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Grand jury indicts 2 attorneys, real estate broker

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A grand jury in South Bend has returned a 14-count criminal indictment against two attorneys and a real estate broker from central Indiana over a state lease deal in Elkhart.  

The deal was first revealed as part of an Indianapolis Business Journal investigation. The IBJ is a sister publication of Indiana Lawyer.

The complaint alleges real estate broker John M. Bales, his partner and general counsel William E. Spencer and Indianapolis developer and attorney Paul J. Page defrauded the state and an unnamed bank. The charges, brought by the U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Indiana, allege each man committed eight counts of wire fraud, three counts of mail fraud, one count of bank fraud and one count of conspiracy to defraud. Page also faces a charge of making false statements to influence the actions of a bank insured by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp.

The state hired Venture Real Estate Services in 2006 to handle leasing for state agencies in a contract that explicitly banned Venture and its partners and employees from “any ownership interest” or any “attempt to acquire” properties to be leased by the state.

But as IBJ reported last year, the politically connected real estate broker over the years has acted as a developer for several public-sector tenants he represents — putting government agencies into buildings he owns or those owned by his friends and associates.

The indictment points to one transaction in particular that prosecutors allege ran afoul of Bales' agreement with the state: A lease deal in Elkhart for the state's Department of Child Services in a building jointly owned by Page and former Marion County Prosecutor Carl Brizzi. The government has not charged Brizzi.

According to the indictment, Page bought the office building through a company called L&BAB LLC, then leased it to the state's Department of Child Services. Page paid no money to buy the building, but put up $361,000 in cash for the property, which had been wired from Bales' account under an entity called BAB Equity.

"Page promised to repay BAB Equity and to give it 25 percent of the profits when the Elkhart building was resold, even though Bales and Spencer could not have any sort of ownership interest in the building and even though Venture told the state that it would only be compensated through commissions," U.S. Attorney David Capp said in a statement.

The indictment alleges that Page also used $531,000 from a bank without noting the details of his arrangement with BAB Equity.

Venture was paid an $88,400 commission on the lease deal, then took more than a year to rebate $22,100 to the state as required under its deal. The firm also received a $28,875 broker's fee and a $22,700 development fee, the indictment alleges.

The charges follow an FBI investigation that lasted more than a year. The U.S. Attorney's Office anticipates that the defendants' initial appearance will be at 2 p.m. Thursday in the South Bend Federal Courthouse.

According to the Indiana Roll of Attorneys, Page, who was admitted to the bar in 1990, has been disciplined in the past, but currently is active in good standing. Spencer was admitted in 2002 and has no disciplinary history. He is also active in good standing.

This story originally ran on IBJ.com Dec. 14, 2011.
 

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  1. Access to the court (judiciary branch of government) is the REAL problem, NOT necessarily lack of access to an attorney. Unfortunately, I've lived in a legal and financial hell for the past six years due to a divorce (where I was, supposedly, represented by an attorney) in which I was defrauded of settlement and the other party (and helpers) enriched through the fraud. When I attempted to introduce evidence and testify (pro se) in a foreclosure/eviction, I was silenced (apparently on procedural grounds, as research I've done since indicates). I was thrown out of a residence which was to be sold, by a judge who refused to allow me to speak in (the supposedly "informal") small claims court where the eviction proceeding (by ex-brother-in-law) was held. Six years and I can't even get back on solid or stable ground ... having bank account seized twice, unlawfully ... and now, for the past year, being dragged into court - again, contrary to law and appellate decisions - by former attorney, who is trying to force payment from exempt funds. Friday will mark fifth appearance. Hopefully, I'll be allowed to speak. The situation I find myself in shouldn't even be possible, much less dragging out with no end in sight, for years. I've done nothing wrong, but am watching a lot of wrong being accomplished under court jurisdiction; only because I was married to someone who wanted and was granted a divorce (but was not willing to assume the responsibilities that come with granting the divorce). In fact, the recalcitrant party was enriched by well over $100k, although it was necessarily split with other actors. Pro bono help? It's a nice dream ... but that's all it is, for too many. Meanwhile, injustice marches on.

  2. Both sites mentioned in the article appear to be nonfunctional to date (March 28, 2017). http://indianalegalanswers.org/ returns a message stating the "server is taking too long to respond" and http://www.abafreelegalasnswers.org/ "can't find the server". Although this does not surprise me, it is disheartening to know that access to the judicial branch of government remains out of reach for too many citizens (for procedural rather than meritorious reasons) of Indiana. Any updates regarding this story?

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