Former Towson Title Company Employee Pleads Guilty to Filing False Tax Returns after Embezzling More than $382,000

October 14, 2011

Baltimore, Maryland - Collette Snyder, age 42, of Timonium, Maryland, pleaded guilty today to filing false tax returns in 2007 and 2008, after she did not claim over $382,000 she embezzled from her employer, Maple Leaf Title.

The guilty plea was announced by United States Attorney for the District of Maryland Rod J. Rosenstein; Special Agent in Charge Richard A. McFeely of the Federal Bureau of Investigation; Special Agent in Charge Barbara Golden of the United States Secret Service – Baltimore Field Office; and Acting Special Agent in Charge Jeannine A. Hammett of the Internal Revenue Service - Criminal Investigation, Washington D.C. Field Office.

“Mortgage fraud adds to the underground economy that erodes the integrity of our tax system and threatens the financial health of our communities. IRS Criminal Investigation is committed to ‘following the money trail’ to ensure that those who engage in these illegal activities are vigorously investigated and brought to justice,” said IRS - Criminal Investigation Special Agent in Charge Jeannine A. Hammett.

According to her plea, beginning in 2005 Snyder worked at Maple Leaf Title (MLT), a real estate title agency located in Towson, Maryland, processing the recording of deeds and other post-settlement requirements at courthouses throughout Maryland. In order to accomplish her duties, Snyder was granted signature authority over MLT’s operating, settlement and recording accounts, among others. Beginning in 2007, Snyder began embezzling money from MLT accounts by depositing MLT checks into her personal bank account. She made checks payable to her husband, without his knowledge, then forged her husband’s signature and deposited the checks into an account she controlled. She also made checks out directly to herself and deposited them. In the memo section of some of the checks Snyder embezzled from MLT accounts, she would falsely claim the checks were for “payroll,” even though she had already received her salary from MLT. Snyder embezzled approximately $149,560 in 2007, and $232,968 in 2008, using the funds to purchase jewelry, antique furniture, clothing, a BMW, home improvements, travel and tuition payments to a private school, among other things.

Snyder did not report this income on either her 2007 or 2008 tax returns, resulting in a tax loss of $115,529.37.

Because of the embezzlement from MLT’s escrow account by Snyder and by Anthony Weis, MLT’s president, MLT did not have sufficient funds to pay off existing mortgage loan notes on properties for which MLT had performed settlement services. As a result, Weis directed MLT employees in 13 real estate closings conducted in 2009 to withhold the payoff checks from institutions that held the existing mortgage loan notes on the properties. Because the existing mortgages had not been paid off, clear title could not be passed to the new lender and borrower. An insurance company that had issued title insurance policies to the borrowers guaranteeing clear title ultimately paid out $3.9 million to financial institutions that held mortgage notes.

Weis pleaded guilty to wire fraud, was sentenced to 78 months in prison and was ordered to pay restitution of $4,007,705, which includes the loss to the title insurance company and the expenses of the individual victims.

Snyder faces a maximum sentence of three years in prison and a fine of $250,000. U.S. District Judge Catherine C. Blake has scheduled his sentencing for February 3 , 2012 at 11:00 am.

This law enforcement action is part of President Barack Obama’s Financial Fraud Enforcement Task Force. President Obama established the interagency Financial Fraud Enforcement Task Force to wage an aggressive, coordinated and proactive effort to investigate and prosecute financial crimes. The task force includes representatives from a broad range of federal agencies, regulatory authorities, inspectors general, and state and local law enforcement who, working together, bring to bear a powerful array of criminal and civil enforcement resources. The task force is working to improve efforts across the federal executive branch, and with state and local partners, to investigate and prosecute significant financial crimes, ensure just and effective punishment for those who perpetrate financial crimes, combat discrimination in the lending and financial markets, and recover proceeds for victims of financial crimes.

United States Attorney Rod J. Rosenstein thanked the FBI, Secret Service and IRS - Criminal Investigation for their work in the investigation. Mr. Rosenstein praised Assistant U.S. Attorneys Gregory R. Bockin and Stephen M. Schenning, who are prosecuting the case.

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