Wednesday, January 25, 2012

More Leo in the news

http://www.miamiherald.com/2012/01/24/2606069/victims-of-miami-ponzi-schemer.html

Conveniently left out (although you could do some quick math if inclined to read between the lines) is that the trustee/trustee's firm/trustee's accountants took 2/3+ of the assets recovered; also left out are that the trustee liquidated some assets at firesale prices (parcels in Cape Coral, Florida with CURRENT market prices of $10K sold for $750, etc.) in order to close this bankruptcy quickly

-J.

Posted by JMG at 9:29 AM 2 comments

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

I'll quit procrastinating later

One of the major Shakespearan flaws I have, and one that speaks to my being born as one of Nature's Writers is that I procrastinate beautifully.

On the other hand, a hostile witness to my being one of Nature's Writers is that I can, actually sit down and write. Rather easily, alas.

Quick story.

I have a great pal. She is a For Real T.V. Screenwriter. You've seen her work. I mean, YOU'VE SEEN HER WORK. She and I started working on something a while back. In the middle of this, she started working on something else with another writers whose work you might have seen.

They had a deadline.

In Hollywood there is, I think I've figured out, a tacit understanding between producers and writers. The writers turn stuff in VERY late and the producers pay the writers less than the contract stipulates.

Anyway.

They were coming up on what they called "a hard* deadline" and they were stuck on a couple of things. First was a thorny plot issue that was bedeviling the first half and the second was that they had no second half.

She emailed me, her font practically scrofulous with pleading: "Look, the guy I'm doing this with isn't half as good** as you, so please, could you take a pass at this?"

She then explains the problems they were having; one character was not even remotely believable, the "set-up" less so -- if such a thing was possible -- and the dialogue was stilted and therefore there were no 3rd & 4th acts.

"Send what you have, I'll look."

She explained the agonies her and her co-writer had suffered over the last three weeks. The torments of the damned were undergone by the both of them as they bounced from one problem to the next, each seemingly less soluble than the previous. She sent the first +/-30 pages of an expected +/-60 pages at 10am on Day 1. I asked her for permission to do whatever I believed was correct without major, invasive surgery to the structure and basic premise, which she kindly granted. She said I HAD to send her whatever I would within a week.

So, by 3pm the next day, she had her 60 pages.

Her response was:

"That's PERFECT.

I hate you."

The point of this narrative being that I don't have (probably to my detriment) an Artistic Temperament. I don't suffer about what to write. I just (once I can be bothered to sit down to the task) issue forth streams of prose*** with relatively difficulty and with a modicum of charm for the reader.

The trick, as has been amply evident to all of you who have stuck around throughout the Leo episode, is for me to actually sit down and write.

Now, if only someone in Hollywood would care to throw massive cash my way to inflict my non-delayed charm upon the masses...

-J.

* "If it's not in by this date, the deal is REALLY off."

** Pretty flattering, and likely true, but the guy in question has a fat contract and I do not."

*** I have, after all, been speaking in prose my whole life, so it comes naturally.

Posted by JMG at 4:52 PM 7 comments

Saturday, January 21, 2012

"That's black magic, that is!"

Because you asked, I'll be blogging on the matter of pickles.

I had gone to one of those MegaPlusWarehouseClub places where you can't buy ONE cucumber, you must buy a trillion cucumbers. Getting good and sick of 99.99% of said cucumbers spoiling, I decided to try my hand at making pickles.


Which I like. Pickles, I mean. They go on various sandwiches and burgers and, in moderation, may be readily nibbled straight. So I cobbled together a bit of coarse salt, water, vinegar, dill seed and dillweed, garlic and cucumbers (the "Kirby" varietal is the one you want if you're doing this in the USA).


Anyway.


My kids think I have performed the wildest voodoo. Turning water into wine or getting Lazarus to wake up from the dead wouldn't prove nearly as impressive. Even better, they are consuming these by the barrel.

Next batch, I'll post the recipe with photos.

-J.

Posted by JMG at 6:21 PM 4 comments

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Let the record show *I* was not surprised.

http://www.miamiherald.com/2012/01/17/2594321/cantens-preyed-on-priests-and.html

(The investor interviewed is one of our clients.)

Posted by JMG at 9:50 AM 0 comments

My favorite cookies (or "biscuits")

1 c. combination nuts (almonds & pecans are my sugg.) and dried fruit (apples & cranberries, if you ask me); both chopped fine, & raisins; ½ c. fruit and ½ c. nuts, or straight raisins (my pref.)
½ c. dark rum (or ¾ water)
6 T. unsalted butter
1¾ c. "old-fashioned" oats
1½ t. gr. cinnamon
1 c. all-purpose flour
¼ t. baking powder
¼ t. baking soda
½ t. salt
1½ c. packed light brown sugar
1 large egg
2 t. vanilla extract

1. PLUMP FRUIT/RAISINS: Adjust oven racks to upper-middle and lower-middle positions and heat oven to 350F/180C. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper. Combine chopped dried fruit/raisins and water (3:2 ratio) in saucepan and bring to boil over medium-high heat. Reduce heat and simmer until water has evaporated and raisins are plump, about 15 minutes; let cool. If you use rum (1:1 ratio) just let steep.

2. TOAST OATS: Melt butter in large skillet over medium heat. Cook oats, stirring constantly, until just golden, about 5 minutes. Stir in cinnamon and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds; let cool.

3. MIX: Combine flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in bowl. In large bowl, whisk sugar, egg, and vanilla until smooth. Stir in nuts and plumped fruit(s), oat mixture, and flour mixture until just combined.

4. BAKE: Roll 2 T. dough into 1½"(4cm) balls and place 2" (5cm) apart on prepared baking sheets. Gently press balls with measuring c. until ½" (1cm) thick. Bake until edges are JUST golden and middles are just set, 13 to 16 minutes, alternating and rotating baking sheets midway through. Cool 10 minutes on sheets, then transfer to wire rack. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Posted by JMG at 9:07 AM 4 comments

At 5:12am.

I don't always hate my insomnia.

I hate it when there's not a bloody thing to do. I don't suffer from insomnia, I suffer from boredom.

So it's 5:13am now, none of my pals can be found online, there's nothing on the Internet. Appalling stuff.

On the upside, I have discovered how to make pickles which is so absurdly cheap and simple and yield such fantastic results my children are treating the entire endeavor as a sort of exercise in the very darkest magic.

Salt, vinegar, dill (seed AND fronds), touch of garlic, mustard and allspice, bit of water and cucumbers. Three days at room temperature and ta-dah.

-J.

Posted by JMG at 5:12 AM 3 comments

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

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

More fun with "Leo"

http://therealdeal.com/miami/blog/2012/01/05/real-estate-exec-immediately-pleads-guilty-to-135m-ponzi-charge/

Remind me to dissect the scam for you later, including some stuff the FBI ignored.

Posted by JMG at 12:02 AM 4 comments

Sunday, January 08, 2012

If you want to find out more about "Leo"

http://www.cbs12.com/articles/investors-4737806-miami-cantens.html

Posted by JMG at 7:40 AM 6 comments

Thursday, January 05, 2012

For those following along at home...

...Leo has been arrested (after only 3 years) and has been charged in Federal court with ____ counts of fraud.

Posted by JMG at 12:16 PM 7 comments