Robert Sebia, who owned Crystal Title Agency, pleaded guilty Monday to second-degree theft by failure to make required disposition of property received and second-degree misconduct by a corporate official, according to New Jersey Today. Together, those charges will carry a sentence of 11 years imprisonment.
“Sebia basically was running a Ponzi scheme in which he stole new loan proceeds and used them to cover up earlier thefts of the same type, while diverting funds to bankroll extravagant personal and business expenditures,” said Acting Attorney General Hoffman, according to the publication. “Sebia’s crooked $8 million spending spree is ending with this guilty plea and a lengthy prison sentence.”
Sebia admitted that between January 2014 and May 2014 he diverted funds for his own use or the use of his company. Those funds were meant to pay off more than 28 outstanding mortgage loans.
Originators will applaud the decision, as title agencies – which ensure title legitimacy and are entrusted with mortgage funds – are a necessary part of the business. And unscrupulous agents damage the reputation of not only the brokers and lenders involved, but the industry as a whole.
“Homeowners, lenders and title insurers must be able to trust title agents, who handle hundreds of thousands of dollars each time they close a real estate transaction,” said Director Elie Honig of the Division of Criminal Justice, according to New Jersey Today. “This guilty plea sends a strong deterrent message to such licensed agents that if they betray that trust and steal from clients, they will face a stiff prison sentence.”
The owner of title agency will spend 11 years behind bars after being found guilty of stealing $7.7 million in money earmarked for mortgage payments.