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Pipe bursts in home of Bull Valley couple charged with drug trafficking

BULL VALLEY – A 17,000-square-foot mansion where police found
350 pounds of marijuana in May is going to pot, lawyers fighting for control of the property said.

Attorneys for the lending company fear that the value of the Bull Valley home at the center of a large-scale drug investigation could take a hit from a burst pipe and subsequent water damage. The damage came after the lender repeatedly had asked local judges for permission to winterize the home to protect it.

Medford Real Estate Fund I, which loaned money to the trust that bought the property, filed an emergency motion Friday seeking control of the property at 1001 N. Cherry Valley Road. Lawyers said the pipe burst during the recent cold snap, causing about $100,000 in damages, according to the motion.

McHenry County Judge Michael Chmiel granted that motion Tuesday, and he appointed Newpoint Advisors Corp. to look after the property in the meantime, said Todd Rowden, an attorney representing Medford.

“All of this was preventable, had the state’s attorney cooperated in a request that benefited everybody,” Rowden said Wednesday.

David A. Soskin, 43, bought the home and 35-acre property for $800,000 in December 2016 through a trust after receiving a $450,000 mortgage from Medford. Lawyers for the financing company claim that Soskin and his fiancée, 26-year-old Jamie M. Lee, were living in the home instead of fixing it up to flip it. Soskin and Lee both face charges of marijuana trafficking, possession of marijuana with intent to deliver and possession of marijuana.

Lee, who is out on bond while her case is pending, discovered the water leak when she went to the home, possibly to pick up mail, Rowden said.

Lee had been going to the house two to three times a week to get personal items, but she was not living there, Soskin’s attorney, Nicholas Giordano, said at a Jan. 5 court hearing.

“The heat is on, the electricity is on, so the house is secured up,” Giordano said. “[Lee] is not living there, but the house is in a secure mode as we stand here today.”

Rowden, however, told McHenry County Judge Robert Wilbrandt that insurance at the property had been canceled, and Medford needed access for an inspection to get replacement insurance coverage.

Giordano and McHenry County prosecutors objected to Rowden’s plan at the Jan. 5 hearing.

Rowden also told the judge that access to the home was needed to make sure it was properly maintained and prepared for the stretch of below-freezing, single-digit temperatures.

At the time, Wilbrandt refused to rule on any aspect of the case until McHenry County Judge Sharon Prather, who has presided over the case, returned from being out sick, or until he could better familiarize himself with the facts.

“I have not read any of the documentation. I have not yet read any of the briefs. I think it would be a disservice to everyone if I ruled on this case without reading things,” Wilbrandt said. “I don’t like to rule on anything without reading it, OK?”

He set the next court date for Jan. 26.

Rowden challenged the judge’s decision, arguing that the house was at risk of being damaged until it was winterized.

“We’ve got 5-degree-below-zero temperatures out there,” Rowden said. “By Jan. 26, if that property isn’t heated, it’s going to be too late to save hundreds – potentially hundreds of thousands – of dollars of damage that a simple inspection would allow us all to report to you is fine. I don’t know how that could possibly be unreasonable or not something that could be accommodated to our client, given these additional delays.”

Attorneys representing Medford and the McHenry County State’s Attorney’s Office have been tied up in ongoing disputes since June about who should have legal rights to the property. The state’s attorney’s office sought to seize the property as proceeds from criminal activity after the drug bust in May. Medford is fighting that and trying to foreclose on the property so it can be sold and the company can recoup its investment.

If prosecutors can prove that the home was bought with drug money, it could be sold off, with the proceeds going to local and state law enforcement and government agencies.

For now, Medford will have to pay out-of-pocket for any potential repairs.

On Jan. 10, the fire department was called to the home, where it found water flowing from the second floor, according to court records.

Although the leak was stopped, no additional repairs had been completed at the house as of Wednesday evening. Possible repairs include plowing the driveway; having heating, ventilation and air conditioning work done; and addressing plumbing issues, Rowden said.

Newpoint has until Jan. 30 to inspect the home and file a report of its findings in McHenry County court, according to Chmiel’s order.

Giordano did not return phone calls seeking comment, and Lee’s attorney, Philip Prossnitz, could not be reached Wednesday.

The case will resume Feb. 13, at which point a judge could approve Newpoint’s report.

Medford Real Estate Fund I LLC is owned by Medford Capital LLC, a real estate company run by Stuart Urkov, Luke Wojtaski and Michael Kaufman. The fund lends money to people who flip properties in northeastern Illinois and southeastern Wisconsin.

Soskin’s arrest led to scrutiny of his dealings with Medford. A Drug Enforcement Administration agent reported that Urkov “gave an unsolicited example of how to hide drug money” during a routine phone call. The DEA agent further claimed in court records to have found evidence that the accused drug dealer was an investor in the real estate financing company.

Urkov previously denied this and several other parts of the agent’s statement in an interview with the Northwest Herald in June. Urkov has not been charged with a crime.

In addition to the mansion, prosecutors are trying to seize cash found in the house and in various bank accounts, 18 TVs and a number of vehicles, including a firetruck.

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