August 22, 2006
Attorney General Corbett announces criminal charges against Fayette County attorney; first arrest by AG's Elder Abuse Unit
HARRISBURG - Attorney General Tom Corbett today announced that agents from the Attorney General's Elder Abuse Unit have filed criminal charges against a Fayette County attorney accused of stealing nearly $100,000 in mortgage settlement payments from older clients.
Corbett identified the defendant as Mark Morrison, 49, 1169 National Pike, Hopwood, Fayette County. Morrison is a former Assistant District Attorney for Fayette County and former solicitor for the Fayette County Airport Authority.
The criminal charges state that in August and December 2005, Morrison, serving as a private attorney, handled mortgage settlements for two Fayette County couples. As part of the mortgage settlements, Morrison was supplied with funds to settle all previous outstanding mortgage loans on the properties.
Corbett said that according to the criminal charges, Morrison used a small portion of the funds to settle smaller mortgages on the properties, but kept $99,182 for his own benefit - concealing the fact that he had not paid off all of the loans, as he was obligated to do.
According to the criminal charges, Morrison allegedly changed the billing address for one of the mortgage loans and began making smaller monthly payments himself. This alleged scheme was discovered in March 2006 when a payment arrived late and the mortgage company contacted the property owners - informing them that the loan had not been paid off, as they had believed.
Additionally, Corbett said that Morrison is charged with falsifying documents concerning title insurance which he claimed to have obtained for the two mortgage settlements.
According to the criminal complaint, forged letters, purportedly from First American Title Insurance, were presented by Morrison at both closings. Those letters falsely stated that Morrison was an "issuing agent" or "approved attorney" for First American Title Insurance and bear the authorizing signature of an individual who does not work for the title insurance company.
The criminal charges also state that Morrison failed to make other required payments from the mortgage settlements, including taxes, hazard insurance, broker fees and processing fees.
Corbett said that according to the criminal complaint, a review of Morrison's business and personal bank records show that the funds to pay off various mortgages were electronically transferred into a secure account controlled by Morrison, but those funds were depleted without any payments to the mortgage companies.
Morrison is charged with two counts each of theft by failure to make required disposition of funds and forgery, third degree felonies each punishable by up to seven years in prison and $15,000 in fines.
Morrison is also charged with two counts each of tampering with public records and misapplication of entrusted property, first degree misdemeanors each punishable by up to one year in prison and $10,000 in fines.
Morrison was preliminarily arraigned today before Uniontown Magisterial District Judge Mark L. Blair, and released on $100,000 unsecured bail. A preliminary hearing is scheduled for Sept, 21, 2006, at 10 a.m., before Magisterial District Judge Blair.
The case will be prosecuted in Fayette County by Senior Deputy Attorney General Anthony J. Krastek.
Corbett noted that this is the first criminal case being brought by the Attorney General's Elder Abuse Unit, which was created in July 2006 to address the growing number of crimes and scams targeted at Pennsylvania's nearly two-million seniors.
"The sole mission of the Elder Abuse Unit is to investigate and prosecute all forms of abuse of the elderly, including financial exploitation, physical abuse and sexual assault," Corbett said. "Just as the Attorney General's Office has developed an expertise in fighting drug dealers with prosecutors and narcotics agents who focus solely on drug investigations, the single purpose of prosecutors and the agents of the Elder Abuse Unit will be to pursue those who prey on our senior citizens."
(A person charged with a crime is presumed innocent until proven guilty.)
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