Thursday, November 10, 2011

Feds Score Guilty Verdict As Title Agency Owner Goes Down On RICO Charges; Co-Defendant Who Pocketed Kickbacks Cops Plea, Cooperates w/ Prosecutors

In Cleveland, Ohio, the Plain Dealer reports:

  • A jury yesterday found 34-year-old title company owner Donna Sherman guilty of corrupt activity, theft by deception, money laundering, tampering with records and telecommunications fraud -- a total of 23 counts.

  • Sherman Title Agency was convicted of the same crimes. It's the first case in which a Cuyahoga County jury found the owner and title company guilty under RICO, the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act.

  • Sherman, of Middleburg Heights, will be sentenced Dec. 1 by Judge Jose Villanueva for fraudulently closing $1.4 million in loans from People's Choice Home Loans to sell 21 houses in Cuyahoga County between 2002 and 2005. Seventeen of the homes fell into tax or mortgage foreclosure.

  • The fraudulent activity began when Sherman worked as an escrow officer for Titles, Etc. in 2002 and 2003. She started her company the following year. Titles, Etc. and one of its owners, Mitchel Petti, were found guilty in January after a bench trial.

  • Sherman received down-payment kickbacks upon closing the homes. And she sent documents to the sellers that showed actual purchase prices, while sending documents to People's Choice that showed higher prices. People's Choice issued the loans at the higher prices.

  • Sherman gave the kickbacks to co-defendant Fred Loewinger, who testified against her after pleading guilty to corrupt activity, money laundering, theft and tampering with records. He is serving six years in prison.

  • The case was investigated by the Cleveland office of the FBI and resulted in a 46-count indictment against her and 37 counts against her company.

Source: Middleburg Heights woman guilty of mortgage fraud, pattern of corrupt activity that led to 17 foreclosed homes.

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