In one of the largest theft cases in Washington County history, a former Forest Lake woman has been sentenced to more than five years in prison after pocketing about $1.2 million from dozens of property transactions.
Cynthia T. Strand, 51, who had moved to Fort Myers, Fla., was sentenced Friday by Washington County District Judge Gregory Galler to 68 months in prison for mortgage fraud. Originally charged with nearly three dozen felony counts, Strand had entered guilty pleas to two counts of theft by swindle and three counts of theft by false representation.
Strand, who operated Strand Closing Services Inc. in Forest Lake, was accused of keeping funds from borrowers and diverting the money for her own use. The money was intended to pay off title companies, taxes and existing mortgages.
Losses in about 40 property transactions included $204,819 from the city of Forest Lake, court records show. The largest single victim was RiverBank, which lost about $594,000 in the sale of a Forest Lake apartment building.
Other homeowners lost from $3,092 to $81,357, according to the Minnesota Department of Commerce, which led the investigation. Related charges against Strand's husband, Steven Strand, were subsequently dropped.
"This type of white-collar fraud strikes at the heart of the American dream -- home ownership," said Washington County Attorney Pete Orput. "Our office has intensified its efforts to vigorously prosecute white-collar crime, bringing on staff some experienced personnel in this area. In this day and age, all prosecutors' offices need to have a specialization in this area."
Eric Thole, Strand's attorney, said earlier that his client is remorseful. The judge ordered her to pay restitution from her prison wages.