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Florida title attorney gets 40 months in prison for bank fraud, embezzlement, money laundering

Defrauded Bank of America, GulfSouth Private Bank, other banks

A Florida title attorney will spend more than the next three years in prison after being convicted of defrauding several financial institutions, including Bank of America, out of more than $3.6 million in a series of schemes over a four-year period.

According to the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Florida, Richard Colbert received a 40-month prison sentence and was ordered to pay more than $3.7 million in restitution for convictions on one count of conspiracy to commit bank and mail fraud, one count of false statement to a federally insured financial institution, nine counts of money laundering, and two counts of theft, embezzlement or misapplication by a person connected with a financial institution.

Colbert’s convictions stem from a number of different scams that saw him commit a number of financial crimes against a number of financial institutions.

Court documents show that in 2007, Colbert used his position as a title attorney to sign and submit a false HUD-1 document to GulfSouth Private Bank to allow one of his business partners, Lawrence Wright, to obtain a million-dollar loan from GulfSouth.

As a result of Colbert and Wright’s fraudulent conduct, GulfSouth ultimately sustained in excess of $636,000 in losses.

GulfSouth later failed despite receiving $7.5 million from the Troubled Asset Relief Program. Several of the bank’s executives were also later charged with allegedly devising a scheme to cover the fact that the bank had mortgage loans in default.

Later, in 2010, Colbert again used his position as a title attorney to conduct a bank and mail fraud conspiracy by overseeing a number of real estate closings that defrauded Bank of America, Beach Community Bank, and Premier Community Bank, which also later failed.

All total, Bank of America, Beach Community Bank, and Premier Community Bank sustained losses totaling in excess of $2.3 million from the conspiracy.

According to the U.S. Attorney’s Office, Colbert also defrauded Beach Community Bank in a separate scheme during that same time period.

Beginning in December 2010, Colbert acted as an escrow agent for Beach Community Bank. Between December 2010 and March 2011, Colbert embezzled and misapplied more than $400,000 that was being held at Beach Community Bank.

Then, Colbert conducted a series of financial transactions that laundered the funds he embezzled from the bank.

The bank contacted Colbert about the money in September 2011, prompting Colbert to replace the embezzled funds with money he obtained from an unknown third party.

But, shortly after placing the third party’s money into the Beach Community Bank account, Colbert embezzled an additional $237,000 from the same account.

Beyond all of those schemes, Colbert also stole approximately $36,000 from four homeowners/condominium associations that he oversaw in various capacities.

“The role of IRS Criminal Investigation becomes even more important in embezzlement and fraud cases due to the complex financial transactions that take our expertise and skill to unravel,” Mary Hammond, Special Agent in Charge, Tampa Field Office, said. “Today's sentencing of Mr. Colbert is a strong reminder that those who defraud others to enrich themselves will be held accountable.”

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