Ed Okun Victim Speaks Out: Victim’s Impact Statement

One of the original victims of Ed Okun’s 1031 TaxGroup embezzlement ponzi scheme speaks out about her Victim’s Impact Statement and her gratitude for.  .  . us. Thank you and may the best possible outcome be realized~

Comment From An Okun Victim

“You said it all in a nutshell, about a nut. Thank you, Dean’s Guide. You’ve been a great resource for we victims of Okun, in that were it not for your website many of us wouldn’t have connected with one another and had each other’s support over the last three years.

Thankfully the US Attorney’s office flew several of us to Virginia to give our Victim’s Impact Statements at Okun’s sentencing hearing, which afforded a few of us the opportunity to meet one another. It haunts many of us to this day wondering how many victims out there may STILL be unaware of what’s transpired. They moved, they’re in retirement facilities, they died, whatever may have happened they were unreachable by the court system and therefore have only known their financial loss without answers.

We’ve yet to realize national press coverage of this horrendous white collar crime committed upon us non-investors, which could so easily happen to anyone else. A heed of warning to anyone considering utilizing the IRS’ 1031 Exchange rule…..don’t.

Again, thank you Dean’s Guide for your coverage!”

FreeOkun.com: Website Espousing Okun’s Innocense

Acting like a Rhinoceros in a rainstorm, the government proceeded to completely muddy Okun’s business operations by seizing all the records which caused massive transactional defaults in the QI business and destroyed Okun’s outside business as well as stopping the cash flow and refinancing efforts that would have kept all the businesses running smoothly, while the stolen funds were being identified and recovered.”   –Passage from FreeOkun.com

As if things could get any weirder and sadder, a new website espousing Ed Okun 1031 Tax Group scam artist’s innocence and has emerged.  The convicted felon, who was found guilty of bilking aka stealing $160 million in investor funds, was presumed long gone. That is not true if you read this site.

Warning

For those victims who have not read this diatribe, brace yourself for the garbage you are about to read: FreeOkun.com

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:

https://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/

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

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

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

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

https://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

USA vs. Ed Okun: Amended Preliminary Restitution Report

bank vault

The 1031 Taxgroup Ed Okun ponzi scheme rip off continues to baffle and frustrate those victims who have endured the worst experience of their financial lives. The continuing saga of restitution took a new turn with a newly amended government preliminary restitution report. If you are a victim of Ed Okun’s 1031 Tax Group fraud, this is a document you should read and familiarize.

Gearld McHale’s Trustee Tax Group Notice

The following is a link to a pdf file for the government’s amended preliminary report as to restitution made available on www.trustee1031taxgroup.com. Please read this document, released on June 9, 2009:

Click on Government’s Amended Preliminary Report as to Restitution follow this link to bottom link click on (orange) “linked hereto is the Order of the criminal court dated June 9,2009″ for the report. Best of luck and our thoughts are with you all.

Former Vesta Strategies Employee Speaks Out: Victim Investors and Employees?

Ponzi

Foxbusiness.com published this deansguide article 5-23-09

Vesta Strategies, a short lived 1031 scam in the vein of Ed Okun, had many investors fooled into believing their monies were safe. We first wrote about Vesta “Has a New Ed Okun Arrived On The Scene: Vesta Strategies LLC Staggers from Wall St Journal Story” and “Vesta Strategies “Sales Pitch” Marketing Information They Forgot to Pull?”

As in the Okun case, Vesta Strategies investors were bilked out of their money and a number of these victims and former employees have voiced their pain or opinions. And just like the Okun case, some Vesta employees maintain they were unaware of what was going on. The following comment was made by former Vesta Strategies employee Joe Barrett.

Joe wrote copy for his Vesta office but we are unclear which quote he penned. Was it the now very comical analogy of Vesta as “McDonalds” in their approach to business, I bet McDonalds loves that company, or the innocuous “Final Pitch” referring to their “expert information” ?

Joe Barrett:

“It’s funny to read the above as I am the former Vesta employee who wrote it. Obviously, at the time I wrote it, it was true. Prior to the abrupt closure of the company, we employees were unaware of the coming firestorm. It’s so unfortunate because some investors lost money, we employees lost jobs and our individual reputations in the industry are tarnished. Thanks Mr. Estupinian!”

