Plan & Disclosure Statement Conference Call 9-10-09: Okun Victims Sorting Through The Rubble

Ed OkunCourtesy Backgroundnow.com

September 10, 2009 Gerald McHale, US Chapter 11 Bankruptcy Trustee, lead a conference call Q & A session for the purpose of providing  “a forum for creditors and victims alike to ask any questions they may have had related to the Bankruptcy and also to the Class Action litigation against Ed Okun and his 1031 Tax Group.” With the way the victims have been victimized they might as well have scheduled this call for September 11th as a 9-1-1 call seems to mirror the entire case.

Conference Call Speakers

The following people connect to this case were invited to answer questions from the victims:

Participating in the call as speakers were:

  • Gerard “Jerry” McHale, Chapter 11 Bankruptcy Trustee
  • Jonathan Flaxer of Golenbock, Eiseman, who represents the Trustee
  • Jacqueline Veit of Golenbock, Eiseman, who, with Michael Devorkin, serve as chief litigators for the Trustee
  • John Sordillo of Deloitte, who served as Forensic Accountants and Real Estate Advisors for the Estate
  • Robert “Rusty” Brace, who is the lead counsel in the Class Action litigation (no information available)
  • Mark Felger of Cozen, O’Conner who acts as counsel for the Creditors’ Committee

Mission of the Call: McHale’s Statement

“We hope this call answered your questions you may have had regarding the Plan and future events related to the ongoing administration of the Liquidating Trust after the confirmation of the Plan.”

The Results

A call to action for the people involved with this call:

  • Did the call help your understanding of circumstances surrounding your efforts to collect your monies?
  • Were you satisfied with the format of the conference call?
  • Did you feel you were given the opportunity to express your concerns or opinions?
  • Are the results of this call confidential information or do you have the ability to express your opinions publicly?
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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

Vista Print’s No Customer Service: Consumeraffairs.com Documents Complaints

Consumeraffairs logo

Courtesy of Consumeraffairs.com

According to Consumeraffairs.com VistaPrint has many dissatisfied and angry ex-customers with complaints aka nightmares ranging from customer service to billing. VistaPrint is a low budget, high promise printer. Vistaprint.com makes it’s living, not on the quality of it’s products, on the shipping fees it charges for it’s orders. With the knowledge VistaPrint was all about the “delivery”, I assumed that they would be able to print and deliver my cards to my home before my deadline: WRONG.

Three (3) Business Days?

We placed our rush 3 business day ship order on Monday April 27 with the idea that Vista Print would deliver our cards in 3 business days ie. Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday with the product arriving either Thursday April 30 or the morning of May 1, 2009.

My Mistake

When we ordered the cards, we did not read the fine print which states that orders placed after 5pm PST would be placed as orders for the following day. Consequently, Vistaprint’s promise of a 3 day ship would give up to 5pm Friday May 1 to deliver our cards.

My Problem

We needed business cards for a conference that we were speaking at in San Francisco. We had to have the cards no later than 12:30pm Friday May 1. When we had to leave for the conference, our cards were no where to be found.

Complaint Button

Vistaprint’s Solution to My Problem: No Customer Service

I called asking for a refund on my shipping fees of $30.80 (3 business day rush shipping). I was told by a customer service rep that they could not help me and they fulfilled their end of the “contract.”

I pointed out that 3 days is not a rush in my opinion, that $31 for shipping is not cheap, and that the cards never arrived in time for me to use them. The answer to my plea was simple and stern: NO REFUND.

Final Offer: Remain a Customer or Leave

My final offer was simple and one that I have made in the past when I felt I was getting the raw end of a deal. I offered to remain a Vistaprint customer if they provided a refund on my shipping fees. I promised to be a consumer affairs advocate fighting hard to highlight the no customer service I was receiving if they denied my request. Guess what happened?

Top 10 Page 1 Google Search: “Vistaprint complaints”

Here is a library, and it is so much longer, list of the complaints detailed and often lodged against Vistaprint:

  1. Consumeraffairs.com: “Consumer complaints about VistaPrint.com
  2. Smartmoney.com: “VistaPrint Faces Complaints Over Third-Party Bills
  3. thestreet.com: “VistaPrint Can’t Hear the Knockin
  4. Complaintsboard.com: “List of VistaPrint Complaints
  5. PlanetMike.com: “VistaPrint Sucks!

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.

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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

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