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Justice News

Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney’s Office
Western District of Missouri

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Columbia Woman Pleads Guilty to $576,000 Mortgage Fraud, Embezzlement Schemes


JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. – Tammy Dickinson, United States Attorney for the Western District of Missouri, announced that a Columbia, Mo., woman pleaded guilty in federal court today to charges of bank fraud and money laundering, which were part of a $576,000 mortgage fraud and embezzlement scheme at the title company where she was employed.

Terri Lynn Johnson, 48, of Columbia, pleaded guilty before U.S. Magistrate Judge Matt J. Whitworth to the charges contained in a Dec. 13, 2012 federal indictment.

Johnson was hired for a clerical position with Guaranty Land Title Company in 2001, and was eventually promoted to become the branch manager of the Fulton, Mo., office after the company was acquired by Landchoice Company, LLC. She remained in that position until her termination on Dec. 4, 2008.

Johnson admitted that she engaged in a $300,000 mortgage fraud scheme while she was employed as the Fulton branch manager. Johnson refinanced the mortgage on her residence twice. As a result of the false and fraudulent information provided by Johnson, two banks approved mortgage loans for $175,000 in 2007 and for $125,000 in 2008. The combination of those two loans clearly exceeded the appraised value of Johnson’s residence, which was used to secure both loans.

Johnson also admitted that she embezzled $276,173 from Landchoice. Johnson diverted income checks from Landchoice into a bank account that had been opened for Guaranty Land Title Company and which her employer didn’t know existed. She also diverted escrow funds which had been obtained by Landchoice for loan closings into that account.

Johnson then wrote checks to herself which she deposited into her personal checking account. Johnson wrote checks totaling approximately $59,465 payable to herself or to cash. Johnson also wrote checks to Johnson Gardens (her personal business) totaling approximately $12,500. Johnson also wrote checks believed to be for her personal use totaling approximately $19,916. In addition, Johnson utilized a debit card issued for the account, which she used to access $184,292 from that account for her personal benefit. The total personal benefit realized by Johnson from this embezzlement scheme is estimated to be approximately $276,173.

Under federal statutes, Johnson is subject to a sentence of up to 40 years in federal prison without parole, plus a fine and an order of restitution. A sentencing hearing will be scheduled after the completion of a presentence investigation by the United States Probation Office.

This case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Lawrence E. Miller. It was investigated by the FBI, IRS-Criminal Investigation, the Fulton, Mo., Police Department, the Missouri State Highway Patrol and the Missouri Department of Insurance.
Updated January 14, 2015