Los Angeles Man Sentenced To Prison For Stealing Tuolumne County Couple’s Escrow Funds
FRESNO, Calif. Steve Kessedjian, 51, of Los Angeles, was sentenced today by U.S. District Judge Lawrence J. O’Neill to 21 months in prison for defrauding clients of escrow funds, United States Attorney Benjamin B. Wagner announced.
According to court documents, Kessedjian operated two businesses — Amerilend and Targa Escrow — to help clients secure refinanced home loans. In December 2007, a couple from Jamestown, Calif., used Amerilend services and applied for a loan to refinance their home and pay off their credit cards. After the victims’ first mortgage was paid off, the remaining loan proceeds were wired to Kessedjian’s Targa Escrow account. However, instead of disbursing the proceeds to the victims’ credit card companies as directed by the escrow instructions, Kessedjian took the funds for his own purposes. Several months after escrow closed, Kessedjian then made checks payable to the victims and their credit card companies, purportedly as repayment for their escrow funds he had taken. When the checks were presented to the bank, however, there were insufficient funds in Kessedjian’s account. As a further part of his scheme to defraud, Kessedjian caused the HUD-1 settlement statement to be changed to show no money being due out of escrow proceeds.
Kessedjian admitted in his plea agreement that his actions resulted in the Jamestown victims declaring bankruptcy because they could not make payments on both the larger refinanced loan Kessedjian’s company secured for them and the credit card debts that were to have been paid off with the funds taken by Kessedjian. As part of his sentence, Judge O’Neill ordered Kessedjian to pay $72,000 in restitution to the victims of his fraud scheme.
This case is the product of an investigation by the U.S. Secret Service and the Tuolumne County Sheriff’s Office. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Christopher Baker and Michael Tierney prosecuted the case.