on the dollar. The victims of this blatant money grab are in for a huge, costly, gut-wrenching fight in a system they do not understand and cannot afford. Senators do not return phone calls, Congressmen are “not available” ( all but Senator Dodd, thank you very much!) the IRS has no answers, but attorneys are very happy to talk with you…for $300 to $500 per hour…plus expenses….so take warning and do not believe anything you are told by an exchange rep…they are probably lying to you and will not be held responsible even if they are. My money was taken in by LandAmerica 5 business days before they closed their doors. They did not even send me my paperwork, I have had to request it from the title company. These people were grabbing all the money they could and knew that they were going to declare bankruptcy, but we, their victims, will be held to contracts that they do not have to honor, and that the parant company supposedly fully guaranteed. My business is probably sunk, my health insurance, which I must have due to diagnosis of breast cancer will probably be lost, and I still have to try and pay a tax bill on money I will probably not ever see, and I may not even be able to write it off as a loss, since the claim won’t be in the same tax year. Mine is only one of the many, many sad stories. I guess I am about to find out if justice is really blind.

Warning Restitution Registration Deadline For Okun-Coleman Victims December 29, 2008

Chicago Sun-Times published this deansguide article 12-07-08

The following email notice was sent to all Okun-Coleman victims of the 1031 Tax Group scandal by the US Department of Justice. If you were one of the 1031 Tax Group victims of Ed Okun and Lara Coleman, you MUST register your financial loss as described in the letter copied below.

Warning: Are You On US Department of Justice Mailing List?

If you do not receive a hard copy in the mail, the CRIMINAL court doesn’t have your correct address. It is imperative that you alert Kim Ulmet, with the US Department of Justice, so she can update or correct the victims’ mailing list she is developing/maintaining to ensure you receive other official court documents. Her information is below. If you fail to follow the steps below, you could miss out on the opportunity to recieve any restitution via the criminal court process (which is totally different from the ongoing bankruptcy mess).

Kim Ulmet Contact Information:

U.S. Department of Justice,
United States Attorney’s Office Eastern District of Virginia in Richmond
600 East Main Street, Suite 1800,
Main Street Centre,
Richmond, VA 23219
Phone: 866-287-5410
Fax: 804-771-2316

The Letter:

December 01, 2008

RE: United States v. Defendant(s)

Case Number 2007R01837 and Court Docket Number 3:08CR132
United States v. Edward H. Okun

Important Notice: Victim Verification of Financial Losses
Enclosed you will find a form entitled, “Important Notice: Victim Verification of Financial Loss,” which requests information and supporting documentation concerning your financial loss associated with Edward H. Okun, d/b/a 1031 Tax Group and Investment Properties of America (IPA). The Qualified Intermediaries relevant to this case include: 1031 Advance; 1031 Security Services; Atlantic Exchange Company; Investment Exchange Group; National Exchange Services; and Real Estate Exchange Services. It is imperative that the enclosed form and your supporting documentation be completed and submitted to the United States Attorney’s Office, Attn: Kim Ulmet, Victim/Witness Specialist, 600 East Main Street, Suite 1800, Richmond, VA 23219 and be postmarked no later than Monday, December 29, 2008. You must submit the form with your original signature, however, your supporting documents may be copies. If your Victim Verification of Financial Loss form and supporting documentation outlining your financial loss are not postmarked by December 29, 2008, your name may not be included in the list of victims that will be submitted to the Court for restitution purposes.
Although you may have received and completed a survey from the United States Postal Service and/or filed a claim with the Bankruptcy Trustee, you must complete the enclosed form to be considered for restitution. In addition, you must sign the declaration under Penalty of Perjury and attach all requested supporting documentation. The restitution process is entirely separate from the pending bankruptcy proceedings. As you will see from the attached form, the relevant inquiries are different and require specific documentation. We appreciate your patience and cooperation with this process.

This notification will be sent through email and regular mail. If you do not receive this notification in the U.S. mail within two weeks, please log in to the VNS website, update your address, and call me at 866-287-5410 to ensure we have your updated contact information.

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.

—————————————————

“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

Ed Okun Denied Freedom: Judge Payne Hammers Defense Attorney’s Explanation

Courtesy Gordon Gecko Wiki

Sensing his fleeting chances at freedom, 1031 Tax Group investment criminal Ed Okun made what looks to be his last feable attempt for release yesterday–he was denied! Okun’s attempt centered around a defense motion for release based on a 3rd party custodian (required terms for his release) a Mr. Alex Carrera. The defense attorney in the case, one of a long line who have come and gone no doubt at either taxpayer’s expense or that of Okun’s victims, originally proposed that Mr. Carrera would be present at the November 5 hearing: Carrera was a no show.

The following is the tip from ever present and well informed Okun victim Elizabeth Callanan. Elizabeth has been a huge source of information and guidance in my 1 1/2 years of coverage on the Ed Okun rip off and eventual prosecution. The following comment will give all involved a much clearer picture of what has just transpired. This comment came in the last 24 hours. Certain passages were highlighted for reader convenience:

