Sunday, March 12, 2006

Trustee Fuentes' boss, Buffalo Bill Lange

een surfin’. Once in a while I just type in “Tom Fuentes” and follow the trail. You could do a lot worse than spend time Googlin’ the Fuenster. Maybe. Well, probably not.

CARPAGE:

The Blogosphere—i.e., the world of blogs (daily web logs)—is pretty amazing and bewildering. Blogs, like TV shows and insects, appear and die in great numbers. This can leave an impression of utter chaos and hopelessness. A sensitive oldster like me is tempted to look away.

But no. Some blogs rise to the top and attain a large or loyal readership. Some of these blogs are fun and informative.

The blogosphere, as it concerns Orange County politics, has a few standouts. One of ‘em, I guess, is “Orange Juice,” which bills itself as “Orange County's source for political news & views, featuring comments from the right by Art Pedroza, and comments from the left by Claudio Gallegos.”

Back on February 7, Orange Juice's guy on the right, Art Pedroza, carped about our own Tom Fuentes. (The Reb turned me on to this.)

The upshot: that Fuentes (a) is taking money from one hopeless GOP hopeful in the race for the 47th Congressional District, (b) is doing a lousy job for that fool, and, in the process, (c) is essentially betraying a worthy GOP stalwart. Read and judge for yourself:

An anonymous blogger posted a comment on OC Blog today insinuating that Tan Nguyen, the former Democrat who is running in the GOP primary against Santa Ana School Board Member Rosie Avila, for the 47th Congressional District, paid Tom Fuentes to work on his campaign. I took the time to look up Nguyen's campaign filings, and sure enough he paid Fuentes a total of $10,000. However, the report is murky as to what Fuentes did to earn the money.

It turns out that Fuentes, the former Chair of the Republican Party of Orange County, is indeed acting as a senior adviser to Nguyen, according to Nguyen's latest mailer. You might recall that Nguyen has dedicated about $250,000 of his own money to his campaign. His latest filing indicates that he is now $57,000 in the hole. That's not good.

I already commented on Nguyen's first political mailer, and this week I received the follow-up, which announces Fuentes' connection to the Nguyen campaign. The funny thing is that the picture on the back of the slick, cardstock piece depicts Fuentes in all his glory--and the back of Nguyen's head. It is a photo taken at an appearance made by Congressman Tom Reynolds, who is displayed in profile. But poor Nguyen--all you see is one ear and his back. Well done Tom--at least you got yourself a little publicity, and $10,000 to boot.

What really galls me about all this is that Nguyen's Republican adversary, Avila, has been a lifelong good Republican soldier. Fuentes knows that but he is backing Nguyen because the latter has money, or rather he had money. Not so anymore, apparently.

...Nguyen has shown me, by virtue of his atrocious campaign mailers, that he is not ready for prime time. Even if he wins the primary, which is a stretch, he will be eaten alive by the incumbent, the inexecrable [sic] Loretta Sanchez. Shame on Fuentes for not being loyal to Avila, who has been such a solid Republican leader in the otherwise blue central county area. Her overwhelming success on the Santa Ana School Board makes her a much better candidate than Nguyen, who is just the latest of so many Republican "businessmen" to waste his money in a political campaign he cannot possibly win.

Jeez, this story reminds me of a another story goin’ round--about Fuentes’ (alleged) less-than-wholehearted “support” of Dave Lang’s (now non-existent) bid for the OC Treasurer gig. Have you heard it? If not, just ask around.

FUENTES' SPECIAL MAGNETISM:

checked out Trustee Fuentes’ bio on the district website. It informs us that he is "Senior Vice President of the LFC Group of Companies.”

So I looked up the LFC “group.” LFC is owned by one William Lange (the L is for "Lange"). The company arranges online auctions of real estate. Imagine that!

Apparently, LFC is doing very well. According to a news release (likely authored by LFC) that appeared on PRnewswire in January,

In a record setting online auction, a 200… acre parcel of real estate in South Florida is being auctioned with a record setting seller's suggested value of [$]80 Million USD. This mixed use property has the potential to attract a wide range of buyers both in the US and internationally, in what is believed to be the highest value online real estate auction of all time.” The auction is being conducted by “LFC Online.”

