What’s In a Name

by Julie Angelakos, ILTA Communications Committee Co-chair

Does anyone remember the name John Hemphill? He also had two companies named United States Receivers Caretakers Association and United States Mortgage Release Corp. Between 2002 and 2009, Hemphill would pretend to be a representative of the United States, recording forged deeds for properties in Chicago to one of his companies, and recording forged releases of outstanding mortgages showing on the properties. He would then sell the fraudulently acquired properties to unknowing third parties, usually for cash. He was convicted in 2011 and sentenced to 7 ½ years, but a month after he was released, he began his fraudulent ways again, this time in Milwaukee.

Does the name Marcus J. Lenton ring a bell? Lenton would find foreclosed properties that were bank owned, and then record a fraudulent deed from the REO lender to himself before selling the property to a third party. In fact, he recorded a deed to himself for the Burr Ridge property that, former Bulls player, Eddy Curry lost to foreclosure. He would also record documents that would purport to create billion-dollar liens on a property, although to be fair, those were easy to catch because he recorded a document titled Maritime Lien. He attempted to release mortgages from properties by recording a document titled Affidavit of Bailment. He has perpetrated fraud throughout the country.

We have no shortage of people attempting to defraud innocent parties. They’re like a hydra’s head, when you cut off one, two more grow back. But title insurance can help.

We are an industry of professionals that read and review chains of title and recorded documents daily. When a strange document comes through, we ask questions. We watch for names, we look for inconsistencies in transactions, and suspicious behaviors. Doing this helps us to uncover these types of frauds, and to avoid these types of situations before they become a problem which helps us protect our customers. It’s not easy to identify and prevent fraud, but the title insurance industry is diligently trying.

Title insurance cannot catch and prevent all fraud, but a policy of title insurance will protect our insureds from fraudsters like John Hemphill and Marcus Lenton.