Owner of consumer-focused, N.Y.-based underwriter accused of stealing $1.7M

July 7, 2009

The owner of a New York-based title underwriter and various other title abstract companies and agencies that branded itself with a consumer focus has been accused of allegedly stealing more than $1.7 million from his companies’ escrow accounts.

According to the complaint, Jonathan Boxman, owner and operator of Titledge Insurance Company of New York, Titledge of New Jersey and Integrity Title Agency, allegedly stole the funds to pay operating expenses associated with his failing businesses.

“The complaint charges that the defendant placed his own financial interests above those who entrusted their money to him in connection with real estate transactions,” stated United States Attorney Benton Campbell. “He will now be held to account for his actions.”

Boxman surrendered to the Federal Bureau of Investigation. He did not enter a plea at his arraignment and was released on a $1 million bond.

According to the complaint, Boxman controlled Titledge Insurance Company of New York, a real estate title insurance company licensed by the State of New York, and various other title abstract companies and agents. A title abstract company or agent performs title searches and other functions on behalf of a title insurance company, including issuing title insurance policies in the title insurance company’s name, recording mortgages and deeds, and holding money in escrow.

Allegedly, Boxman received fees for the recording of mortgages and deeds, which, in turn, he was supposed to remit to the county where the deed or mortgage was recorded. However, instead of paying the fees to the counties, according to the complaint, Boxman allegedly transferred the money to accounts he controlled and used it to pay his companies’ operating expenses and to cover thefts from prior victims of his scheme.

The complaint charges that between January 2006 and December 2008, Boxman stole over $1.7 million in recording taxes, other fees, and monies held in escrow, and that as a result of his scheme several mortgages and deeds were never recorded. According to the American Land Title Association 2008 statistical analysis, Titledge reported $622,000 in title insurance premiums, but did not report any financial data for the fourth quarter.

“Consumer protection is the insurance department’s number one priority,” said New York State Insurance Department Superintendent Eric Dinallo. “This case proves that government and law enforcement agencies can effectively join forces to protect consumers and bring to justice those who seek to defraud the public.” If convicted of wire fraud, Boxman faces a maximum statutory sentence of 20 years of imprisonment.

The Titledge Group has been in existence since 1994, evolving from a single-state agency into a group of title insurance service companies, which include: Titledge Insurance Co., a New York title insurance underwriter, Titledge Production Services, and Titledge Technology, a provider of technology-based services to the title insurance industry. In attempting to offer title insurance direct to consumers, Titledge’s holding company, Titleedge Holdings Co., acquired MyClosingSpace.com in April 2008. The move allowed MyClosingSpace.com to utilize Titledge’s back-end technology and Titledge Production Services facilities to further expand its nationwide platform of online access. One of its pledges was to provide consumers clear, upfront pricing. Boxman had said he wanted to deliver title insurance to consumers in the same fashion Geico became successful offering auto insurance to consumers online.

Contact ALTA at 202-296-3671 or communications@alta.org.

North American Title Insurance Company (NATIC) is a seasoned title insurance underwriter, helping title agents to achieve their individual business goals for more than 50 years. Today, the company conducts real estate settlement services in 39 states and the District of Columbia through a network of experienced, independent agents.