World’s Most Expensive Cities to Live: Top 10

Tokyo

Courtesy Forbes.com

Chicago Post-Tribune published this deansguide article 7-11-09

Forbes.com is the master of lists and Top 10 offerings. One of the most compelling is their Top 10 Most Expensive Cities to Live. The following is the list and each city’s 2008 ranking. Notes of interest shows Japan dominating the Top 10 list with #1 and #2, New York City vaulted from #22 to #8, and Copenhagen, Denmark is in the Top 10- remains a mystery.

World’s Most Expensive Cities to Live

1. Tokyo, Japan: 2008 ranking #2, Cost of Living index 2008: 127; Cost of Living index 2009: 147

2. Osaka, Japan: 2008 ranking #11. COL index 2008 110; COL index 2009 119.2

3. Moscow, Russia: 2008 ranking #1, COL index 2008 142.4; COL index 2009 115.4

4. Geneva, Switzerland: 2008 ranking #8, COL index 2008 115.8; COL index 2009 109.2

5. Hong Kong: 2008 ranking #6, COL index 2008 117.6; COL index 2009 108.7

6. Zurich, Switzerland: 2008 ranking #9, COL index 2008 112.7; COL index 2009 105.2

7. Copenhagen, Denmark: 2008 ranking #7, COL index 2008 117.2; COL index 2009 105.0

8. New York City: 2008 ranking #22, COL index 2008 100.0; COL index 2009 100.0

9. Beijing, China: 2008 ranking #20, COL index 2008 101.9, COL index 2009 99.6

10. Singapore: 2008 ranking #13, COL index 2008 101.9; COL index 2009 98.0

Advertisements

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.”

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.”

Ed Okun Attempting Appeal For Freedom November 5: Victim Instructions Here

Newsflash: Ed Okun is attempting a final bid for his freedom with a renewed appeal for release. The news came from original Ed Okun “Train Wreck Victim” Elizabeth Callanet. This is an outrageous and disturbing turn of events that every victim should be aware is happening. Elizabeth’s request is in accordance with deansguide’s approval as one of the only sites certified to deliver important information to the victims of these heinous crimes. The following is Elizabeth’s message in it’s entirety:

——————————————————–

“Okun’s renewed appeal for release pending his criminal trial in Jan will be heard in Richmond this Wed, Nov 5, at 1:30pm (New courthouse address: 701E. Broad St. 7th Floor). If any victims plan to attend they should let Kim Ulmet, the Victims’ Assistance Specialist ( contact information provided below). She’s very helpful and informative about the players and the proceedings and will ensure victim’s get to the right courtroom and/or know if the hearing has been delayed, relocated, etc.

In addition, several of Okun’s victims are asking the Court to permit telephonic participation (i.e. a service that would permit Okun/Coleman’s victims around the country to listen to the criminal proceedings by phone) since, thanks to them(Okun-Coleman), none of the them (victims) can afford to actually travel there! Any victims having interest in listening to the trial by phone (there is a cost, but it applies only to the length of time during which one listens, and one could listen to some or all of just some sessions and not others), they should write to the court asking that they approve of using that service (a first for this court jurisdiction).

Write, FAX or email letters to Kim at the address below and she will make sure they get forwarded to the appropriate office:”

Kim Ulmet, Victim/Witness Specialist
United States Attorney’s Office
600 E. Main Street
Suite 1800
Richmond, VA 23219
Fax (804) 771-2316
email: kimberly.Ulmet@usdoj.gov

Very Important Notice to Okun Victims Regarding Your Address:

“On a final note, 1031 victims are receiving in the mail copies of a proposed settlement between the Trustee (McHale) and Cordell. Any victims who have not received it, should write to McHale, the Trustee at jerrym@trustee1031taxgroup.com , to let him know that he ( and perhaps the bankruptcy court) don’t have your address/or your correct address. To ensure the Bankruptcy court has your correct information, also write to:”

Kathleen Farrell-Willoughby
Clerk, U.S. Bankruptcy Court
One Bowling Green
New York, NY 10004-1408

“It is vitally important they have your contact information if and when there is any kind of of settlement (we shouldn’t all hold our breaths!) and to receive these updates in the interim. Many of the court documents are available on the Trustee’s website at:”

http://trustee1031taxgroup.com

A big thank you to Elizabeth for her announcement. Our hopes and prayers are with all the victims for some good news in these tough times!

