Thursday, January 12, 2012

The "Leo" saga...some theories.

Let me give you some background -- there will be conjecturing, so pay attention -- on the "Leo" thing. How it started, where (I believe) it went off the rails, etc.

It all started in 1990something.

Leo had found a spot in Florida that had a great deal of amenities, convenience (i.e. close-but-not-TOO-close to the major cities), and otherwise great location, with great weather, fishing, beaches and all that.

He also found that land in this part of the world, if one was willing to buy it in big enough chunks, was pretty cheap. So he bought it in a big enough chunck, broke it down into individual parcels and realized he had paid $3000 per parcel. He then sold it for $6000 per parcel.

He had a very efficient system of selling these, also. He would place targeted ads in targeted areas of the USA (usually up North, and usually in the dead of winter) wherein he offered to pay for a weekend trip for any interested buyers. Those buyers traveled to the West Coast of Florida, and were squired around by Leo's staff, showcasing the glories of this corner of the state. They had all meals paid for, as well as lodgings. (Leo, of course, had worked out bulk deals to get these cheap.)

At the end of the trip, a hard sell presentation was made and people usually bought a parcel or two. Some of them couldn't afford the full $6K, so Leo financed it at a pretty steep interest rate, since no bank would bother touching a $6K mortgage. The difference to a given purchaser of a mortgage payment at 5% vs. 15% on only a $6K mortgage was pretty insignificant, so they all signed up.

But Leo's model hinged on him buying at 3 and selling at 6, NOT in holding mortgages. He needed cash. So he bundled up the mortgages and sold them to investors. At first all was fine. He duly recorded the mortgages, he followed up on all the paperwork, etc. In fact, he had VERY big clients for these (by "big" I mean financial institutions, etc.) and all was kosher.

His brother, one of two people I have ever met who can be safely classified as pathologically inept, was the guy in charge of this aspect of the operation. He was too lazy to do this, so he sent the entire package "raw" to my office and the staff would do all the things that needed to be done the right way and our clients would get "dibs" on these.

One day in late 2001, the brother (we'll call him Barney), got into a massive fight with Leo. Just before Christmas. Just like that [insert sound of fingers snapping] Barney was gone. Leo took over the mortgage bundling operation. That, in hindsight, is where I believe the wheels fell off the wagon.

Leo was alarmed at the fact we (and our clients) were getting such a lucrative rate of return, and essentially began to freeze us out of these instruments (and into others that were better for him). But in doing so, we weren't doing all of his work (and doing it correctly) for him. Someone in his office was doing that.

Fast forward to 2009, after months on end of his swearing up & down that, due to the unique nature of his business model, his business was still bouyant, when he called me up to say he "needed 90 days to restructure" as he was having cashflow issues but I should rest assured all was going to be well. He had retained a very fancy-pants law firm to help with this.

Later on I found out that what he was doing didn't coincide with my understanding (or anyone's really) of "restructuring." You'd think he'd call in people to whom he owed $$$$$ and said "Look, ___, I'm having cashflow problems. I can't pay you the monthly X for 3 years, but what if I pay you half that amount for twice as long?"

But he didn't do that.

What I surmise he did, is shovel money overseas.

See, Leo had many sales offices in Latin America and many banking contacts in the Iberosphere. During those 90 days, he could have VERY EASILY shuffled money -- as he always did in the course of normal overseas operations -- to these various offshore banks, rebundled them into untraceability and then socked them away somewhere. The trustee's attorney -- about whom I cannot comment further without being grossly uncharitable -- told me, point-blank, that there were $14M that completely evaporated.

Had this guy been less penile in his behavior, I would have cheerfully volunteered my hypothesis and several other that would have allowed him to recover infinitely more (of which the entire trustee-bankruptcy complex would have sponged 75%, but I digress) than they did, but seeing as how he was myopically sadistic, I quickly lost interest in being helpful.

And now you know.

-J.

Posted by JMG at 4:49 PM

4 Comments

  • Blogger reader posted at 10:26 PM, January 12, 2012  
    The saga just gets worse and worse leaving a sick feeling in my stomach...and I am just a reader.
  • Blogger Paola posted at 10:45 AM, January 13, 2012  
    Yeah, this is just terrible and I can't even imagine to be in your shoes.
  • Blogger kim at allconsuming posted at 7:51 AM, January 19, 2012  
    I am trying to even comprehend what you - and Mrs Joke and the boys - have been through. I simply can't get my head around it. The stress. The loss. The deceit. Dear GOD. Thank goodness you had food and alcoholic predilections to turn to. I mean, at least Chef and I are simply chronically poor. To go from the heights to the 'holy crap we could lose everything' is terrifying.
  • Blogger JMG posted at 8:48 AM, January 19, 2012  
    It's even more interesting when you are at the "holy crap we've LOST everything."
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