I understand why Minnesota licenses its closers.  It is a big responsibility to handle the hundreds of thousands of dollars each month that go a closer’s hands.  It seems prudent to run those background checks, identify those trust accounts, etc. to secure the rights of the public and be able to follow those funds.

After all, it is a big temptation when times get tough.  I know people, “good people,” who have “borrowed” funds (illegally.)  I truly believe they thought they would just need a little help for a short time, to cover the rent or make payroll,  until things got better and then they would reimburse the account. It’s a sad story and a dangerous tale. But we all know the title business is a very seasonal business and it seems it is always feast or famine.  We are always looking to hire, or lay off.

On the other hand there are those who knowingly steal and think they can get away with it.

A title agent in Estero, FL is a recent example.  Here is an account from Insurance News

March 14–A former title insurance agent in Estero accused of siphoning more than $705,000 from her clients in 2010 faces theft and fraud charges.

Lana Kaye Dargai, of the 22000 block of Forest View Drive, was arrested March 7, accused of stealing escrow funds put aside for the purchase and sale of real estate in Estero and Bonita Springs in June and July of 2010, according to theFlorida Department of Financial Services.

The department’s Division of Agent and Agency Services and Division of Insurance Fraud investigated the case. Dargai was doing business under the name Global Title Co., which she owned.

The investigation also found:

–Global Title used escrow money to purchase cashier’s checks to pay its own monthly rent and its own property taxes.

–In one instance, $9,000 in escrow money was moved into a bank account for Dargai’s father.

–At least eight times, from August 2009 through June 2010, funds from the company’s escrow account held with Bank of Florida were transferred into Global Title’s operating account, held with the same bank.

Dargai faces up to 15 years in prison for first degree grand theft and fraud charges, and her title agent license has been revoked. Dargai’s case will be prosecuted by the State Attorney’s Office in Fort Myers.

“These cases are thoroughly investigated, which takes time. Also, the State Attorney’s Office had a forensic accountant going over all the facts and figures,” said Ashley Carr, a spokeswoman for the Department of Financial Services.

Dargai, she said, turned in her Global Title agency license in 2011. She made off with money from at least five clients.

Stewart Title Guaranty, the underwriter for the money, reported the fraud to the state.  “The clients weren’t even aware of any issues as Stewart Title covered the losses,” Carr said. “The clients are not out any money. The victim is Stewart Title.”  Florida Community Bank was among the claimants that Stewart paid.