Real Estate Promoter Carlton Cabot Arrested – Is He the Worst Fraudster in Modern History?
The name Carlton Cabot was once synonymous with tenant in common (TIC) real estate projects. Cabot claimed to have raised hundreds of millions of dollars and public records show that he promoted approximately 18 large real estate projects nationwide.
The entire concept of TIC financed projects began in 2002 after the IRS issued a revenue ruling allowing investors to defer capital gains from the sale of real estate involving an “exchange” of properties. (These are sometimes called 1031 exchanges because of section 1031 of the Internal Revenue Code.) For the first time, the IRS said individuals could pool their gains and invest in larger projects.
Unfortunately, along with legitimate developers came a number of scam promoters. Overnight, a new industry was born. Obviously, not all TIC projects are scams but many were.
The first few years of operations saw Cabot building his empire. A golf course in Georgia, a shopping center in Green Bay and an office park in Connecticut are but a few of Cabot’s many TIC financed projects.
The pooled money of the newly created TICs was used to make a down payment and the balance was financed. The borrowers were the TICs but most were told the loans were nonrecourse meaning the lender was only looking to the value of the property and not relying on the TIC members’ credit.
Unfortunately, stockbrokers who had no understanding of the complex loan documents and tax law behind 1031 exchanges sold many of these TIC investment interests including the TIC interests behind Carlton Cabot’s projects. The brokers relied on rosy projections and glossy brochures and other slick marketing materials. Few, if any, read the 1000+ page offering documents. Much higher than average sales commissions didn’t hurt their enthusiasm, either.
Two more factors made these TIC projects the recipe for disaster. First, Carlton Cabot was the master tenant in each of the projects. That gave him the ability to collect rents on behalf of the TICs. Cabot also set up the loan documents so that the mail addressed to the TIC investors was sent to him.
By 2012, we believe that Carlton Cabot was skimming rents. Mortgage payments therefore began being missed. Had the TIC investors known these things, they could have easily cured any default and removed Cabot as the master tenant. Many of the projects had sufficient reserves that could have been used to pay a missed mortgage payment or two.
Unfortunately, Cabot didn’t tell the TICs about his misdeeds. Nor did the lenders, loan trustees or loan servicers. Instead, the TICs often received phony financial statements from Cabot. Even though defaults were occurring everywhere, the TICs had no idea.
By the time the TICs found out, the loans had been accelerated and were in serious default. The TICs went from being investors to owing tens of millions on defaulted mortgages.
The criminal complaint against Carlton Cabot and his manager Timothy Kroll claims that $17 million was stolen from the projects. The feds say some of that money went into Carlton Cabot’s pocket while some was used to pay off and silence the few investors who were beginning to ask questions. We are sure that the money wasn’t going to the mortgage payments, however.
Theft of $17 million is already a serious charge. Because the TICs were forced into default, the problem is much larger. The TICs lost not only the rent payments but also their equity in the property and their investments. For many Cabot victims, the money they lost was their life savings. Worse, they may still be on the hook for any shortfall or deficiency upon foreclosure.
Many of the investors are also quite elderly. Some have died since the various lawsuits began. For those folks, they will never see any justice. The Justice Department says both Carlton Cabot and Timothy Kroll were arrested at their homes. Both men are charged with seven felony crimes including wire fraud, securities fraud, money laundering and conspiracy. Both men face 105 years if convicted on all counts.
We suspect that absent an immediate plea, the charges will increase as the IRS and U.S. Postal Inspection Service continues its investigation.
In announcing the arrests, U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara said, “As alleged, Carlton Cabot and Timothy Kroll conspired to defraud investors out of millions of dollars by misappropriating investor funds, in part to pay for personal luxuries, and they falsified financial statements in an attempt to cover their tracks. The investigative work of the Postal Inspection Service and the IRS put an end to the alleged scheme.”
Is there hope for investors? Maybe. Investors who purchased from a stockbroker or other financial professional may have a claim against the person who sold or recommended the investment.
Unfortunately, there was such a wave of TIC frauds that many of the broker dealers selling TIC investments are already out of business.
Investors facing foreclosure or the lost of their investment may have valid claims against the servicers, loan trustees, property managers and others who turned a blind eye or actively participated in the crimes. Suing Carlton Cabot is probably not a great idea. We suspect that getting money from him is nearly impossible. Any justice from Cabot will be had if he is convicted and forced to face his victims at sentencing.
In summary, what was once billed as the investment of a lifetime has turned into a life sentence for many victims. Even if you lost everything, don’t give up. A good fraud recovery lawyer may be able to help defend you against suits from lenders and may even be able to get back some of your lost money from third parties.