Class Action Court’s Final Approval of Pending Ed Okun Settlements October 7

Notice of disclosure: I am not an attorney nor am I part of the proceedings in this case. Please perform your own due diligence when looking for dates, times, and announcements on the Ed Okun case. If you reference Gearld McHale’s blog (link below) you will find all appropriate information.

The Ed Okun 1031 Tax Group proceedings continue as the restitution news continues to it’s conclusion. Trustee Gerald Mchale’s newsletter #16 contains  the following notice:

“In major procedural areas, the bankruptcy court has set hearings (i) on approval of the disclosure statement for August 13, and (ii) confirmation of the Plan for October 7.  The class action court will hold a hearing on final approval of the pending settlements, and certification of the class for purposes of approving those settlements, on October 7 as well. This will hopefully lead to the ability to make distributions during the calendar year 2009 if these proceedings are successfully concluded.”

Date #1 August 13: Approval of Disclosure Statement

The bankruptcy court has set hearings (i) on approval of the disclosure statement for August 13.

Date #2 October 7: Hearing Final Approval of Pending Settlements

The class action court will hold a hearing on final approval of the pending settlements, and certification of the class for purposes of approving those settlements, on October 7 as well.


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!

Ed Okun Tax Group Scandal Reaching Climax: Is Recovery of Monies in The Cards?

Reuters.com published this deansguide article September 26, 2008

United States Trustee Gerald McHale’s 9th newsletter briefing of the status of the Ed Okun 1031 Tax Group case highlights the difficulty and frustration of trying to “get blood from a stone.” The proverbial stone being Okun and the assets which seem to either be non existent or hiding.

Highlights or Lowlights?

The people waiting for some type of settlement must be getting very restless and asking questions non stop. I am sure Mr. McHale is doing his best to get as much money back as possible but the following plea says it all:

McHale in an open plea to the “Train Wreck Victims”

“Trust me when I say that it goes against my open nature and I know how frustrating it must be not to have your questions answered in detail. . . “

Major Points

1. Supplemental Proof of Loss was filed by McHale July 30, 2008 “containing extensive analysis”

Analysis: What effect this supplement will have on recovery is anyone’s guess. At least McHale is working as much information into the mix as possible in regards to proving further damages and seeking compensation. The frustration for victims is they are often kept in the dark

2. JPS Capital, our old friends (Mr. Shapiro) who decided to set the record straight with deansguide but never delivered on that promise, are now a target of litigation or as McHale so clinically puts it “we have commenced an action against JPS and other parties asserting an interest in the New Hampshire lakeside mansion.” The goal is to recover $5.1 million in debtor monies

3. Richard Simring and David Field Plead guilty. For more information see Julie Kay’s article in it’s entirety on McHale’s site here

4. Ed Okun and Laura Coleman trial dates set for January of 2009

The saga continues as more money is being recovered, fewer players are left standing, and the victims remain holding the bag!

Okun promises
Monies disappear

Mystery caller

Ed Okun or Michael Okun: What’s With The Okun Name And Scandal?

Chicago Sun-Times published this deansguide article September 11, 2008

A New York man, Michael Okun, was recently arrested for bilking a Hillsborough, California woman of $510,000 in a ponzi scheme disguised as an investment vehicle. Okun contacted the victim in 2001 and brought the scheme into full swing according to a San Francisco Chronicle story. Does Ed Okun have a evil twin, lost son, or family member here? Here is why I keep writing about rip offs

What Happened?

1. According to a San Francisco jury indictment, Okun wrote a letter to the victim claiming to have a patent for a search engine and was working on a deal with Microsoft related to developing the technology

2. Okun claimed he was amongst a group of investors “ trying to raise $25 million to secure Microsoft’s participation and persuaded her to wire $260,000 to a New York bank account in the name of Media World Communications,” the indictment said

3. Over the course of the next 2 years Okun recruited a second investor with the idea of paying off the original investor with the new investors initial cash investment: a typical ponzi scheme

Analysis

Although the amounts of money are far below the levels of Ed Okun, is it just coincidence that two men with the same name ran ponzi schemes on investors? The name Okun is not Smith. Is there a connection between the two men? Three things are clear in this case different and similar from the Ed Okun case:

1. Due Diligence: the Hillsborough victim: never performed any due diligence on Michael Okun, search engine technology, or where her money was being sent. The cash was going directly into Okun’s personal bank account just like the money that Ed Okun was stealing went into his personal accounts onshore and maybe offshore

2. “Player”: Google search of the name Michael Okun and nothing comes up on page one today about this con artist. Imagine if the Hillsborough investor had performed a Google search in 2001 and nothing showed up on a search query. That would not be out of the norm for that time period, except for the fact that Michael Okun claimed to be a player. He should have showed up somewhere with a trail of former clients, investment firms, employment history, or something to investigate

3. Denial: everyone wants to believe they are not being ripped off. It is this embarrassment factor, that allows the Michael Okun’s and Ed Okuns of the world to continue their schemes. It is also the reason a person loses more than the initial investment

Vesta Strategies “Sales Pitch” Marketing Information They Forgot To Pull?

Information about Vesta Strategies LLC is beginning to come into view–and the view is quite ugly. Attempts to find old information about Vesta on the other hand is difficult to find. Yet with some digging, reminents of their marketing campaign can be found. The following is a pitch found on a social networking site for a Vesta Strategies employee:

Vesta’s Sales Pitch

“Just as McDonald’s doesn’t actually sell hamburgers, Vesta Strategies LLC doesn’t really sell 1031 exchange solutions. We sell personal service. For most anyone who utilizes the services of a qualified intermediary or accommodator, peace of mind and security are of high importance. As an established national provider of 1031 exchange solutions, Vesta Strategies LLC differenciates itself from the competition through personal, hands-on service. In addition to my own expertise, cour clients can draw from our large offering of resources in legal counsel, real estate practices, title questions, NNN leases, DST’s, and TIC’s.”

Final Pitch

At Vesta Strategies LLC, we specialize in virtually anything related to 1031 exchanges. We provide expert information about how to structure exchanges, how to find replacement properties, and whether or not an exchange makes sense for you on a particular transaction.”