JUST BECAUSE the criminal justice system catches, convicts and sentences a swindler does not necessarily mean the thief's victims will be compensated.
People can spend years filing lawsuits, obtaining court judgments and trying to collect, and still not get everything -- or anything -- owed them. Sometimes, the money disappears; often it is impossible to find.
That is why it is hard for victims to get much satisfaction when someone admits in court to stealing money from them, particularly when the thefts come at vulnerable times.
One-time customers and business partners of former title insurance agent Joseph E. Goldberg Sr. got little joy recently when he pleaded guilty in Howard Circuit Court to charges of stealing $1 million from homebuyers and home sellers.
It was among the largest real estate schemes ever in the state.
Maryland authorities have seized Goldberg's company, Land Title Research of Maryland. The case prompted legislators to enact stricter regulations for directors of title insurance companies. Prosecutors are recommending a nine-year prison term and payment of $940,267 in restitution.
Perhaps a stiff sentence will give victims some vindication, but that will hardly compensate for their financial loss or for the frustrating journey through the courts and the state-appointed receiver to collect their money.
Prosecutors say Goldberg, 44, took money from customers that was supposed to pay bills to ensure that homebuyers got clear title to their homes but spent it on himself. He covered up the theft, they say.
Some payments made by the insurance company for Land Title Research have reduced the debt to Goldberg's victims, but some may never fully recover.
The scheme cost one man his lakefront home. Another man lost $18,000 and was too distraught to talk about it. A woman lost the money she needed for a new car.
An assistant attorney general, Michael DiPietro, says victims should get paid, but "whether or not [Goldberg] has funds to do that is another story."
Goldberg is to be sentenced in a month, but the plight of his victims is far from over.
Pub Date: 8/22/97