Former Southern Maryland Settlement Agents Facing Federal Charges for Embezzlement of Unsuspecting Clients | USAO-MD
Green belt, Maryland – A federal criminal complaint has been filed accusing Brian Edward Steuart, 52, of Huntingtown, Md., And Jamie Lynn Alford (formerly Jamie Lynn Steuart), 44, of Port Republic, Md., Of conspiracy to commit fraud electronic. affecting a financial institution, as part of an alleged scheme to embezzle some of the closing funds they raised while acting as settlement agents in certain real estate transactions. The criminal complaint was filed on March 18, 2021 and was unsealed during the accused’s initial appearance today.
The criminal complaint was announced by the Acting United States Attorney for the District of Maryland, Jonathan F. Lenzner; Special Agent in Charge Mark P. Higgins of the Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA), Office of the Inspector General (OIG); and Acting Special Agent in Charge Shawn Rice of the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), Office of the Inspector General (OIG).
According to the affidavit filed in support of the criminal complaint, Steuart and Alford were husband and wife from June 2008 to September 2017. As of August 2011, Steuart and Alford were settlement agents for Company 1, a company of Securities and Settlement located in Prince Frederick. , Maryland, which has entered into real estate transactions for properties in Maryland and Virginia. Steuart and Alford were responsible for entering into mortgages used to purchase or refinance properties, reviewing title deeds, issuing title insurance, facilitating closings, and ensuring that land records were properly classified and recorded. Steuart and Alford also had a fiduciary duty to all parties involved in every real estate transaction, including to accurately record, collect and disburse settlement funds from the seller, buyer and lender, in order to complete a transaction.
The affidavit alleges that Steuart and Alford breached their fiduciary duty by embezzling funds from unsuspecting clients during real estate closings of at least 2011 to 2017, both from buyers and sellers, from Company 1, and even from the estate of a deceased seller. Fraud has typically been committed by inflating or inventing various fees or taxes, creating false entries in settlement documents, and creating forged or forged checks. Steuart and Alford would have written checks for themselves, checks payable to each other, or were jointly named as the payee of the checks. The affidavit alleges that the defendants deposited the fraudulently obtained funds directly into joint accounts for the benefit of both.
According to the affidavit, in order to conceal their fraudulent activity from individuals inside and outside of Company 1, Steuart and Alford forged settlement statements and altered or fabricated bank statements. The fabricated bank statements would have starting and ending balances significantly lower than the actual amounts based on the actual bank statements. In addition, information such as the date or amount of deposits, withdrawals, credits or checks would also have been inaccurate and checks would have been added or missing in some of the fabricated statements.
As detailed in the affidavit, between 2011 and 2017, Steuart received a total of $ 735,825.63 from Company 1, both legally and illegally. However, he reportedly said his salary in the State of Maryland for that period was only $ 208,168.50. Between 2011 and 2016, Alford reportedly received a total of $ 653,537.91 from Company 1 for all sources, both legal and illegal. However, she reportedly said her Maryland State salary for that period was only $ 302,462.50.
If found guilty, Steuart and Alford each face a maximum sentence of 30 years in federal prison for wire fraud affecting a financial institution. The actual sentences for federal crimes are generally less than the maximum sentences. A federal district court judge will determine any sentence after taking into account US sentencing guidelines and other statutory factors. In today’s initial appearance in US District Court in Greenbelt, US trial judge Timothy J. Sullivan ordered the defendants to be released pending trial.
A criminal complaint is not a guilty verdict. An individual charged with a criminal complaint is presumed innocent unless and until his guilt has been proven in subsequent criminal proceedings.
Acting United States Attorney Jonathan F. Lenzner commended the FHFA BIG and HUD BIG for their work in the investigation and thanked the Calvert County Sheriff’s Office, Police of the Maryland State and the Anne Arundel County Police Department for their assistance. Mr Lenzner thanked Deputy US Prosecutors Michael Morgan and Erin B. Pulice, who are pursuing the case.
For more information on the Maryland US Attorney’s Office, its priorities, and the resources available to help the community, please visit www.justice.gov/usao/md.
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