Thursday, July 14, 2011

Escrow Agency Operator Gets 24 Months For Ripping Off $5.3M+ In Title Insurance Premiums, Closing Costs From Thousands Of Real Estate Closings

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

  • [A] 42-year-old Golden Valley man was sentenced for stealing money in a mortgage fraud scheme. United States District Court Judge Ann D. Montgomery sentenced Trent Christopher Jonas to 24 months in prison on one count of wire fraud and one count of money laundering. In addition, Jonas was ordered to pay more than $5.3 million in restitution. Jonas was charged on November 22, 2010, and pleaded guilty on December 30, 2010.

  • In his plea agreement, Jonas admitted that from June of 2005 through August of 2007, he misappropriated more than $5.3 million that was intended to pay for title insurance premiums, title search costs and recording fees in connection with thousands of residential real estate mortgage financing transactions.


  • Jonas owned and operated Title Source, Ltd. and Zen Title, two title insurance agencies. Both agencies acted as an insurance agent for Ticor Title Insurance Co., a title insurance underwriting company located in Florida, which is a subsidiary of Fidelity National Financial and United General Title Insurance Co.


  • Ticor Title has now issued title insurance policies for all homeowners whose premiums went unpaid because of defendant's fraud. Ticor Title has also paid all of the recording fees that went unpaid because of defendant's fraud, which total more approximately $2.3 million. In addition, Ticor has paid more than $1.8 million in expenses and losses on claims related to Title Source’s and Zen Title’s failure to issue policies and record documents.

For the U.S. Attorney press release, see Golden Valley man sentenced for stealing mortgage title insurance proceeds.

(1) Those who have been screwed out of money due to the fraudulent, deceptive or dishonest practices, or conversion of trust funds by a Minnesota closing agent, or 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.

See also, State Recovery Fund To Cough Up $116K+ To Compensate Elderly Victim Of Bogus Sale Leaseback Equity Stripping Scam Involving Licensed Real Estate Agent for a story on how this fund ponied up what was reported as the largest compensation payout from the Minnesota real estate recovery fund in 13 years to an 87-year old woman who was victimized by a licensed real estate agent in a real estate equity ripoff that stripped an elderly womans's title to her home of fifty years.

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