Mortgage broker pleads guilty to stealing client escrow funds
September 23, 2013
• His repayment checks bounced
• Homeowners were forced into bankruptcy
Steve Kessedjian, 50, of Los Angeles, has pleaded guilty Monday in Fresno U.S. District Court to mail fraud in connection with his scheme to defraud client escrow funds, according to U.S. Attorney Benjamin Wagner.
According to his plea agreement, Mr. Kessedjian operated two businesses – Amerilend and Targa Escrow – to help clients refinance home loans. In December 2007, a couple from Jamestown in Tuolumne County used Amerilend services and applied for a loan to refinance their home and pay off their credit cards.
After the victims’ first mortgage was paid off, the remaining loan proceeds were wired to Mr. Kessedjian’s Targa escrow account. However, instead of disbursing the proceeds to the victims’ credit card companies as directed by the escrow instructions, he took the funds for his own purposes. Several months after escrow closed, Mr. Kessedjian then made checks payable to the victims and their credit card companies, purportedly as repayment for their escrow funds he had taken, but when the checks were presented to the bank, they bounced.
As a further part of his scheme to defraud, Mr. Kessedjian caused the HUD-1 settlement statement to be changed to show no money being due out of escrow proceeds.
Mr. Kessedjian admitted in his plea agreement that his actions resulted in the Jamestown victims declaring bankruptcy because they could not make payments on both the larger refinanced loan his company secured for them and the credit card debts which were to have been paid off with the funds he took.
As part of his plea agreement, Mr. Kessedjian is required to pay more than $66,000 to the victims of his fraud scheme.
Mr. Kessedjian is to be sentenced by U.S. District Judge Lawrence O’Neill on Dec. 16, when he will face a possible maximum penalty of 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.