Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Cleveland Feds: Sticky-Fingered Title Agent Glommed Real Estate Escrow Proceeds Intended To Pay Off Homesellers' Existing Mortgages In At Least 19 Transactions; Title Underwriter Left Holding The Bag For Over $2 Million In Losses

From the Office of the U.S. Attorney (Cleveland, Ohio):
  • A Massillon woman was charged with defrauding financial institutions out of more than $2 million by having escrow funds on home purchases deposited into her personal account, Acting U.S. Attorney David A. Sierleja said.

    Kimberlee E. Himmell, 62, was charged with 18 counts of bank fraud and one count of theft of government funds.

    Himmell owned and operated Netwide Title Agency, Inc., located at 3711 Lincoln Way East in Massillon. General Title Insurance Company, located in Cleveland, was Netwide’s underwriter and responsible for auditing Netwide, according to the information.

    Netwide, at the direction of Himmell, began in 2007 instructing all lenders doing business with Netwide as a title agency and utilizing its escrow services to wire all incoming lending proceeds to Himmell’s personal account, instead of Netwide’s corporate account, according to the criminal information filed in the case.

    Himmell then used the deposited funds for her own personal use and for Netwide’s operational expenses without disclosing to lenders that she was not holding the funds in escrow, as she represented she would, according to the information.

    Himmell closed at least 19 real estate transactions in 2013 and 2014 wherein Netwide received escrow funds and failed to pay or release the funds to the prior owner’s pre-existing mortgage. This causes financial losses to lenders and/or sellers of homes in Richmond Heights, North Canton, Willowick, Concord, Strongsville, Newbury, Brunswick, Wadsworth, Medina, Painesville, Parma, Akron, Twinsburg, Brecksville and Millersburg, according to the information.

    Netwide’s underwriter, General Title, was contractually obligated to make lenders whole. The loss to General Title as a result of Himmell’s conduct was at least $2,111,014, according to the information.

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