08/11/09 11:54am

High-stakes real estate swindler Edward H. Okun was sentenced last week in a Virginia courtroom to 100 years in prison for absconding with about $126 million in funds entrusted to his qualified intermediary company by 1031 exchange investors. Meanwhile, back on the corner of Westheimer and Highway 6, one of his former properties went up for sale.

Okun’s Investment Properties of America bought the West Oaks Mall for $110 million in 2005. The sellers of the bankrupt property might expect to get $20 million for the million-sq.-ft. mall today, reports Globe St.‘s Amy Wolff Sorter:

The mall’s anchors include Dillard’s and Macy’s, which own their own space, and Sears, which is on a lease. [Holliday Fenoglio Fowler’s Robert] Williamson says the Sears lease is up in 2010, but negotiations are underway to keep the retailer in place.

When Okun bought the mall from Somera Capital and CoastWood Capital a little less than four years ago, the asset was 95% leased, and sported $10 million worth of exterior and interior improvements. IPA had even larger plans for even more renovations on the 33-acre site, Williamson says.

Less than a year later, the owner was able to secure $86 million of permanent financing for the mall. Yet by late 2007, IPA had filed for bankruptcy protection to stave off foreclosure. Okun’s troubles and a failing economy dropped the mall’s occupancy to a little less than 70%.

How’s the mall looking these days?


03/20/09 4:40pm

COMMENT OF THE DAY: FORMER WEST OAKS MALL OWNER TO RETIRE IN NEW HOME [Edward H. Okun] has been in jail since he was arrested by the Feds March 17, 2008. This week he was convicted in a Richmond, Va. Federal Court of 23 counts of conspiracy to commit wire fraud, money laundering, bulk cash smuggling and perjury the maximum sentence for which is 400 years so ‘Fast Eddie’ will die in a federal prison. All those charges related to his having ‘borrowed’ $126 million in 1031 exchange funds he was holding in escrow for 350 clients across the country. His cohorts and co-conspirators had previously pleaded guilty 10 years (Lara Coleman) and 5 years (David Field and Richard Simring) — all former employees (CCO, CFO and Counsel to) IPofA, Okun’s supposed real estate investment company. His defense tried to describe him as a business man with a plan that failed. West Oaks Mall would be just one example of Okun’s brilliant investment acumen. More indictments likely to follow.” [E. H. Callanan, commenting on JCPenney at West Oaks Mall: To the Bank]

02/02/09 12:17pm

Buyers didn’t show up for the latest sale at the old JCPenney building next to West Oaks Mall. So Wachovia Bank will foreclose on the property soon, the CoStar Group reports.

The bankruptcy trustee for the collapsed financial empire of Edward H. Okun had listed the vacant building, which Okun’s 1031 Tax Group had bought for $4 million. But no buyers were willing to pay even the amount of the financing, which was $3 million.

The Houston JCPenney building and a mall in Salina, Kansas — also now facing foreclosure — are Okun’s last remaining properties.