U.S. Trustee McHale “Continuation of Bankruptcy-Criminal Proceedings Collectively Serving The Interests of Justice”

United States Trustee Gerald McHale recently brought suit against Wachovia Bank, and affiliates, for the recovery of “$43 million of conveyances allegedly made to Wachovia in the form of cash and mortgage liens, and the imposition of equitable liens and constructive trusts on several properties in which Wachovia continues to hold liens, or the proceeds therefrom.” Allegations abound that Wachovia not only helped Ed Okun in his scheme but perpetuated it’s continuation despite their (Wachovia’s) knowledge that Okun was violating many banking laws in his business practices.

Today Gerald McHale announced that he has filed a “Statement of Position and Response” to judge Payne’s order in the Ed Okun criminal case. The statement was filed in regards “to the effect of the pending bankruptcy cases of the 1031 Debtors on the likely availability of funds for the purpose of restitution in the criminal case.” The statement was filed October 15, 2008.

3 Key Points

1. McHale agrees “concurs” with the presentation set forth in the Government Statement filed September 12, 2008. See US vs Okun (Government Position) pdf bottom of article.

2. McHale submits that the continuation of the bankruptcy proceedings and the criminal proceedings “are collectively serving the interests of justice and judiciary effciency.”

3. McHale asserts that “Victims of the criminal case are better served by the bankruptcy process which is well underway and has already resulted in the liquidation of many tangible assets and other recoveries.”

Sad But True

The saddest but most likely true statement is the one McHale uttered at the end of his announcement:

“Victims could see some recovery through the bankruptcy process sooner than the time that would be required for the defendant’s convictions in the criminal case will be final.”

A Look Back In Time: Why Did The US Government Not Charge Ed Okun With RICO Violations?

IBS published this deansguide article June 17, 2008 for the Greensboro Winston-Salem, North Carolina NBC affiliate

Editor’s Correction: The RICO lawsuit filed by Anita Hunter against Ed Okun was actually filed in May of 2007 not May of 2008 as originally reported. Apologies to all parties involved. In May of 2007, I was just beginning to report on the Ed Okun 1031 Advance connection and the overall scheme of his 1031 Tax Group actions. I missed this very noteworthy item as my focus had not shifted to the 1031 scandals rocking our country until later on in the summer of 2007

The fact of the matter still remains that Ms. Hunter is the only victim to attempt this action to our knowledge.

Ed Okun was sued in May 2007 by victim Anita Hunter under the Racketeering Influenced and Corrupt Organization Act aka RICO. RICO was the major weapon wielded by Rudy Guiliani in his fight with the Mob in New York.

Analysis: It looks like somebody was calling this crime exactly what it is and what it was during it’s commission–a conspiracy. With all of the government’s power, money, and time, it still took a Okun victim to drop the hammer with the one law he should have been charged with in the beginning-RICO.

RICO Act and the Department of Justice:

“It is unlawful for anyone employed by or associated with any enterprise engaged in, or the activities of which affect, interstate or foreign commerce, to conduct or participate, directly or indirectly, in the conduct of such enterprise’s affairs through a pattern of racketeering activity or collection of unlawful debt”

Justia.com Files

1. Plantiff Anita Hunter is suing Defendant Ed Okun, Okun Holdings, Inc., Investment Propertities of America, LLC and Richard B Simring
2. Cases Filed In: Northern California Federal District Court
3. Case: #5:2007cv02795
4. Filed: May 30, 2007 (correction)
5. Office: San Jose
6. County: Santa Clara County
7. Presiding Judge: Magistrate Richard Seeborg
8. Presiding Judge: Hon. James Ware
9. Referring Judge: Magistrate Richard Seeborg
10. Nature of Suit: RICO other statutes
11. Cause: 18:1962 Racketeering (RICO) Act
12. Jurisdiction: Federal Question
13. Jury Demanded By: Plaintiff