“Judge Payne DENIED Okun’s motion for release. The 3rd party custodian (required for Okun’s release) originally proposed in the defense’s motion, an Alex Carrera, was a no-show at the hearing, despite the Defense’s new attorney (a private attorney with an office in Washington, DC, named Barry Pollack — so Okun now has THREE attorneys, including the two from the public defender’s office, at US taxpayer expense!)telling the Judge he’d spoken to Carrera the previous afternoon and had every reason to believe he would be there and couldn’t explain why he wasn’t. Interestingly, his absence could not have been a surprise to Simone Bolani (Okun’s Brazilian bride), since she’d recruited a substitute, Edwin Escobar, the night before the hearing (odd she wouldn’t have shared that information with her husband’s attorney, isn’t it?) who did appear in the courtroom. However, under questioning by the US Attorney, Escobar had to admit that he was apparently guilty of one of the same offenses with which Okun was originally indicted, namely asking Okun to pay him $10,000 he was owed for some reason in increments of less than that to avoid IRS reporting limits! Judge Payne must have thought that wasn’t the most stellar qualification for a third party custodian and denied the motion. He also expressed chagrin that Carrera, described in the defense motion as a “family friend,” had in fact only met Okun once, at Simone’s Feb 2008 birthday party, and had not seen Okun since. He cautioned the defense not to bring any further such motions unless they’d personally interviewed the proposed custodian and assured themselves of the facts being claimed and that they were in fact suitably qualified to serve in that capacity. Thanks to Judge Payne and the US Attorney (Michael Dry), it looks like Okun’s appearance at his criminal trial which begins Jan 19 has been assured.”

Okun Indicted On 27 Counts: Is Okun On Suicide Watch?

Ed Okun and accomplice Lara Coleman, somebody the mystery caller mentioned months ago as “going down”, face a 27 count indictment as handed down and reported by Gerald McHale this past week. The indictment laundry list of counts:

1. Wire and Mail Fraud Conspiracy: Count 1
2. Money Laundering Conspiracy: Count 2
3. Wire Fraud: Counts: 3-15 (1343)
4. Mail Fraud: Counts: 16-18 (1341)
5. Money Laundering: Counts 19-21 18 USC & (1956 (a) (1) (A) (i))
6. Money Laundering: Count 22 18 USC & (1956 (a) (1) (B) (i))
7. Money Laundering: Counts 23-25 USC & (1957)
8. Bulk Cash Smuggling: Count 26 31 USC & 5332
9. False Declaration: 18 USC & 1623

In the face of this indictment, the fact reported by Mark Heschmeyer that one of his buildings (Shreveport) has natural gas deposits valued at $30-60million-something he can’t touch, and the possible collapse of his marriage and network of friends, it is rumored that Ed Okun has been placed on suicide watch.

Here is one of the only pictures available on the internet of Ed Okun (far right) during a press conference announcing the sponsorship agreement with Foyt Racing. Photo courtesy of Foyt Racing.

Note: This conference was in 2006 long before it was public news that Ed Okun’s wealth was derived from the ponzi scheme known as 1031 Tax Group and affiliates:

//www.foytracing.com/IndyCar/2006_reports/photos/IMG_1458.JPG” cannot be displayed, because it contains errors.

Newsflash: Ed Okun Denied Bond, Remains Incarcerated

This just in courtesy of the “mystery caller”: Ed Okun’s attempt to secure bail and his freedom was denied today at his bond hearing in Richmond, Virginia. The hearing, which ran from 2pm to 5pm EST, was previously postponed so that Okun could build a case for gaining bail. Okun charged with multiple counts in relationship to his “ponzi” like scheme which bilked investors out of $160 million, was denied bail as:

1. Flight risk

2. Danger to the Community at large

His court appointed attorney was present; and according to the “mystery caller” original Miami attorney Michael Rosen was also in attendance.

Analysis

There is a very sad and ironic problem with keeping Ed Okun incarcerated. There is no way to force Okun to pay restitution if he is incarcerated. Not that Okun would have the ability, means, or method to legitimately pay back Train Wreck Victims.

But with Okun incarcerated, there is no hope at all in recovering anything that he may have hidden, if he hid anything at all, or forcing him to “work” for his victims.

Now it seems the only hope that victims of Ed Okun’s collapsed 1031 scheme have in recovering their monies is to go after the insurance companies involved in the transactions.

Newsflash: Ed Okun’s Bond Hearing Postponed To May 9

This just in from the Department of Justice and one of our train wreck friends Elizabeth, Ed Okun’s bond hearing scheduled for today (April 29) was canceled. The new date for Okun’s bond hearing is Friday May 9 at 2pm. The reason for the postponement? Okun’s appointed public defender asked for the postponement so your guess is as good as mine: preparation issues?

How do you represent a criminal like Okun to a court of law in hopes of gaining his freedom-even if it is a short lived freedom?

Here are the challenges Okun’s attorney faces

1. Ed is reportedly flat broke
2. Ed may have hidden funds offshore
3. Ed is definitely a flight risk
4. Ed has embezzled, without recovery to victims, at least $132million
5. Ed’s credibility and word are worthless

Against All Odds: Cases That Attorneys Represented the “Unrepresentable”

1. The OJ Case–Simpson walked to the amazement of the world
2. The “Nightstalker”– Richard Ramirez sits on death row the best he could have ever gotten
3. Polly KlausRichard Allen Davis how could anyone represent this piece of _hit?
4. Scott Peterson–Did anyone and I mean anyone ever believe this punk?
5. Rodney King’s Cops–just change the venue and everything goes bye-bye

Department of Justice Approves deansguide: One of Three Sites Approved To Provide Contact Information To Okun Victims

In a request from the Department of Justice, deansguide has been approved as one of 3 sites that will be allowed to present contact information, to the victims of Ed Okun’s 1031 Tax Group rip off. The reason this contact information is so important to victims is that the DOJ wants to make sure they have all of the victims accounted for in this nightmare.

If you were a victim of an Ed Okun 1031 exchange and If you want to attempt to collect any type of recovery this is the contact information you need:

Kim Ulmet Victim/Witness Specialist
United States Attorney’s Office
Toll Free (866) 287-5410
Email Kim at
USAVAE.VAR@usdoj.gov