The sale of a residence can become a complex legal transaction and a fertile field for fraud. Harris County has recently sued a local title company, Patriot Title, alleging numerous acts of fraud perpetrated mostly against elderly people and others who cannot afford to hire an attorney.
The allegations of fraud
The acts of fraud alleged by the county include the following:
- Receiving funds in escrow and failing to release the funds to the seller
- Attesting to the validity of a forged deed in a transaction where it acted as the escrow agent
- Knowingly selling property that it does not own to an unsuspecting buyer
- Failing to disclose the company’s interest in a real estate transaction in which it had a financial interest
The county accused Patriot Title of perpetrating various frauds on people for years in assorted real estate transactions. Patriot is accused of taking advantage of the complexity of residential transactions and the financial inability of some clients to retain legal counsel.
Request for other victims
The county attorney’s initial announcement of this case asked other victims to come forward with their stories. If any additional victims choose to take their cases to the county attorney, Patriot’s exposure to criminal liability could increase significantly.
The county clearly intends to impose criminal liability on Patriot Title for its actions. The initial media reports of the lawsuit do not indicate whether individual shareholders, officers or employees of Patriot have been named as defendants. Being named as a defendant could impose the threat of criminal liability. If convicted, an individual could face a significant period of incarceration as well as a large fine.
Getting legal support
Anyone named in such a case would be well advised to retain an experienced criminal defense attorney for an evaluation of the evidence, devising a strong defense strategy, and, when appropriate, negotiating an appropriate plea agreement.