Thursday, July 25, 2013

Another Corrupt Title Closer Goes Down; Cops Plea For Role In Multiple Real Estate Frauds, Including Shady Short Sales, Escrow Proceeds Pilfering That Left Lien Holders, Title Insurance Underwriters Holding The Bag

From the Office of the U.S. Attorney (Baltimore, Maryland):

  • Rhonda Scott, age 52, of Oxon Hill, Maryland, pleaded guilty [] before U.S. District Judge James K. Bredar to conspiring to commit wire fraud in connection with two separate mortgage fraud schemes which resulted in losses of over $2,500,000.
  • According to her plea, beginning in 2008, Scott agreed to participate in several fraudulent real estate transactions that settled at M&R Title, Inc., and Sanford Title Services LLC. The fraudulent transactions at each title company were part of different conspiracies, both of which Scott joined. In both schemes, Scott facilitated deals between her co-conspirators, identified and recruited individuals that could be parties to the real estate transactions generating proceeds for the co-conspirators, received proceeds of the fraudulent transactions through a shell company designed to disguise her receipt of the funds, sent money to co-conspirators and identified mortgage transactions that the co-conspirators could use to enrich themselves.

    As part of the M&R Title conspiracy, the co-conspirators deceived buyers, sellers and lenders to make it appear to sellers that they were selling their property at a low price, and to buyers and lenders that the property was being sold at a higher price. The co-conspirators created paperwork for two different sales of the property at the same time.

    The first sale was fraudulent because it was backdated, the buyer was planning to immediately flip the property in a subsequent sale and the settlement statement listed a fake hard money loan. The second sale involved a significantly increased sales price and the settlement statement showed a significant sum being disbursed to the hard money lender as a payoff of an existing lien, but in reality those funds would be used for improper disbursements to the co-conspirators.

    With respect to the Sanford Title conspiracy, improper disbursements were made from the title company to Scott and others. The conspirators engaged in many fraudulent techniques, including: short sales in which the property would be sold for a higher price than the seller was aware of; sales of properties not owned by the seller including properties Scott purported to own but did not own at the time of settlement; real estate transactions in which there were multiple sales of the same property at the same time; the seller and/or buyer were shown difference settlement statements and the conspirators used the difference between the figures in the two statements to enrich themselves; and Sanford Title did not disburse money that should have been paid to lien holders and instead diverted a portion of those funds to co-conspirators.

    Both of the M&R Title and Sanford Title fraud schemes involved at least 25 victims, including lenders, sellers and buyers of real estate, title insurance companies and lien holders. The reasonably foreseeable loss associated with Scott’s conduct is at least $2.5 million.

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