‘Scoop’ stole from clients, cops say
Vail, CO Colorado
BRECKENRIDGE ” Police suspect missing attorney Royal “Scoop” Daniel III stole more than $500,000 from his clients before disappearing 13 days ago, an allegation that has shocked friends of the well-known Breckenridge man.
An arrest warrant was issued for Daniel, 61, on Tuesday evening for suspicion of class 3 felony theft.
“The more that we have looked into this case and the more that we have done, what we’re finding is there is evidence … that Mr. Daniel was involved in criminal activity,” Breckenridge Police Chief Rick Holman said at a Wednesday press conference that was swarming with Denver media outlets and Breckenridge community members
Police don’t know Daniel’s whereabouts and nothing has led them to believe he has left the country, Holman said.
According to the arrest warrant affidavit, Daniel allegedly took the money from clients he assisted with 1031 Real Estate Exchanges, which allow people to defer capital gains taxes when they sell a property. The sale money is held in a trust until the client is ready to make another purchase. As a qualified intermediary for 1031 exchanges, Daniel had access to clients’ trust accounts between real estate transactions.
Former client Gene Gregory of Franktown told police that Daniel handled a 1031 exchange for him last year, and that he gave Daniel $254,000 to place into a trust account. When Gregory approached Daniel about retrieving his money, Daniel said it was gone.
“Royal Daniel told Gregory he was in $300,000 of debt, and he had been using 1031 money from client trust accounts to pay off his debts,” the warrant said.
Daniel said he would pay the money back as soon as he could collect more 1031 money, and eventually repaid Gregory all but $8,500 of what he owed him.
The state Supreme Court’s attorney regulation office moved to suspend Daniel’s law license on Tuesday.
Since Daniel disappeared on April 27, seven of his clients have told police he should be holding their 1031 money. Figures obtained from four of those people indicate Daniel should have $561,571.25, the affidavit said. There is a balance of $229,820.67 between 10 bank accounts in Daniel’s name or his law firm, the affidavit said.
“We anticipate identifying more victims in this case, which could lead to more criminal filings on Mr. Daniel,” Holman said.
District Attorney Mark Hurlbert said his office hasn’t filed charges against Daniel yet, but will contemplate doing so in the next several weeks.
Daniel’s passport, which he renewed last December with the explanation of “travel in late April 2007,” has not been found, the affidavit said.
A 1979 Kawasaki motorcycle he owns is also missing.
Friends have speculated that Daniel fled to Brazil, where he once had clients and traveled to often. He still has friends there and speaks Portuguese fluently.
Close friend and former law partner J.B. Katz said there’s no extradition treaty between the U.S. and Brazil, meaning law enforcement agents couldn’t bring him back to the states to face charges.
“There’s no reason not to go there, it’s where he loves,” Katz said.
Katz said she was shocked at the allegations against Daniel and was disappointed in him for leaving his friends and families wondering about his well-being.
Cindi Krane, the church administrator at Father Dyer Church where Daniel was actively involved, was one of about 60 locals who showed up to listen to Wednesday’s press conference.
Krane saw Daniel at a fundraiser the night before his disappearance and said she didn’t notice anything out of the ordinary about it. All along, Krane said she’s believed Daniel was abducted, until the new information began to surface.
“What I find fascinating about Scoop is if indeed he has taken off and stolen this money from people what an interesting combination of traits that he has because he helped so many people. He did so much for free. It just makes you think the pieces of the puzzle don’t fit together,” Krane said referring to pro bono immigration work Daniel was known to do.
State judicial regulators have moved to revoke Daniel’s license. John Gleason, a lawyer for the state Supreme Court’s attorney regulation office, said he believed more missing money would likely be reported.
“My concern is that it will be as high as $1 million,” said Gleason, whose office began investigating over the weekend.
Daniel is a divorced father of eight children. His family issued a brief statement through their attorney on Wednesday, saying in part: “The family of Royal Daniel is saddened by the allegations against him. We continue to be concerned for his safety.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.