Mortgage

Trial date set for former LandCastle Title CEO Nat Hardwick

Stands accused of conspiring to embezzle $20 million

Exactly one year ago, federal authorities arrested Nathan (Nat) Hardwick, the former chief executive officer of LandCastle Title and former managing partner of Morris Hardwick Schneider, on charges that he embezzled millions of dollars from his former companies.

And exactly one year from now, Hardwick will stand trial for allegedly conspiring with Asha Maurya, the firm’s former chief financial officer, to steal more than $20 million from the attorney escrow accounts and operating accounts of Morris Hardwick Schneider and LandCastle Title.

According to court documents filed recently, Hardwick and Maurya are due in federal court in Atlanta on Feb. 26, 2018 at 9:00 a.m. local time to face those charges in a jury trial.

The charges against Hardwick and Maurya stem from allegations from Hardwick’s former partners with the law firm, who sued Hardwick for allegedly embezzling $30 million from the firm’s accounts and the accounts of the firm’s subsidiary, LandCastle Title.

HousingWire has covered the Hardwick saga extensively, stretching back to when it all began in 2014.

The Hardwick allegations first came to light when Fidelity National Financial bailed out LandCastle and stepped in as a 70% owner of the title company.

Fidelity took over after “substantial escrow account misappropriations” were discovered with the accounts of MHS and LandCastle and “precipitated by a significant shortage in the accounts of MHS and LandCastle, of which Fidelity became informed by the partners of MHS.”

Hardwick’s former partners then sued Hardwick, alleging that Hardwick embezzled at least $30 million from the companies’ own accounts and the companies’ trust accounts, allegedly using the money to pay for private jets, cover real estate investment losses, cover millions in gambling debts and other investments.

Hardwick denied those charges, stating at the time that he is not guilty of “any improper, illegal or unethical conduct,” and stating that he believes all of the money he received was “properly distributed to him as his share of the profits of the firm.”

From there, the situation spun further and further out of control.

Soon after the initial lawsuit from Hardwick’s former partners, PGA golfer Dustin Johnson sued the firm.

Johnson’s lawsuit, which was first reported by HousingWire, accused Morris Hardwick Schneider, which subsequently changed its name to Morris Schneider Wittstadt, Hardwick and the firm’s managing partners, Mark and Rod Wittstadt, of using their positions as Johnson’s “trusted advisors” to steal $3 million from him.

According to Johnson, the money was used to cover shortages in the firm’s accounts allegedly created by Hardwick himself.

Johnson sued the firm after lending the money at Hardwick’s request, who was, at one time, one of Johnson’s primary advisors.

In Johnson’s suit, he claimed that Hardwick “played a particularly unique and significant role of trust and confidence” in Johnson’s life, serving as one of his primary advisors on his career as a professional golfer.

Hardwick was also an officer in Johnson’s professional corporation, and was listed on Johnson’s personal website as a member of “Dustin’s Team” as Johnson’s “attorney/counselor.”

Johnson’s original lawsuit laid much of the blame on Hardwick, but later filings shifted the blame from Hardwick onto the Wittstadts.

Eventually, Morris Schneider Wittstadt filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy, claiming that the publicity surrounding the Hardwick situation and subsequent lawsuits was “too much for even an otherwise successful firm like MSW to bear.”

For a look at HousingWire's extensive coverage of the Hardwick situation, click here.

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