Donna Sherman, 34, Middleburg Heights, Ohio, president and owner of her title company, has been found by a jury of a pattern of corrupt activity, commonly known as RICO, theft by deception, money laundering, tampering with records, and telecommunications fraud for a total of 23 counts. Her title company, Sherman Title Agency, Inc. was convicted of the same crimes. This is the first case a Cuyahoga County jury found the owner and her title company guilty of RICO. Sentencing is scheduled for December 1, 2011, at 8:45 am before Judge Jose’ Villanueva.
Sherman fraudulently closed 1.4 million dollars in loans from People’s Choice Home Loans that enabled others engaged in mortgage fraud to purchase 21 houses in Cuyahoga County, Ohio. 17 of the 21 homes fell into either tax or mortgage foreclosure.
Sherman was indicted on 46 counts and her company on 37 counts for their conduct in engaging in a large criminal enterprise from 2002 to 2005. Sherman closed these fraudulent loans while first employed as an escrow officer at Titles, Etc. in 2002 and 2003, and then later as the owner of her own company that she started in 2004. Titles and one of its owners, Mitchel Petti, were each found guilty by the court in a bench in a related case in January, 2011. Sherman and Mitchel Petti had a personal relationship for part of the time this criminal enterprise was in operation.
Sherman participated in a down-payment scheme that included kickbacks upon closing the sale of the house. She also engaged in a scheme called “double HUD,” where she and her title company submitted bogus settlement statements, called a “HUD-1,” to the lender showing a higher purchase price and then created another set to the seller with the lower, but actual price. People’s Choice made loans based on the higher purchase price. Sherman and her company then distributed the difference between the loan amount and the lower, but actual price ““ the kickbacks – to another defendant, Fred Loewinger, who entered a plea and testified against her. Loewinger is now serving six years in prison.
County Prosecutor Bill Mason and the Cuyahoga County Mortgage Fraud Task Force operating under authorization of Ohio Attorney General and Ohio’s Organized Crime Investigations Commission announced the jury verdict.
This is the third time a Cuyahoga County Court jury has found a title company and at least one of its owners guilty of mortgage fraud related crimes.
The Cuyahoga County Mortgage Fraud Task Force, operating under authorization of the Ohio Attorney General’s Office and Ohio’s Organized Crime Investigations Commission, conducted the investigation. The director of the Task Force is a Cuyahoga County Sheriff Sergeant. The Task Force is comprised of federal, state, and local enforcement agencies.
This case was investigated by the Cleveland office of the FBI in connection with their participation in the Mortgage Fraud Task Force.