Saturday, October 23, 2010

Title Agent Gets 34 Months For $800K+ Real Estate Escrow, Closing Cash Ripoff

From the Office of the U.S. Attorney (Minneapolis, Minnesota):

  • A 61-year-old Alexandria man was sentenced [...] in federal court in Minneapolis on charges connected to a scheme to defraud mortgage lenders and others out of more than $800,000. United States District Court Judge Joan N. Ericksen sentenced Dale Charles Dodge, Jr., to 34 months in prison on one count of wire fraud and one count of engaging in a monetary transaction with property derived from unlawful activity, commonly referred to as money laundering. Dodge was indicted on September 15, 2009, and pleaded guilty on May 12, 2010.

  • In his plea agreement, Dodge admitted that from 2002 through 2005, he operated a title closing company under the names Premier Title & Abstract, Inc., and Verity Title & Abstract. [...] The plea agreement goes on to state that between 2002 and 2005, Dodge executed a scheme to defraud mortgage lenders and others out of large sums of money by diverting loan proceeds from the escrow account at his title company. The money was used for his personal benefit as well as the benefit of his company and others involved in the scheme. [...] Furthermore, Dodge admitted concealing those actions from his title insurer and mortgage lenders as well as from property sellers and purchasers.

  • Dodge’s fraud scheme caused losses of more than $800,000. Approximately $844.561.60 is owed to one specific mortgage lender, who mistakenly deposited money into Dodge’s escrow account. An additional amount is owed to First American Title Insurance Company, Dodge’s title insurer, which was required under law to pay certain outstanding escrow obligations for which Dodge was unable to pay.(1)

For the U.S. Attorney press release, see Alexandria man sentenced for $800,000 mortgage-fraud scheme.

(1) In Minnesota, those who have been screwed out of money due to the fraudulent, deceptive or dishonest practices of, or conversion of trust funds by, a state-licensed closing agent (or state-licensed real estate broker or salesperson) can apply to the Minnesota Department of Commerce's Real Estate Education, Research and Recovery Fund to try and recover some or all of their losses. According to their website:

  • The improper action that was committed must be an activity that required a license,
  • Applicants may be awarded any amount from $0 to $150,000, depending on a number of factors.

According to the Fund's website, there is no guarantee that a claim will be paid. Whether an applicant will receive payment from the fund depends on the specific facts of the case.

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