Minneapolis Woman Jailed for Mortgage Fraud

Kuntee Shamo SingramdooA 50-year-old woman in Lakeville, Minn., was sentenced Wednesday to three years and three months in prison for embezzling more than $220,000 from a title and real estate company where she worked, not including the $10,000 of stolen funds she repaid.

Kuntee Shamo Singramdoo (pictured left) pleaded guilty to three counts of theft by swindle after prosecutors built a case on what it called a complex fraud scheme that went undetected for about four years. It was a mortgage fraud endeavor that hurt several homeowners, reported the Minneapolis Star-Tribune.

However, there are some steps home sellers and buyers can take to help investigators detect fraud sooner, the prosecuting attorney told AOL Real Estate.

Singramdoo, who processed real-estate closings, notarized documents and sold title insurance policies as an independent closer with Walsh Title and Real Estate Services in Burnsville, would apparently list her own personal debts on the HUD-1 mortgage forms as if they belonged to the buyer or seller. She then issued checks directly to her creditors in her name, later altering the forms to conceal the payments, the complaint said.

The money she bilked from 24 different creditors included at least 184 checks issued between February 2004 and June 2007, including $68,109 to US Bank, $48,863 to Wells Fargo, $800 to JC Penney, $4,764 to Macy's, $6,286 to Goodman Jewelers, $800 to Bloomingdale's, $6,866 to Honda, $2,734 to American Express and $2,323 to Discover, according to the Minnesota Department of Commerce, which initiated the case against her.

"This was a very complex mortgage fraud scheme that took a great deal of investigation to uncover,"
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Dakota County Attorney James Backstrom told the St. Paul Pioneer Press.
"It's easy to understand how it can go undetected because of the complexities regarding mortgages."

Backstrom told AOL Real Estate that in some cases individuals can detect the fraud. "It is important to understand everything that is going on in a real estate closing. Make sure you review those documents closely and discuss them with the representatives you have there with you. The best thing you can do is be diligent. Make sure all of your distributions are going to people and places whose names you recognize."

He said in Singramdoo's case, the names of fraudulent individuals were put on some of the documents before closing, but on some others, the documents were changed after closing. "In [the latter instances] there's not going to be much anyone can do to detect it."

He added that two others are charged in the case with Singramdoo, but "they have absconded. There are warrants out for their arrest, but we think at least one of them has fled the country." They are also charged with swindle and other counts.

"[Singramdoo] indicated that she had overwhelming personal debt and, thus, swindled her clients' money," the Commerce Department wrote in a March 17, 2009 order for summary suspension, which added that she admitted to investigators on three occasions that she misappropriated, converted and/or embezzled her clients' funds.

Defense attorney Barry McKee asked the court to sentence her to a year in the county jail because she cooperated with the investigation, but instead Singramdoo received close to the maximum sentence allowed. She will serve sentences for two of the counts concurrently with a third sentence of three years and three months. Lucky for her that racketeering charges brought against her in May were dismissed, as that carried a maximum sentence of 20 years.

"Ms. Singramdoo's scheme hurt law-abiding citizens who saw the value of their homes drop after homes in their community were hit by foreclosure," Manny Munson-Regala, acting commissioner of the Department of Commerce, told the Minneapolis Star-Tribune.

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