Monday, May 21, 2012

Title Agent Pinched In $500K+ Escrow Ripoff That Left Ref'ncing Out-Of-State Couple In F'closure; Insurance Underwriter Steps Up To Make Victims Whole

From the Florida Keys, The Keys Reporter reports:

  • An owner of a mortgage title company with offices in Homestead and Key Largo is facing up to 90 years in prison for allegedly stealing money from one of her client's escrow accounts. State Division of Insurance Fraud detectives say Marie L. Girard, 52, owner of Girard Title Company, used more than $580,400 from a Minnesota client's mortgage escrow account for her own personal use.

  • The couple, Paul and Peggy Bruci, did not discover what was going on until they received a notice of foreclosure on their home they refinanced through Girard [...] in Key Largo.

  • Detective John Swope wants to know if there are any more victims out there. If you suspect you were victimized by Girard or any other title agent, call (954)-321-2995. Girard could not be reached for comment.

  • According to Girard's arrest warrant, Girard was the closing agent for the refinancing on the Bruci's home in May 2008. The couple was obtaining a loan from Bank United FSB for the house. Girard was acting as an agent for First American Title Insurance Company. That company was responsible for paying the Bruci's first mortgage under the refinancing agreement, according to the arrest warrant submitted by Swope.

  • On May 28, 2008, Girard allegedly filled out forms stating the Bruci's $508,000 mortgage was paid off. But Swope said Girard instead converted the entire $584,000 from the Bank United loan to herself.

  • According to the warrant, Girard changed the Bruci's mailing address for the borrower's monthly mortgage payment information to her Key Largo office at 230 Homestead Avenue. Swope said she then used the Bank United money to pay mortgage payments on that Key Largo office.

  • In February 2009, Girard met with an attorney for First American Title and admitted misappropriating the escrow funds. She worked out an agreement with the company to repay $112,726 up front and to take out mortgages on her two offices to repay the remaining $389,422 balance for the Bruci's mortgage before it was refinanced.

  • Since that money was never actually paid to the original lender, First Magnus Mortgage, First American was on the hook for the funds. Girard allegedly promised to pay First American the balance by Feb. 12, 2009, but instead allowed the mortgages on both her offices to default.

  • She is facing one grand theft charge, one charge of misappropriating funds of more than $100,000 and one charge of misappropriating escrow funds. Each charge carries with it up to 30 years in prison. At press time Tuesday, Girard was being held on $175,000 bond.

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