Calif. insurer takes over Glen Burnie title firm

March 23, 1994|By Joel Obermayer | Joel Obermayer,Sun Staff Writer

&TC A California insurance company has taken over a Glen Burnie real estate title company after it discovered money was missing from the title company's books.

The move, made late last week, effectively halts new business at Central Maryland Title Co. It was brought on by "serious" irregularities discovered during a routine audit, said Albert J. Gibboni, an acting supervisor with Fidelity National Title Insurance Co., the company that underwrites title insurance for the Glen Burnie company.

"There seem to be inaccuracies in their escrow account," he said. "We felt there were shortages."

Central Maryland Title Co. handled as many as 100 closings a month last summer, he said, and it had 35 to 50 real estate closings still pending at the time of the takeover. Mr. Gibboni said they would continue as scheduled.

The president of Central Maryland Title Co., William A. Hackney of Anne Arundel County, declined to comment.

Mr. Gibboni said he and his team of auditors would be going over the agency's books for another five days before they would know how to proceed.

"Shortages in accounts do not necessarily mean that money was stolen," he said. "There could be undeposited files, and part of it could be attributed to lax accounting. It could be a combination of things."

Industry observers said that an insurance underwriter would not be likely to move so forcefully without major concerns.

"If they are coming in and taking over, that is a pretty severe step," said Michael Gisriel, a title insurance expert in Baltimore.

Title insurance agencies, like Central Maryland Title Co., sell insurance against outside claims on a property after the property changes hands. Typically run by real estate lawyers, they can handle many aspects of a closing, including disbursing money to sellers, banks and insurance agencies after a real estate deal is closed. Big title insurance companies, like Fidelity National, usually sell their insurance through agencies in return for the right to audit them and sever the ties if money has not been handled correctly.

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