Monday, May 14, 2007

State's real estate agent charged with soliciting kickback

The real estate agent hired by the state to sell a $30 million Madison office building was charged Thursday with asking a bidder for a $75,000 kickback and revealing confidential bid information.

Larry J. Lupton, a vice president for UGL Equis Corp., got hit with federal charges of wire fraud and corruptly soliciting an improper payment. He faces up to 30 years in prison and a fine of $500,000. He is expected to make his first court appearance within 30 days.

See the release from the U.S. attorney's office:
http://www.wispolitics.com/1006/070510DOJEquis.pdf

Equis has an exclusive listing agreement with the Department of Administration to sell its building at 101 E. Wilson St. According to the U.S. attorney's office, Lupton sought up to $75,000 in kickbacks from a potential bidder and then revealed to the bidder secret bid amounts from other parties seeking to buy the building.

The potential bidder notified authorities and worked with the FBI and State Division of Criminal Investigation to secretly record conversations with Lupton, who works in the Brookfield office of Equis. The FBI and DCI executed a search warrant at the office. The Department of Administration has formally noticed UGL Equis that it is moving to terminate a deal with the company. The state Department of Regulation and Licensing is also looking at whether to take action against Lupton.

Equis signed a deal in 2004 to help the state identify surplus property to sell. Some have questioned the terms of the state's deal with Equis, including a commission rate of 4 percent, which is about twice the normal rate for transactions of this size, according to some brokers.

DOA spokeswoman Linda Barth said the state hasn't sold any of the property Equis has so far identified, though two parcels have been approved for sale by the Building Commission. The state has paid Equis $2.9 million to date, she said, and is assessing the opportunities to recoup damages. Barth said investigators notified the state two weeks ago about its investigation. "We cooperated with them," Barth said.

The contract has also been under scrutiny because Equis employees from Illinois and Colorado donated $17,500 to Doyle's campaign in 2005.

See DOA Secretary Morgan's statement:
http://www.wispolitics.com/index.iml?Article=95632

See the DOA notice to Equis:
http://www.wispolitics.com/1006/Equis___Notice_of_Termination_5.11.07.pdf

See DOA spreadsheets of properties for sale through Equis:
http://www.wispolitics.com/1006/Fee_Structure_summary__4_5_.xls

See a list of Equis donations:
http://www.opensecrets.org/wdc/employerdetail.asp?name=Equis+Corp

State Sen. Ted Kanavas, R-Brookfield, is calling on fellow Republican and AG J.B. Van Hollen to investigate the Doyle administration's procurement process following the charges against Lupton.

See the Kanavas release:
http://www.wispolitics.com/index.iml?Article=95626

Lupton did not immediately return a call from WisPolitics to his Brookfield office. Company spokeswoman Christine Petersen gave this brief statement. "The only thing I can tell you is that we are fully cooperating with the FBI, and that's the only comment I can make right now." Petersen declined to say whether Lupton was still employed by Equis.

See a brief career bio for Lupton from the UGL Equis Corp. site:
http://www.equiscorp.com/people/person.cfm?pid=218

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