Richard B. Simring is not someone you would expect to be charged with conspiracy to commit mail fraud and money laundering in a multi-million dollar scam.
Simring was a rising legal star and a well respected leader in his community.
The son of an attorney, Simring was valedictorian at Hollywood Hills High School in Florida, a magna cum laud graduate of Princeton University in 1988 and a 1991 summa cum laud graduate of George Washington University Law School.
Following law school, Simring served as law clerk for Rosemary Barkett, the former Chief Justice of the Florida Supreme Court. He then developed a successful legal practice in the areas of insurance, banking, and securities, specializing in complex business litigation and winning multi-million dollar verdicts. He represented banks, insurance companies, and financial institutions in reinsurance and insurance disputes, bad faith claims, state and federal RICO actions, securities class actions and broker/dealer arbitrations, and became a partner in the prestigious law firm Stroock, Stroock & Lavan and then in the law firm Jorden Burt.
Simring actively used his success to benefit others. He was a prominent figure at Miami fundraising events; charities, schools, and professional organizations were proud to have Richard B. Simring on their side.
He served as Chairman of the Board of Voices for Children Foundation, Inc., a Miami charity that raises money to advocate on behalf of abused and neglected children. He often spoke to legal and community groups about representing abused children in court. He contributed to the Miami Lighthouse for the Blind, and he served on the board of directors for Educate Tomorrow, an international charity that works to make education an attainable goal for the disadvantaged in Miami and throughout the world, with particular efforts in the impoverished African nation of Niger. He took an active part in Princeton alumni organizations. He donated money to his law school and served as a volunteer on its advisory board of directors.
Then he met Ed Okun.
According to the federal indictment, in November 2006 Okun consulted Simring about legal issues involving the transfer of client funds in Okun’s 1031 Tax Group LLP (1031TG), a 1031 exchange qualified intermediary scam operated by Okun.
While Simring had represented Okun before, the indictment does not claim that Simring knew that 1031TG was a scam or that Simring thought that Okun wanted anything other than legitimate legal help in making sure that his activities were lawful.
In fact, the indictment states that Simring conducted a legitmate and independent investigation of Okun’s activities with 1031TG and told Okun that they were illegal and needed to be halted until the exchange agreements were changed to allow the transfer of client funds and there were sufficient assets to cover client exchanges as they came due. Simring also told Okun that doing this would not rectify what Okun had done in the past, but only reduce the liklihood of criminal charges. Okun told Simring that he would follow his advice and change the exchange agreements and pay back the client exchange funds. Simring then told Okun that if he failed to do this, he would probably go to jail.
A month later, Okun hired Simring as the Chief Legal Officer for Okun Holdings. Simring was to be paid a salary of $850,000 and given a signing bonus of $100,000.
The indictment then alleges that in March 2007 Simring became aware that Okun had not followed any of his advice and was continuing to transfer millions of dollars from client exchange accounts into his personal bank account. Simring also learned that 1031TG was on the brink of insolvency. Simring then “confronted” Okun. Okun assured Simring that he was fixing the problems and was in the process of paying back 1031TG.
By April 2007, the financial situation of 1031TG had become dire and Okun’s scam was on the verge of coming part. 1031TG was no longer able to fund exchanges or pay back clients. And the people whose money Okun had taken were calling and demanding explanations.
This appears to be the point at which Simring went from being Okun’s attorney to his co-conspirator.
According to the indictment, Simring now participated with Okun and others in lying to clients, telling them that their funds were secure. Now also Simring apparently joined Okun in attempting a “holding action” against client inquiries and complaints, including making “lulling” payments to clients with money misappropriated from other clients.
In late April 2007, 1031TG’s CEO resigned and Okun appointed Simring as interim CEO. Okun then directed Simring to transfer approximately $8,000,000 in client funds into Okun’s personal bank accounts. According to the indictment, Simring complied.
Three days later, Simring resigned.
Why did Richard Simring become a co-conspirator of scammer Ed Okun? Why didn’t he walk away once he learned that Okun wasn’t following his advice and continuing to engage in criminal activity?
Perhaps it was the money — although it seems that Simring had no trouble making money legally.
Perhaps he was caught up in his client’s bunker mentality once it was clear that the enterprise was collapsing.
Or perhaps Simring fell under the spell of Okun’s swindler charm.
We will likely never know why Richard B. Simring, Esq., legal star and community leader, appears to have thrown away his career, his honor, and the respect of his colleages and community.
He may not know himself.