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.

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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

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:

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“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.”

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

Okun Victims Notice: Judge Authorizes “Telephonic Participation” In June 11th Fee Application Hearing

According to US Trustee Gerald McHale’s latest notice the following developments have taken place for the upcoming June 11, 2008 Fee Application hearing. This hearing is taking place to review the application for payment of fees by the many entities that are being utilized by the Okun victims in their fight to recover their stolen monies. The following is from McHale’s June 5th notice:

“PLEASE TAKE NOTICE that the Honorable Martin Glenn, United States Bankruptcy Judge, has authorized counsel and parties appearing in this case to attend and participate telephonically, via Courtcall, in the hearing to be held before the Court on June 11,2008 at 11 :00 a.m. (the “June 1 1 Hearing”) concerning the First Interim Fee Applications for Allowance of Compensation and Reimbursement of Expenses of (i) Gerard A. McHale, Jr., the Chapter 11Trustee.”

The first round of negotiations of fee applications begins as the monies being sought for victims again take a hit. It seems like everyone wants to get paid but the people most deserving are getting nothing and have lost the most.

Former Ed Okun Interviewee Speaks Out: Most Outrageous Okun Story Yet?

The list of stories about Ed Okun just increased by one with the following candid and eye opening comment left on deansguide. The comment by, Alden Chevlan, a man who was being wooed by Okun’s organization for a position in their legal department is all too familiar. Tons of money thrown around, no business sense, a suspicious lack of business acumen and a sad case of spending other people’s money for fun.

“I am not surprized to read of the demise of IPofA. I interviewed with the company for the number two legal spot in 2006. After a brief visit (less than two hours)I returned to the airport and my home. Shortly thereafter I was offered a position by the HR director, without ever meeting my future CEO (a former paralegal who had worked with Okun’s outside law firm), or Okun. When I inquired about a second interview, my wife and I were flown to Richmond, put up in a lavish hotel, etc, with no expenses spared. The strange thing was that no interview time had been set and the CEO had not taken the time to review my travle schedule. I did meet with her, with barely enough time to return the rental car and catch my flight. She met me in a “poodle skirt” wearing “Queen Bee” fluffy slippers and spent the entire hour on the phone with Okun who was frantic over the disappearnace of his poodle. MY wife met the office staff, which consisted of two of the CEO’s sisters and a handful of seemingly nice people. I never heard from them again and my wife was quite relieved after learning of the CEO’s paralegal background and her staff of siblings. I did get a nice gift bag with a T-shirt, hat, coffee mug, calculator, sunscreen and other objetcs all advertising his Indy racing team.”

From Is This Where the 1031 Tax Group Victim’s Monies Disappeared?, 2008/06/05 at 11:22 PM