Chris Champion, an escrow officer with Lawyers Title of Arizona, opened a sale escrow for $465,000. The buyers were a married couple supposedly moving from Colorado. The property was in Goodyear, Arizona. The wife signed the purchase agreement for herself as well as her husband, using her signature for both parties.
The wife had a cashier's check in the amount of $5,000, representing the earnest money deposit. However, she dropped it off at the Surprise, Arizona branch, even though the transaction was being handled at the Scottsdale branch.
The balance of the purchase funds was coming from a Veterans Affairs Loan (VA Loan). The wife stated the veteran was her elderly husband, but she was entitled to his VA benefits. She produced a power of attorney for the transaction because her husband was mentally incapacitated.
When Chris told the wife she would like to speak to her husband to verify that the power of attorney was still in good standing and not revoked, she produced a letter from a doctor stating the husband was suffering from dementia. Chris studied the letter. She was concerned the doctor wrote his assessment of the husband's mental condition six months before the power of attorney was signed and that the power of attorney may not be valid since he may have been in a diminished mental state upon signing the POA.
During the discussions between Chris and the wife, she disclosed she also had a fiancé who was going to be moving into the home with her. Supposedly, she would still be the caretaker of her mentally deficient husband. At this point, Chris decided to escalate her concerns about the transaction to her manager, Mark Walker.
Chris and Mark decided that the best course of action was to resign as escrow agent due to the wife using a potentially invalid POA and obtaining another person's VA benefits — possibly without his knowledge — to house herself and her fiancé.
Mark contacted the buyer and informed her the Company would not handle the closing and insuring of the home purchase. At that point, the wife became belligerent. She claimed Mark was saying she was committing fraud; she accused him of denying her VA rights and demanded an explanation. Mark politely responded that the Company had every right to refuse to close the transaction and provided no further explanation.
In what may have been a last ditch effort to salvage something from this scheme, the buyer then wanted Mark to deposit the $5,000 cashier's check (since it was payable to Lawyers Title Company), that represented the earnest money deposit. She wanted Mark to send her a check payable in her name only. He politely declined this request as well.
Chris could have ignored the red flags — but she did not. She brought her concerns to her manager and together they made the decision to resign.
Chris and Mark felt protecting the rights of the incapacitated person and preventing potential fraud against an agency of the U.S. Government, as well as a potential claim against the Company, was far more important than any revenue the transaction would have produced for the Company. As a result, the Company has rewarded Chris $1,500.
P.S. Chris is a double reward winner. A story in the January 2020 issue, described how she received a reward for protecting the Company from a potential loss. There is no limit to the appreciation the Company has for her experience and expertise.
If you have previously received a reward, please know you are still eligible to earn future rewards.