This Fuentes fella sure does have an interesting relation to big money. He’s like an iron filing in a world of Filthy Rich Magneto-Men.


BUFFALO BILL'S BEANS:

If you go to the LFC website (http://www.lfc.com/), you'll find a very odd “history” of the company. Inexplicably, the entire history is devoted to the tale of a “Buffalo Ranch” in Newport Beach. We’re told that

Until recently, this working ranch, located in the heart of Newport Beach, California, doubled as LFC’s corporate headquarters….

In 1986, after a 25-year absence, LFC’s founder, Bill Lange, reintroduced a herd of American bison, commonly called buffalo, to LFC’s Buffalo Ranch. The new herd included Scotty, our 2000-pound male, along with Wendy, Amanda and Patti. The Buffalo Ranch soon became a standard fixture on the elementary school circuit. After all, not every city has its own buffalo herd!!

Each summer LFC would invite its clients from throughout the United States and around the world to what became known simply as the “Buffalo Ranch Barbecue.” This one-day event became famous for its diverse group of guests. Chinese, Japanese, Mexicans, Canadians, Europeans and Americans would all show up in their best cowboy and cowgirl outfits to share a day of great country western music, good steaks and Bill’s Beans.

I’m not making this up, honest I'm not. If you take the online tour, you learn lots more about the history of the Buffalo Ranch:

...the Buffalo Ranch was used as a working part of the Irvine Ranch until 1954, when buffalo rancher Gene Clark opened it as a public attraction and imported over 100 head of buffalo to the 115-acre parcel of land….

Occupied in the 1970’s by the late famed architect William Pereira, a self-proclaimed "barn freak," the Buffalo Ranch red clapboard barn and buildings provided a tranquil and relaxed setting for Pereira, who renamed the ranch "Urbanus." From his office atop the silo, Pereira produced plans for UC Irvine and Fashion Island.
--Well, I guess that explains why so much bullshit emanates from UCI. But I digress:

From 1986 to 1994, The LFC Group of Companies made the Buffalo Ranch our headquarters…. Employees played volleyball on the back lawn, tended the bison, held western barbeques and enjoyed the rustic setting of Lange Financial Plaza.
--Do you suppose they were chewin' on their beloved buffalo? Figures.

Newport Beach provided the perfect setting for the bison to roam amid beautiful surroundings. When The Irvine Company announced plans to develop the adjacent property into condominiums and apartments, an outspoken contingent of Orange County residents took it to heart. Attempting to block the proposed development, they started a grass roots organization called "Friends of the Buffalo Ranch." The development ultimately received approval from the planning commission. Part of the barn structure was declared an historic site and was moved to the Orange County Fairgrounds.

The bison herd was donated to the Discovery Museum of Orange County and auctioned (naturally). Becky was donated to the Orange County Fairgrounds and is still visited today by Buffalo Bill [i.e., William Lange] and his family.

No, for the last time, I’m not making this up!


BUFFALO BILL'S WILD FRAUD SHOW

I Googled the name “William Lange” with “LFC” and I didn’t find much.

I did, however, find that, in 1997, Lange was sued by the government. Evidently, the Justice Department was convinced that “Buffalo Bill” was committing fraud in a very big way. A year after charges were filed, the matter was settled, and the defendants (including Buffalo Bill) admitted no wrongdoing.

The charges are amazing. You’ve really got to check this out. I tell you, this "fraud" yarn is like an episode of Knott’s Landing! Picture Buffalo Bill as William Devane and his wife as Donna Mills.

The tale is told on the website for the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation’s (FDIC) news releases [News Release]:

FDIC PRESS RELEASE:

SETTLEMENT OF LAWSUIT AGAINST FORMER FDIC AND RTC CONTRACTORS

The suit described in PR-49-97 (7-18-97) [see below] was settled by an agreement between the United States Department of Justice, William W. Lange, Alisha A. Jensen Lange, Lange Financial Corporation, Asset Clearinghouse, Inc., and Richard H.W. Bennett, executed by all parties on November 13, 1998. That agreement contains a statement that it does not constitute an admission of liability or an admission of the truth, substantial merit or validity of any previously disputed claim or factual assertion.

