Has A New Ed Okun Arrived On The 1031 Exchange Scene: Vesta Strategies LLC Staggers From Wall St. Journal Story

In another apparent blatant rip off of 1031 exchange investor funds, Vesta Strategies of San Jose, California “has closed its doors, leaving investors scrambling to recover millions and pointing to flaws in the largely unregulated industry” according to the Wall Street Journal report “Behind the Boom and Bust of Real- Estate Player Vesta.”

Do we have another Ed Okun 1031 Tax Group on our hands?

The Founders

Chicago businessman John Terzakis and partner Robert Estupinian were the principles at Vesta Strategies. They founded Vesta in 2004 amid a firestorm of legal problems

History

According to WSJ’s Kris Hudson’s report:

“Mr. Terzakis had a history of failed real-estate deals and soured relationships — information Mr. Terzakis isn’t required to disclose to potential clients. Now the two men are accusing each other in separate lawsuits of diverting millions of dollars from Vesta for personal use.”

The Losses Sound Familiar

Christina Pappas a California investor, a familiar story to the “Trainwreck Victims of Ed Okun”, is out $2.5 million she handed to Vesta in April 2008 from the “sale of a property.”

When Ms. Pappas found a replacement property, another building, to purchase within the IRS’s 180 day exchange period, she requested her funds be wired in order to close the deal. To her utter horror, but familiar to the people following this industry, Ms. Pappas maintains that the “Vesta representative failed to wire her money to complete the property exchange by the June 16 closing, and still hasn’t done so”

The Numbers

According to WSJ story, Mr. Estupinian was quoted as saying that “Vesta Strategies held $10 million to $30 million in client money at any one time.” Okun like no, but no small sum of money in any case

Vesta Infighting And Meltdown

In a scene worthy of Ed Okun, the two principles Terzakis and Estupinian ended up in court with Terzakis initiating the legal action.

Mr. Terzakis allegations included

1. Estupinian misappropriated several million dollars of Vesta’s money for his family’s use

2. $96,000 salary for Mr. Estupinian’s wife, who allegedly did little work for the company

3. Expenditures on a $1.3 million house

4. A $160,308 oceanfront apartment in Long Beach

5. $50,000 for a pair of dogs-doesn’t everyone have $50,000 twin dogs?

6. $42,795 in tuition toward Mr. Estupinian’s doctorate degree-education is expensive

The Countersuit by Mr. Estupinian

1. Embezzlement of about $25 million and the following quote by Mr. Estupinian:

“Beginning as far back as 2000, John Terzakis has been treating the client funds as his own personal piggy bank in order to fund his many personal business and development projects”

Final Final

If this does not sound like the Okun case it certainly sounds like a close facsimile to it. The bottom line for Ms.Pappas and fellow investors serviced by Vesta Strategies could be the same fate suffered by Okun victims: no return on investment, IRS nightmare tax bill, and the prospects of a lost retirement fund spent in a lavish lifestyle befitting a crook

1031 Tax Group Okun Swindle “Mantra”: “The plaintiffs’ money has ‘disappeared’ and recovery is unlikely”

Reuters.com published this deansguide article July 9, 2008

What has become an all to familiar phrase in the Ed Okun 1031 Tax Group (IXG) ponzi scandal, seems to be the dreaded mantra: “The plaintiffs’ money has disappeared and recovery is unlikely.Those were the words recorded in court hearings in Colorado this past month in regards to the embezzlement of funds through the Ed Okun held IXG exchange in Denver.

Exhibit 1: Sergio S. Alvarez v. Daniel E. McCabe

In “Sergio S. Alvarez v. Daniel E. McCabe et al, eight former clients are suing all three McCabes and Simring (Richard) for losses totaling more than $4.5 million” according to the latest from the Denver Business Journal’s Renee McGaw.

Eight clients were in the midst of their tax deferred exchanges with cash assets between $280,629-$1.9 million dollars lost when the 1031 Tax Group filed bankruptcy

Exhibit 2: Ward Enterprises LLC v. Daniel E. McCabe

The Plaintiff (Wade LLC) wired $3,300,000 in proceeds from a real estate transaction to IXG’s account held at the United Western Bank in Denver. Proceeds were for the purpose of performing a 1031 exchange

In the meantime IXG had been sold to Okun and his 1031 Tax Group-something Ward LLC did not know at the time. Consequently Ward expected it’s millions to be deposited in a separate, stand alone, account. Unfortunately for Ward, their monies were “pooled with other exchangers’ money and later moved out of United Western Bank”, according to allegations of the Ward suit.

The Beat Goes On

As usual nobody is taking responsibility for these illegal transactions. The McCabes are stating that they are innocent and victims of Okun’s dirty dealing. So the beat goes on, victim’s monies disappear and nobody is left holding the bag–except the victims

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