Defunct escrow company left clients behind in payments, Ohio AG says

Ohio's Attorney General

sued a financial company in a nearby state saying it defrauded people out of thousands of dollars in upfront fees.

After receiving 89 complaints about Illinois-based American Escrow, Ohio wants civil penalties and restitution for consumers it says were charged $250 in advance for a contract to pay property taxes and homeowners insurance. The payments were divided into 12 annually, and so the company collected them each month.

But American Escrow shut down unexpectedly in March 2009, leaving half a year's payments collected but not paid out on behalf of consumers. That left a number of people holding the bag for insurance premiums and taxes they had, in effect, already paid.

The Illinois Attorney General also sued American Escrow a year ago for restitution and civil penalties, saying it violated that state's Consumer Fraud and Deceptive Business Practices Act. That lawsuit alleges the company began having financial troubles in 2000 and 2001, when an employee embezzled company funds. The real estate market crash put the company even further behind, it said.

Consumer Ally's attempts to reach the company in question were unsuccessful.