At the Chicago Title office in Great Falls, Mont., officers Doris Eckenstein and Linda K. Smith recently went to their manager with information and concerns they had about another title officer. They explained that even though the internal job functions had changed, the title officer still insisted on handling all of the miscellaneous recordings that came in on title–only files. Both ladies thought it was out of the ordinary because typically, no one at any operation wants to handle miscellaneous recordings. Linda typically processed all recordings including miscellaneous recordings.
With miscellaneous recordings, clients send a check with their documents to be recorded. Doris had looked into some of the recording packages they received over a period of months. She found instances where the Company recorded a document and would be billed for the recording by the recorder's office. The subsequent payment was never deposited into Chicago Title's operating account…even though it should have been!
A system was in place with the Cascade Clerk & Recorder's office, which allows title companies to record documents and then receive a monthly invoice. When the Company receives a check from customers made payable directly to the county recorder, the county recorder will endorse those checks over to Chicago Title.
Many times the documents recorded from out of state do not meet the local guidelines and are charged additional fees for being nonconforming. Thus, the initial checks are for an incorrect amount and another check is requested from the customer for the difference. Each miscellaneous recording package typically involves the endorsement and deposit of two recording fee checks.
Doris and Linda found certain instances of documents that were received with the initial check attached and recorded but never deposited. The ladies had copies of the checks that should have been deposited. They asked the check remitters to provide a copy of the back side of the check to see if they had been endorsed by the county recorder's office and whether or not they had ever been cashed.
The check copies arrived and Doris and Linda reviewed them. Their suspicions were correct. The checks had been endorsed from the county recorder to the other title officer personally – then deposited into his own account!
After disclosing this information to their county manager, the title officer was brought in for questioning. He confessed to everything and even gave authorization for full access to his personal and business bank accounts. Needless to say he was terminated on the spot.
A full investigation going back four years found the title officer had embezzled $9,922 and placed the money into his bank account. The title officer has since paid back Chicago Title in full. The Company reported this matter to law enforcement and it is our understanding that charges are pending against this former employee.
Doris and Linda could have easily turned a blind eye to their co–worker's suspicious activities, but did not. His embezzlement of recording fees certainly did not affect their work in any way. They stood up for what is right and defended the Company against a crime. If it were not for their actions the title officer could still be at work robbing us blind. As a result of their efforts, Doris and Linda have each received a $1,000 reward on behalf of the Company and a letter of recognition.