NC Mortgage Scam Engulfs Dan Meier, Robinson Secondary Principal

I only heard about this yesterday at the bus stop…and it sounds like it could it get bad.

Principal Dan Meier of Robinson Secondary and his brother Thomas, principal at Langley HS in McLean, were participants in what might be the biggest mortgage fraud scam in the history of the state of North Carolina. The Meier brothers offered testimonials and got fellow educators to purchase plots of land at $25K each.

Daniel Meier, principal at Fairfax’s Robinson Secondary School, and his brother Thomas Meier, principal at McLean’s Langley High School, worked with a former student, Mark Dain, to motivate investors to pay artificially inflated prices for land in coastal North Carolina at the height of the housing boom, according to a lawsuit brought by the investors. Dain was a co-founder of the now defunct Total Realty Management, based out of Woodbridge.

The company purchased subdivisions worth approximately $150,000 before turning around and selling them for double and sometimes triple that figure, according to the complaint. The Meier brothers allegedly offered “testimonials” on the scheme’s success before crowds that often included teachers and colleagues. The sales were manipulated through “sham transactions” and multiple misrepresentations, according to the complaint filed in January in a Virginia federal court.

A lawyer for the plaintiffs in the lawsuit said the FBI had begun a criminal probe into the deals. FBI spokespersons in D.C. and North Carolina could not confirm whether the case has expanded to TRM.

This whole thing could get really ugly. In fact, if this post by a long graduated Robinson student is any indication, ugly barely begins to cover how bad it will be.  Here is the full Fairfax Underground comment section-again, ugly barely begins to cover…

In North Carolina, the story has political implications:

The case has garnered huge headlines in North Carolina as a federal grand jury investigated various allegations including whether former North Carolina Gov. Mike Easley got a sweetheart deal on waterfront property and helped green-light permits for the project.

In my neck of the woods, it is a question of who is teaching our children, and should they be?

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5 thoughts on “NC Mortgage Scam Engulfs Dan Meier, Robinson Secondary Principal

  1. Pingback: NC Mortgage Scam Engulfs Dan Meier, Robinson Secondary Principal … School’s Rate

  2. Thanks for linking, but I want to make sure this is clear.

    Dan Meier has filed for bankruptcy and has defaulted on any claims from the lawsuit. The judge in the Alexandria Court decision has dismissed the initial charges, citing lack of evidence for a claim and stating that the investors should have been aware that they were taking a risk.

    http://valawyersweekly.com/vlwblog/files/2009/09/feeley-opinion.pdf

    Come the November trial, I do believe the people at TRM should be held accountable. But as far as Dan Meier goes, I think the local media has gone too far in making him out to be a top schemer in this whole situation.

    In the comments section of my post, an acquaintance of Meier’s described the referral process. He says it wasn’t pushy and there were several moments where investors had an opportunity to rethink the deal, which had made people money in the past.

    I’m not defending TRM in general. Frankly, I think any realty business that requires a testimonial speaker to motivate investors is pretty fishy. But I want to make sure that people are rationally concluding that there was a lot more at work here than two high school principals pulling the wool over innocent investors’ eyes. It’s just simply not that simple.

  3. Am I missing something? People involved in selling real estate convinced people to buy real estate. Where is the crime? Was anyone forced to buy something? Isn’t the point of selling a house/real estate to get as much money as the market is willing to pay for it? I am TOTALLY lost on the accusations here.

  4. false land valuations and mortgage fraud…and for extra flavor teachers being sold on purchasing land they are told is worth far more than actually worth by school principals they know.

  5. I know this is a very old post, but Dan Meier is still on the public payroll at Robinson, so here goes…

    I think people are missing the point. Besides just investing in a bad land deal himself, for which he should have done more due diligence to see how the markets were changing in that area, Dan Meier willingly spoke publicly at forums on behalf of TRM and the land deals. Yes, warnings were included and yes, people had a right to not pursue the risky investment, which land almost always is (I write this as a commercial real estate investor myself). But the point is that the former student contacted Meier and got him to speak BECAUSE OF HIS POSITION AS A PUBLIC FIGURE AT A VERY LARGE SUBURBAN SCHOOL. He used the credibility that he had garnered in that publicly-funded job to gain the trust of potential investors. He was not just any individual — he is a public figure, and is there because he is an employee. As such, I think the school board failed in its responsibility to at least look into the situation (if they didn’t do so) and at the very least, express its disapproval that an FCPS employee, especially one of the most prominent employees of a 4,500 student school (or thereabouts; I’m a Robinson alum as well, from the first graduating classes). Meier has been placed in a position of trust, and he is a public figure by any definition. Thus, in my view, he violated that trust and he should have apologized to the board, the Superintendent, and most importantly, the community and Robinson parents and students. This was, in effect, outside employment, and if there is no current ban on senior staff having outside employment, there should be, and that ban should include things like as within that scope. That is a standard practice within private and public sector (Federal) levels, and it is there for a reason.

