Local Editorials

Our view: Prosecutors must follow the money in Bull Valley drug case

There needs to be a thorough investigation into how a convicted felon with no job or verifiable source of income was able to take out a $450,000 mortgage through a land trust to buy a 17,000-square-foot home in Bull Valley.

Prosecutors said that David A. Soskin, 43, and his 26-year-old fiancée, Jamie Lee, bought the $800,000 home with money they made smuggling hundreds of pounds of marijuana from California to Illinois.

Although the financing company said it was duped into giving the $450,000 mortgage, statements from federal agents suggest there might be more to the story.

We want more answers as to how this happened. McHenry County prosecutors must follow the money in this case. So far, prosecutors have declined to say much about Soskin’s financial dealings. That’s in line with longstanding policies in the McHenry County State’s Attorney’s Office. However, we’re hoping they are as curious and skeptical as we are about what happened here.

Days after police found
350 pounds of marijuana locked in the Bull Valley home, a federal Drug Enforcement Administration agent called the couple’s lender, Skokie-based Medford Capital LLC, to find out what documents were needed to freeze a client’s account and whether he could speak with the company’s compliance department.

One of the company’s owners, Stuart Urkov, told the agent there was no compliance department, and gave the agent his lawyer’s number. Urkov later called the agent back and “gave an unsolicited example of how to hide drug money utilizing various mortgage and loan methods,” the agent wrote.

Urkov has denied this and other parts of the agent’s statement. He has not been charged with a crime, and both he and his attorney, David Kaufman, a partner with Thompson Coburn LLP in Chicago, said they are cooperating with investigators.

Medford Capital loans money to people for nonowner occupied residential and commercial real estate deals, Kaufman said.

Before lending money to a client, the company affirms that the loan is for commercial use, Urkov and Kaufman said. The process is different than a conventional homebuyer going to a bank for a loan. However, both said that court records eventually would show that the beneficiaries of the trust used to buy the Bull Valley home lied in paperwork required as part of the deal. Some of that paperwork already has turned up in a mortgage foreclosure suit. But from where we sit, there still are many unanswered questions.

The DEA report said documents found in the Bull Valley home showed that Soskin had $133,000 invested in Medford Capital Holds. Both Kaufman and Stuart said Soskin had not invested in the company and wasn’t in business with Urkov and his partners.

It seems unlikely that Soskin would be the type of person to be approved for a $450,000 loan when he was a convicted felon and jobless.

We question how the lender failed to spot these red flags.

Prosecutors now are fighting the lender for control of the mansion.

The McHenry County State’s Attorney’s Office moved to seize the mansion, but Medford Capital’s Medford Real Estate Fund I wants to foreclose on the home.

Kaufman said his client believes the property is worth more than $1 million. The lender’s goal is to get the property sold as quickly as possible so it can recoup its investment. He said prosecutors would “prefer to take the lead and have no one else involved.”

Regardless of what ends up happening with the house, we want to make sure everyone involved in this transaction did proper due diligence and acted within the law. And we want prosecutors to follow the money trail as far as it goes.

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