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FBI seeks records on prosecutor's deals

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The FBI is collecting records on an Elkhart real estate deal and an Indianapolis drug case, both involving Marion County Prosecutor Carl Brizzi and defense attorney Paul Page.

Page in 2008 arranged for Brizzi to own 50 percent of an office building leased by the Department of Child Services without Brizzi putting up cash or credit. A year later, Brizzi offered a lenient plea deal and returned $10,000 in seized cash to accused drug dealer Joseph Mobareki, a Page client.

The FBI has picked up files on the Mobareki case and Elkhart real estate deal and has begun asking questions of those with knowledge of the deals, multiple sources said. An FBI spokesman would neither confirm nor deny the agency is investigating.

The moves follow an Indianapolis Business Journal investigation that has raised questions about Brizzi’s business dealings while in office and whether those deals influenced his actions as prosecutor. Law enforcement officials found his intervention in the Mobareki case troubling considering his no-cost real estate deal with Page in Elkhart.

A review of dozens of pages of records connected to the Elkhart deal has revealed new details:

• The property has two mortgages: A $1.2 million first mortgage with Huntington Bank and a second mortgage for an unspecified amount with a company called BAB Equity LLC, which lists a post office box real estate broker John Bales has used for his companies and political contributions.

Bales and his firm, Venture Cos., orchestrated the $2.5 million, 10-year deal that put the state’s Department of Child Services into the building a few months after L & BAB LLC acquired the one-story building at 1659 Mishawaka St. in February 2008.

A spokesman for the Indiana Department of Administration said the second mortgage does not appear to violate Bales’ state leasing contract, which bans him from any direct or indirect ownership interest in properties the state leases.

Bales said in an e-mail that he does not control BAB Equity but refused to say who does. He did not respond to follow-up questions including why the company uses his post office box.

• The Elkhart building had a market value of about $700,000 before the state lease and $1.2 million after the lease, according to an April 2008 appraisal prepared for Huntington Bank. The appraisal says the building would be difficult to market to traditional office users because it is surrounded by industrial properties and has no street frontage.

The 1986 building had been vacant for several months and badly in need of repairs when L & BAB put the property under contract. The appraisal noted the 15,200-square-foot building had interior mold, three broken AC units, and deferred maintenance on windows, exterior bricks and parking-lot pavement.

L & BAB had planned to spend $422,500 to renovate the building and prepare most of it, about 13,000 square feet, for the arrival of DCS. The company eventually paid $825,000 for the property, and got a $15,000 allowance from the seller to remedy an animal infestation.

• Venture arranged to list the building for sale with an asking price of $1.8 million in late 2008, immediately after the DCS executed its lease deal. The property did not sell.

Financial documents included in the offering show the building owner, building seller, DCS and an insurance company split more than $577,000 of expenses to renovate and outfit the building. The owner’s portion was about $315,000, while DCS paid about $200,000 for upgrades including new restrooms.

The records show Page invested $321,835 in the building and financed $993,750. That includes a commission of $88,400, and a development fee of $45,600, both going to Venture.

• Records suggest Brizzi was added as a co-owner of the building late in the process. Financial documents provided to potential buyers in 2008 list Bruce Zeller of Carmel-based Zeller Construction Co. as co-investing with Page. Zeller did not return a phone message.

Page, an attorney with locally based Baker Pittman & Page and principal in condo developer Page Development, told IBJ in March that Brizzi – whom he called an “equal partner” in the deal – did not contribute cash and isn’t named on the loan the pair used to buy the building.

He said Brizzi earned his stake in the Elkhart building by bringing him an attractive investment opportunity. He said Brizzi and Bales, a Brizzi partner on previous deals, approached him about the Elkhart building.

Brizzi has said in disclosure documents that his equity interest in the property is worth $50,000 to $100,000.

The records offered no suggestion of how the building owners arrived at the name L & BAB.

Putting the Elkhart deal together was a challenge since banks weren’t lending and few property investors showed interest in fixing up an office building in financially depressed Elkhart, said Jeff Lozer, the general counsel for DCS.

Lozer said he didn't know Brizzi was involved with the deal until he read about his investment in IBJ. The IBJ is a sister publication to Indiana Lawyer.

“We were really pressing Venture to get the deal done, to bring it home,” Lozer said. “We had the building picked out but needed someone to finance the build out. The issue for us was finding a suitable place to put our folks. We don’t care who the landlord is.”

Brizzi has declined repeated interview requests but said in a statement Thursday that he could not comment on the FBI's inquiries because he is "unaware of this alleged action."

Brizzi, a Republican whose second term ends in December, is not seeking re-election.

 

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  1. Someone off their meds? C'mon John, it is called the politics of Empire. Get with the program, will ya? How can we build one world under secularist ideals without breaking a few eggs? Of course, once it is fully built, is the American public who will feel the deadly grip of the velvet glove. One cannot lay down with dogs without getting fleas. The cup of wrath is nearly full, John Smith, nearly full. Oops, there I go, almost sounding as alarmist as Smith. Guess he and I both need to listen to this again: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CRnQ65J02XA

  2. Charles Rice was one of the greatest of the so-called great generation in America. I was privileged to count him among my mentors. He stood firm for Christ and Christ's Church in the Spirit of Thomas More, always quick to be a good servant of the King, but always God's first. I had Rice come speak to 700 in Fort Wayne as Obama took office. Rice was concerned that this rise of aggressive secularism and militant Islam were dual threats to Christendom,er, please forgive, I meant to say "Western Civilization". RIP Charlie. You are safe at home.

  3. It's a big fat black mark against the US that they radicalized a lot of these Afghan jihadis in the 80s to fight the soviets and then when they predictably got around to biting the hand that fed them, the US had to invade their homelands, install a bunch of corrupt drug kingpins and kleptocrats, take these guys and torture the hell out of them. Why for example did the US have to sodomize them? Dubya said "they hate us for our freedoms!" Here, try some of that freedom whether you like it or not!!! Now they got even more reasons to hate us-- lets just keep bombing the crap out of their populations, installing more puppet regimes, arming one faction against another, etc etc etc.... the US is becoming a monster. No wonder they hate us. Here's my modest recommendation. How about we follow "Just War" theory in the future. St Augustine had it right. How about we treat these obvious prisoners of war according to the Geneva convention instead of torturing them in sadistic and perverted ways.

  4. As usual, John is "spot-on." The subtle but poignant points he makes are numerous and warrant reflection by mediators and users. Oh but were it so simple.

  5. ACLU. Way to step up against the police state. I see a lot of things from the ACLU I don't like but this one is a gold star in its column.... instead of fighting it the authorities should apologize and back off.

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