Towson Title Agency Operator Pleads Guilty In $3.7 Million Mortgage Fraud Scheme
Failed to Make $3.7 Million in Pay Offs to Mortgage Lenders Holding Liens on 13 Properties
Baltimore, Maryland - Anthony V. Weis, age 45, of Phoenix, Maryland, pleaded guilty today to wire fraud in connection with a mortgage fraud scheme to defraud lenders of approximately $3.7 million in just eight months.
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 Special Agent in Charge Rebecca Sparkman of the Internal Revenue Service - Criminal Investigation, Washington D.C. Field Office.
According to Weis’s plea agreement, Weis was the president and a shareholder of Maple Leaf Title LLC (MLT), a real estate title agency located in Towson, Maryland. Weis directed MLT employees in 13 real estate closings conducted between February and September 2009 to withhold the payoff checks from institutions that held the existing mortgage loan notes on the properties. In each instance, the settlement statement sent to the borrower’s lender falsely represented that the payoff was being made.
In an effort to conceal the fraud scheme, Weis caused monthly mortgage payments to be made to the banks holding the mortgage notes. Believing that the bank had been paid off as a result of the settlement, the borrower stopped making monthly payments on that mortgage. And since that lender was receiving monthly payments, it had no reason to notify the borrower of any delinquency. However, because Weis was unable to send checks in every case where he had misappropriated the payoffs from escrow, a number of MLT clients received delinquency notices for non-payment of the mortgage note. A few were threatened with foreclosure and were forced to hire attorneys to prevent being ejected from their homes.
Because the existing mortgages had not been paid off, the liens against the property were not removed and a title free of pre-existing liens and claims (clear title) could not be passed to the new lender and borrower. An insurance company had issued title insurance policies to the borrowers guaranteeing clear title. As a result of Weis’s criminal conduct, the title insurance company ultimately paid out $3.7 million to financial institutions that held mortgage notes.
Weis faces a maximum sentence of 30 years in prison followed by five years of supervised release and a fine of $1 million. U.S. District Judge Catherine C. Blake has scheduled sentencing for February 4, 2011, at 10:15 a.m.
The Maryland Mortgage Fraud Task Force was established to unify the agencies that regulate and investigate mortgage fraud and promote the early detection, identification, prevention and prosecution of mortgage fraud schemes. This case, as well as other cases brought by members of the Task Force, demonstrates the commitment of law enforcement agencies to protect consumers from fraud and promote the integrity of the credit markets. Information about mortgage fraud prosecutions is available http://www.justice.gov/usao/md/Mortgage-Fraud/index.html.
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 commended the FBI, the U.S. Secret Service and the IRS - Criminal Investigation for their investigative work and thanked Assistant U.S. Attorney Stephen Schenning, who is prosecuting the case.