[The site next presents what appears to be an earlier press release [from 7/18/97?]:

THREE FORMER FDIC AND RTC CONTRACTORS SUED IN MULTI-MILLION DOLLAR FRAUD CASE

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

FDIC Inspector General Gaston L. Gianni, Jr., announced today that the Justice Department filed suit July 15 against three California residents charging them with fraud that resulted in nearly $3.6 million in profits from contracts issued by the FDIC and the former Resolution Trust Corporation (RTC) to auction assets.

This case is the result of an ongoing investigation by the FDIC Office of Inspector General. The defendants named in the lawsuit are:

• William W. Lange of Corona Del Mar
• Alisha A. Jensen Lange (William Lange's wife) of Corona Del Mar, and
• Richard H.W. Bennett of Yorba Linda. Mr. Bennett is a certified public accountant and the brother-in-law of Alisha Lange.

The civil complaint, filed pursuant to the False Claims Act, alleges that the defendants fraudulently acquired contracts and overbilled the two agencies for work performed. The three were allegedly responsible for more than 2,500 false claims submitted to the FDIC and the RTC.

In the scheme outlined in the lawsuit, Ms. Lange owned "on paper" a sham company called LFC Real Estate Clearinghouse, Inc. (LFCREC). The company in fact was created, owned and operated by her husband, William Lange. The Langes improperly certified that LFCREC was woman-owned, enabling the firm to obtain lucrative government contracts. Those contracts, procured from 1992 through 1994, called for the LFCREC to auction property for the FDIC and the RTC that the agencies had acquired from failed financial institutions.

According to the lawsuit, LFCREC fraudulently obtained contracts to perform more than a dozen auctions in California, Texas, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Connecticut and New Jersey. The shell company was paid more than $1 million in commissions, approximately one percent of the assets sold. LFCREC was also reimbursed more than $2.5 million for expenses the firm claimed to have incurred in connection to the auctions.

The civil complaint alleges that LFCREC was a shell company for Lange Financial Corporation, a Newport Beach firm that is one of the largest auctioneers in the country with several subsidiaries. In addition to falsely stating that LFCREC was woman-owned, LFCREC allegedly hired subsidiaries of Lange Financial to perform auction-related work and failed to disclose that the subsidiaries were "related companies." The subsidiaries purportedly overbilled for services, including charging the government $80 per hour for work that cost $24 per hour. Mr. Bennett allegedly prepared and submitted "padded" bills to the FDIC and RTC.

Under federal law, the Langes and Mr. Bennett are potentially liable for damages of up to three times the nearly $3.6 million paid to LFCREC, and up to $10,000 in fines for each of the more than 2,500 alleged false claims. The Financial Institutions Reform, Recovery, and Enforcement Act of 1989 (FIRREA) provides an additional $5 million penalty for making false statements designed to influence the RTC and the FDIC.

Like I said, it’s essentially an episode of Knott’s Landing.

And our Tom Fuentes is the Senior VP of Buffalo Bill (Devane) Lange’s LFC.


Why does this make so much sense? I am filled with calm and a profound sense of understanding.

Be likewise.

7 comments:

  1. Wait, wait! Is this the same Tom Fuentes who criticized faculty for their salaries?

    It seems to me that guys like Fuentes make their $$ by getting their pals to give them overblown titles and overblown salaries. I see a group of fellas standing in a circle with checkbooks - gives a new meaning to the term "cricle jerk," doesn't it?

    From outside the circle, it operates like some kind of high class shell game with innocent gullible losers like that Nguyen guy getting taken for 10,000 buckeroos.

    Ain't it grand?

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  2. Do you mean to say Chunk that Tom Fuentes is not holier than thou?

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  3. Buffalo Bill is waaaay cuter in HBO's Deadwood.

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  4. I'm shocked, shocked to find gambling going on in this establishment!

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  5. This shouldn't surprise anybody.

    Look at what they're doing to the country, nay the world, at large.

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  6. Remind me: why is this man on our Board of Trustees????

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