    Another reason that he should be disciplined is that hemanaged to bring notice of the “deal” to a number of current Robinson staff, all of whom report to him. That is very inappropriate for him to have done and at the very least, it shows poor judgment on his part. He clearly did damage to his working relationship with a number of staff who, having bought land or had colleagues do so and then lost it, they then saw Meier’s role in the “scheme” and how that influenced their participation (it brought them in because they trusted him, or they figured he wouldn’t make the investment himself unless it was “a sure thing,”, etc. Thus, their working environment and relationship has been damaged, and in some cases, irreperably. Clearly that should draw the Board’s attention.

    Let me address something specifically that Meier’s supporters repeatedly point to in his defense. What happened in court, where the judge threw the case out (and rightly so) because the specifics of the allegation were wrong, does not make him innocent. It simply means the actual areas of guilt about which I write were not appropriately brought in a court of law. His actions should have been dealt with in another venue entirely, as I assert here.

    When one holds events and speaks openly in an effort to bring in investors, one’s efforts might fall under the oversight of the Federal regulators, including the Securities and Exchange Commission. I’d have to know more about the specific deal, such as whether they were raising funds to pool together to buy property, or whether each individual was being asked to buy their own lot(s). That would make a difference there. But you see how quickly doing things like this can get you in trouble? From reading Dan Meier’s son’s description of his father’s actions, it seems clear that Dan was going into this investment without much of a background. (He also claimed that others asked him about the land deals, but how would they have known enough to ask if Meier had not told them at least that he made money doing some investment; it didn’t fall from the sky. Thus, that strikes one as too clever by half. You either told them about it, or they discerned it magically themselves, and the latter defies belief.) Given that lack of experience and knowledge, why would anyone trust him other than that he had gained their trust through his current position as a public-funded employee? That holds him to a higher level, or at least it should. Finally, with regard to SEC rules, the government has rules that limit the types of people who can be brought into these kinds of investments. There’s a reason for allowing only “qualified investors” to participate in this investments. Qualified investors are people who have significant annual income (several hundred thousand dollars, at a minimum), and/or current assets in the millions. In other words, “qualified investors” can handle a loss like these investors experienced. I bet Dan Meier didn’t know that, but he should have and that he even had an obligation to know that. Even if they were buying the lots separately from TRM and were not pooled together, TRM and Meier (representing TRM and speaking on their behalf) should have only shared the investment with actual “qualified investors” according to the legal definition. At least that would not have caused such a destructive uproar among faculty and staff who lost their own money in the land deals.

    As a Robinson alum from its first days, and a former Robinson parent, I think the school has been damaged by allowing Meier and life to go on as if nothing wrong was done. His actions were inappropriate, given the role of trust he holds as the principal of this large school. He got that because of his job; he didn’t have that simply because of who he is. in the same way that we don’t want public figures such as Congressmen and Cabinet Secretaries and county sheriffs and the like gaining personally because of the public job they hold, we should not allow Meier to put himself in that position either. We have forced persons like that to retire from their jobs just because they wrote a book that earned them a lot of money, which they only got because of the public role they held. (Think of former Speakers Jim Wright and Newt Gingrich, both ousted.) That’s much less of a violation than what Meier did. I’m not inclined to think that allowing him to continue in that significant role is enough, given the depth and breadth of his actions. He earned commissions every time he got someone to make the investment into vacant land. He spoke about the investment opportunity to other staff during school hours and on school grounds. He gained personally, and that he lost money, too, along the way is irrelevant to this situation. He should have kept his investment ideas to himself, and just focused on educating our children, which is a much more important investment we had already entrusted to him, a trust that he has broken.

    Robinson alum and former parent

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