LLC says it’s an ‘innocent owner’ of Fryingpan retreat caught up in alleged tax-evasion scheme
Indicted Houston tycoon Robert Brockman’s assets reportedly include a luxury yacht and private jet, but a fishing retreat in the upper Fryingpan River Valley isn’t one of them, an attorney argued in a recent court filing.
The “true owner” of the property, rather, is Henke Property LLC, which has leased the fishing ranch to Brockman in the past, argued Denver attorney Cliff Stricklin in an answer to the government’s civil forfeiture action to seize the real estate.
“Henke admits that Brockman made annual lease payments to Henke for use of 121 Ash Road, and Brockman frequently used the property during the summer,” according to the 20-page document introduced June 30 in Denver federal court.
The feds have contended Brockman, an avid angler, controls the ranch’s ownership. Brockman, 80, was indicted in October for tax concealment. He has pleaded not guilty to all 39 charges including wire fraud and money laundering associated with an alleged $2 billion tax-evasion scheme.
“The property is titled in the name of Henke Property, LLC,” Internal Revenue Service special agent Ted Lair wrote in the March 10 forfeiture filing. “Henke Property, LLC, on paper, is 100% owned by Henke Holdings, LLC. Both entities were formed in Colorado on September 7, 2005, at the direction of Brockman.”
Henke’s answer last week to the complaint, however, employed what’s called the “innocent owner defense,” arguing the LLC was unaware of any illicit activity by Brockman, which should remove it from legal exposure such as a property seizure.
“Henke is without knowledge or information sufficient to admit or deny the allegation that both entities were formed at the direction of Robert Brockman, and on that basis, denies the allegation,” the answer said.
Henke acquired the property for $5 million in December 2010 and put another $10 million in capital improvements including a new fishing lodge and guest residence.
That’s not a point of contention between the government and Henke, which are at odds on how the property was bought and improved and who actually acquired it.
“Henke admits that it purchased 121 Ash Road for $5,000,000 and made improvements to the property totaling at least $10,000,000,” the answer said. “Henke is without knowledge or information sufficient to admit or deny the allegation that fraud proceeds were used in the purchase of, and improvements to, 121 Ash Road, and on that basis, denies the allegation.”
Prosecutors have contended Brockman funneled payments of $250,000 and $4.7 million through a Bermuda bank account to buy the Fryingpan property.
Another $10.55 million in wire transfers were made from May 2011 through August 2014, also through the Bermuda account, into a Wells Fargo account controlled by Henke LLC, the complaint said.
The complaint also identified Aspen accountant Carl Linnecke as Henke’s representative who worked with other Brockman aides to incorporate the LLC. The answer denied that Linnecke helped form the LLC.
“The main purpose of acquiring this property was to restore the land to facilitate good fishing for Brockman,” the complaint said, noting that Evatt Tamine, who managed various Brockman-controlled entities, “would provide instructions on this property to Carl Linnecke and funnel questions from Linnecke up through Brockman.”
The complaint continued, “This evidence all demonstrates that Brockman is the true owner of defendant 121 Ash Road, but he makes annual lease payments to Henke Property, LLC for use of the property.”
The complaint also said Linnecke manages Brockman’s home in east Aspen, which is titled under Mountain Queen Inc., which acquired the property for $9.15 million in March 2003, according to the Pitkin County Assessor’s Office. The Aspen home currently is not subject to the forfeiture action.
Both Linnecke and Stricklin, Henke’s attorney, did not respond to telephone messages Wednesday.
Meanwhile, attorneys for Brockman have argued that he has dementia and is not able to help in his defense. A competency hearing is scheduled for September, according to Bloomberg News.