Okun Juror Speaks Out! Okun Guilty Could Face 400 Years: deansguide Odyssey Ends

FoxBusiness.com published my 500th article on 3-19-09

The following is an amazing comment sent to deansguide from a person claiming to be one of the  Ed Okun jurors in the Ed Okun criminal trial. The often sad and terrible case of Edward Okun has just ended in a courtroom in Richmond, Virginia. The verdict: GUILTY!

Editor’s Note: I became aware of Ed Okun through a title insurance source who tipped me to the fact that a very nasty scandal was about to hit a number of investors in Silicon Valley in April of 2007. That tip led to my participation as one of the leading information sources for the Ed Okun ponzi case. In that time the following ocurred:

  • I met 16 of the original 350 Trainwreck members with Elizabeth Callanan leading the charge of information and a true force behind much of my writing
  • I  consulted with  Mike Maiello Forbes Magazine editor on the case
  • My mystery caller, from Miami, claimed to have inside Okun information (which he did) kept in contact with me throughout the proceedings
  • I was threatened by a powerful New York law firm where one of the principles had a very shady past
  • I was threatened over the phone by an unknown caller who claimed to be “connected”
  • I was approved as one of the only blogs, by the US Attorney’s office in Virginia, to move information forward regarding dates and times. This was the work of my good friend Elizabeth
  • I highlighted 3 Okun victims who lost their life savings and attempted to provide new information
  • I wrote upwards of 70 articles on the Okun case and surrounding path of wreckage in the number of lives effected, savings stolen, and retirements ruined

Okun Guilty

Although the laundry list of charges include, according to the Associated Press story, 23 counts of fraud, money laundering, bulk cash laundering, and making false statements, the following comment really says it best:

Christy Steensma
csteensma@aol.com
67.133.245.6

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.

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.

New $330 Million Class Action Suit Targets LandAmerica 1031 Exchange Services and Sun Trust Bank

Chicago Sun-Times news service published this deansguide article 1-21-09

In what must be the most frustrating of 1031 exchange collapses, clients of title insurance mainstay LandAmerica have filed a $330 million class action suit against  the failed LandAmerica Exchange Services, part of LandAmerica title, and Sun Trust Bank. According to the Richmond Times-Dispatch story the charges specifically focus on actions of “defrauding clients by using their money to pay off other clients.” That would sound like an old fashion ponzi scheme and have we not heard this story before in the Ed Okun 1031 Tax Group travasty?

Two Principles Named

According to the Richmond Times-Dispatch’s Emily C. Dooley, two top executives for LandAmerica 1031 Exchange Services were named in the suit a Stephen Connor and G.William Evans. “Evans is also the chief financial officer for LandAmerica Financial Group” according to the story.

The Final Final

According to Dooley’s report “The lawsuit claims that LandAmerica used money from new customers to pay off older customers whose money had become inaccessible because it was invested in auction-rate securities, a type of credit that froze in February.”

Remarked Robert L. “Rusty” Brace  California attorney for one of the victims: “Once that market failed, [LandAmerica Exchange Services] should have shut down.  .  . Our money was used to pay those other exchangers.”

LandAmerica Exchange Services Victim: “Any Class Action Lawsuits Yet?”

Reuters.com published this deansguide article 12-12-08

Another deansguide readers, in the growing line of LandAmerica exchange victims, has spoken out. The message from Cathy is loud and clear. How do victims, who have lost their entire or majority life savings, pay for legal assistance in pursuing their “stolen” monies?

The Conundrum

1. Spend Money: pursue “lost” life savings by using what little money you have left or going into debt to attempt to pay for legal representation.

2. Chalk It Up: chalk it up to experience. Do not pursue recovery by spending money. Hope for the best but do not chase your money with more money. Allow LandAmerica to skate free of charge.

3. Legal Action: hope for a class action lawsuit where no investor’s money is required to possibly recover lost monies.

Cathy’s Comment

“I, too, have a big chunk of change stuck in LES. Now, I know I have to file my proof of claim, but who can afford a lawyer, now? Are there any class action lawsuits going on yet against LES? Hate to give what little I have left to an attorney.

thanks for anything.”
Cathy

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.