A prominent Breckenridge lawyer missing for more than a week may have fled to Brazil, and authorities are trying to account for money that he controlled, according to two sources close to the investigation into his disappearance.
One source said between $1 million and $1.5 million of money from several property sales is unaccounted for.
Breckenridge police are expected to issue an arrest warrant for Royal "Scoop" Daniel III as early as Wednesday, the sources said.
Daniel, 61, was last seen in his Breckenridge law office, located at 130 Ski Hill Road, early the morning of April 27. Later that day, after Daniel missed appointments, his office staff called police.
They found his glasses broken on the floor of his office, near one of his favorite pens, but no sign of the popular attorney. His beloved Golden Retriever, Ben — identified on his law firm's website as his "official greeter" — was also in the office, as were his keys. His car was parked outside.
The state Supreme Court's Office of Attorney Regulation Counsel, which regulates lawyers in the state, has filed a petition for Daniel's immediate suspension today to protect the public, said John Gleason, the head of the regulation office.
Breckenridge Police Chief Rick Holman declined to comment on the status of the investigation this afternoon.
One source said investigators had many questions about how Daniel handled his clients' money. A forensic auditor was brought in to examine the accounts that Daniel controlled or to which he had access.
Another source said investigators were trying to locate between $1 million and $1.5 million that was generated by a series of real estate transactions known as "1031 exchanges" or "like-kind exchanges." Also known as "Starker exchanges," the sales are governed by section 1031 of the Internal Revenue Service code. They allow real estate investors to sell property and defer paying capital gains taxes by rolling the money into a new purchase within six months.
The exchanges are common, and the primary requirement is that the new piece of property cost as much, or more, as the one that was sold. But they do not have to be similar — and investor can sell a condominium complex and buy a warehouse, for example.
The law requires that the second purchase be made within 180 days of the sale.
Daniel acted as a fiduciary — the person who controlled the money between the transactions — in several recent sales, one of the sources said.
The website for Daniel's firm includes a section explaining his expertise in hanlding 1031 exchanges: "The Daniel Law Firm LLC is experienced and capable in acting as a Qualified Intermediary for taxpayers for so long as they are not already clients of the firm."
A divorced father of eight children, Daniel was well known in Breckenridge. He has been a memmber of Father Dyer United Methodist Church and sang in the choir. Friends said the lawyer often had financial problems because he didn't like to charge clients for work. He's also been known to help West Africans who work in the community obtain legal residency, and he has volunteered with a jail inmate ministry.
Daniel's disappearance sparked a massive search involving at least 100 volunteers who joined about 30 members of the Summit County Rescue Group. But neither they, nor bloodhounds, found any sign of him.
However, friends noted in the days after he vanished that he loved Brazil.
"He said many times that if he disappeared he'd go to Brazil," said Nancy Lovell, a former girlfriend, told the Summit Daily News.
Holman, the police chief, would not answer questions about Daniel, his whereabouts, or the status of the investigation.
"We are doing everything we can think of, and I think we owe that to the community, and we owe that to Mr. Daniel," Holman said. "Not for one minute do we think we have all the answers."