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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. KUDOS to the Indiana Supreme Court for realizing that some bureacracies need to go to the stake. Recall what RWR said: "No government ever voluntarily reduces itself in size. Government programs, once launched, never disappear. Actually, a government bureau is the nearest thing to eternal life we'll ever see on this earth!" NOW ... what next to this rare and inspiring chopping block? Well, the Commission on Gender and Race (but not religion!?!) is way overdue. And some other Board's could be cut with a positive for State and the reputation of the Indiana judiciary.

  2. During a visit where an informant with police wears audio and video, does the video necessary have to show hand to hand transaction of money and narcotics?

  3. I will agree with that as soon as law schools stop lying to prospective students about salaries and employment opportunities in the legal profession. There is no defense to the fraudulent numbers first year salaries they post to mislead people into going to law school.

  4. The sad thing is that no fish were thrown overboard The "greenhorn" who had never fished before those 5 days was interrogated for over 4 hours by 5 officers until his statement was illicited, "I don't want to go to prison....." The truth is that these fish were measured frozen off shore and thawed on shore. The FWC (state) officer did not know fish shrink, so the only reason that these fish could be bigger was a swap. There is no difference between a 19 1/2 fish or 19 3/4 fish, short fish is short fish, the ticket was written. In addition the FWC officer testified at trial, he does not measure fish in accordance with federal law. There was a document prepared by the FWC expert that said yes, fish shrink and if these had been measured correctly they averaged over 20 inches (offshore frozen). This was a smoke and mirror prosecution.

  5. I love this, Dave! Many congrats to you! We've come a long way from studying for the bar together! :)

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