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Lawyer gets 2 years for fraud

  • Article by: DAN BROWNING
  • Star Tribune
  • July 7, 2011 - 5:40 PM

A co-owner of two Twin Cities title insurance agencies was sentenced Wednesday in Minneapolis to two years in federal prison for committing $5.3 million in fraud while handling more than 3,000 mortgage transactions.

Trent Jonas, 42, of North Oaks, spent the money to prop up the businesses and pay himself and a partner.

He later cooperated with the investigation of his former business partner, Jennifer K. Frantz, who he alleged had participated in the scheme to divert money from real estate closings. Frantz has not been charged.

Jonas, a graduate of Hamline Law School, owned Title Source and Zen Title of Mounds View, which in 2001 began acting as an agent for Ticor Title Insurance Co., a Florida-based underwriter. Ticor is a subsidiary of Fidelity National Financial and United General Title Insurance Co.

From about June 2005 through at least August 2007, Jonas said he and his partner, who also is a lawyer, misappropriated money collected for title insurance premiums, title search costs and recording fees. Jonas acknowledged that it was spent instead on salaries and operational expenses for the businesses, among other things.

Federal prosecutors said he and his partner each made more than $300,000 a year from the business.

Jonas' attorney, Assistant Federal Defender Doug Olson, had argued for a sentence of 18 months or less.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Timothy Rank said the fraud cost Fidelity/Ticor more than $4.1 million. Ticor Title absorbed the losses and issued new insurance policies for the defrauded homeowners.

The Minnesota Department of Commerce and the Internal Revenue Service investigated Title Source and Zen Title, leading an administrative law judge in 2008 to revoke their agency licenses and impose a civil penalty of $2 million.

The department agreed to a settlement with Frantz, reducing her personal penalty to $7,500 from $500,000. Frantz was barred from the industry as part of the settlement.

U.S. District Judge Ann Montgomery ordered Jonas to pay $5,342,260 in restitution and to serve three years of supervised release after prison.

Dan Browning • 612-673-4493

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