Harriet M. Taylor, age 56, of Ellicott City, Maryland, has pleaded guilty to wire fraud in connection with a scheme to use over $1.5 million in mortgage closing funds for her personal use or to operate her title companies.
Taylor co-owned and managed two title insurance companies, Regal Title Company, LLC and Loyalty Title Company, LLC, located in Columbia, Maryland. Beginning in 2009, Taylor caused mortgage lenders to wire their funds entrusted for real estate settlements to Regal’s operating account, rather than to escrow accounts. Taylor also caused funds in Regal’s and Loyalty’s escrow accounts to be transferred back and forth between their respective operating accounts. By using commingled funds throughout 2009, Taylor kept her two businesses afloat, while enriching herself with both company and escrow funds. From January through December 2009, Taylor paid herself $477,877.50 from three company operating accounts.
As shortfalls in the escrow accounts increased, Taylor failed to remit insurance premiums to the title insurance underwriter, Old Republic National Title Insurance Company; failed to pay recording fees for deeds; and failed to pay off prior liens, including four of which belonged to the government sponsored entities, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.
Old Republic learned of the misuse of settlement funds from a 2009 audit of Regal and an early January 2010 audit of Loyalty. Old Republic terminated its agency relationship with the two companies, but was obligated to satisfy the prior liens against the properties affected by the misuse of settlement funds and to complete other transactions Regal and Loyalty failed to perform. Accordingly, in January 2010, Old Republic incurred a total loss of $1,518,532 which resulted from paying off prior liens, paying recording fees, and for insurance premiums collected by Regal and Loyalty but not forwarded to Old Republic.
U.S. District Judge William D. Quarles, Jr. scheduled her sentencing for January 17, 2013, at 9:30 a.m.