When Lawyers Steal the Escrow

The NY Times has an article today describing the experience of people whose real estate lawyers have been caught stealing their escrow money. The most extreme example they give was from Jay Rosen who would intentionally create problems with the transaction in order to hold onto his client’s escrow money:

A dispute over the home’s title or its certificate of occupancy would stymie the deal, making it impossible for Mr. Rosen to release his clients’ money from an escrow account he controlled. An ancient property-line dispute would rise from the dead. Checks would get delayed. Cash transfers wouldn’t connect.

It was as if money just didn’t want to leave Mr. Rosen’s hands, clients said.

While there will always be a bad apple in the bunch, I’m actually surprised to hear of this problem. (Granted, the article makes a big deal of the problem, but then goes on to say that there were only 100 reported real estate thefts in 2004.)

I’ve yet to hear that this is a problem in Seattle, and considering that the industry relies so heavily on referrals, it would seem the bad apples would be quickly rooted out… However, if you’ve ever been taken advantage of by a local agent, broker or lawyer, I’d be interested to know so that I can adjust my recommendations appropriately.

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