Real Estate Agent/Broker Sentenced to a Year in Prison For Embezzling Over $100,000 of Clients' Money
Used Clients' Deposits For His Own Expenses
WASHINGTON – Mark Alan Wall, 57, a real estate agent and broker from Washington, D.C., was sentenced today to a year and a day in prison on a theft charge stemming from the embezzlement of over $100,000 of his clients’ money, announced U.S. Attorney Channing D. Phillips and Cathy L. Lanier, Chief of the Metropolitan Police Department (MPD).
Wall pled guilty to first-degree theft in May 2015 in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia. He was sentenced by the Honorable Amy Berman Jackson. The judge sentenced Wall to a total of 24 months in prison, but suspended all but a year and a day of that time on the condition that he successfully complete three years of supervised release. Also, Wall was ordered to pay $117,000 in restitution to three victims of his crime.
According to a statement of the offense, signed by the defendant as well as the government, from about July 2010 to at least May 2013, Wall stole from real estate clients who had entrusted their money to him. He entered into agreements with clients to serve as their agent in purchasing residential property in the District of Columbia. The agreements stated that the clients would not be paying Wall an advance fee, nor did they agree to pay him a percentage of the purchase price. Instead, as in an arrangement typical of residential real estate sales of existing homes, Wall would be paid his commission by the seller of the property upon the completion of the transaction.
Wall convinced his clients to provide as their earnest money deposit an amount of money greater than typically used, saying that he would hold it in escrow for their benefit to demonstrate that they had sufficient money to close on future sales. He assured his clients that the money remained theirs unless and until they purchased a property. If the clients were unable to quickly succeed with an offer to purchase a home, Wall convinced them to deposit additional money telling them that it would strengthen their negotiating power for future offers.
As a licensed real estate agent and broker, Wall had a fiduciary duty to keep earnest money deposit client funds in a separate escrow bank account. Agents/brokers may not commingle the escrow funds with their own funds, use the escrow funds for a purpose other than the purpose for which they were entrusted to them, or fail to return the money when directed by the client.
Wall deposited the clients’ earnest money deposit checks into his operating account, rather than his escrow account. If the clients became dissatisfied with him and asked about their money, he assured them that their earnest money deposit money was maintained in an escrow account held at a federally insured bank. Wall did not maintain his clients’ money for their benefit; rather, he spent their money on himself and his expenses within a few weeks or months of receiving the funds. He also borrowed money from another person, falsely representing that he needed money to pay expenses of a real estate closing; having received the money, Wall used the money to replace the money he had stolen from clients in order that the settlement on their District of Columbia home may proceed. After the closing on the home, Wall falsely stated that the settlement did not occur and that buyers were forced to file a lawsuit against the sellers of the property. He did not repay the loan.
In announcing the sentence, U.S. Attorney Phillips and Chief Lanier expressed appreciation for the work performed by detectives from the Metropolitan Police Department’s Criminal Investigation Division-Financial Crimes Section as well as by Special Agent Juan Juarez of the Fraud and Public Corruption Section of the U.S. Attorney’s Office. They also acknowledged the efforts of Paralegal Specialists Kristy Penny and Corinne Kleinman, and Assistant U.S. Attorney Virginia Cheatham, who prosecuted the case.