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Miami Title Agent Banned from Industry for Theft

6/4/2003

CONTACTO: Nina Banister
(850) 413-2842

MIAMI – A former Miami title agent has been banned from Florida's insurance industry for her role in a scheme to divert almost $6 million in escrow funds from a now-defunct title company, Florida's Chief Financial Officer Tom Gallagher announced today.

Lynne Pretzfeld, 54, former co-owner of the now-closed Title Examiners, Inc., pleaded no contest yesterday in Miami-Dade Circuit Court to charges of conspiracy to commit racketeering and grand theft. Circuit Court Judge Jacqueline Hogan Scola adjudicated her guilty. In addition to the industry ban, she was sentenced to 10 years probation, was ordered to pay $60,000 in restitution and $3,000 in investigative costs and must perform 200 hours of community service. William Kostrewski of the Dade County State Attorney's office, Economic Crimes Unit, handled the prosecution.

Her former business partner, Cecilia L. Rodriguez, 42, was also banned from Florida's insurance industry after pleading guilty to the same charges on October 29. Rodriguez was also sentenced to 10 years probation and was ordered to pay back $50,000 to victims and $1,000 in investigative costs.

"Home-buying is a complex financial transaction, and consumers should be sure to read and understand all documents before signing a contract or an agreement," Gallagher said. "But agents who abuse the trust of their customers should be advised that such activity will not be tolerated in Florida."


Pretzfeld and Rodriguez operated Title Examiners, Inc., formerly located at 9555 N. Kendall Dr., Suite 206, Miami. Investigators with the Division of Insurance Fraud determined that, between 1993 and 1997, Pretzfeld and Rodriquez provided false real estate documents to the Miami-Dade County Clerk's Office and fictitious bank records to title insurer Stewart Title Guaranty Company. Investigators said those false documents were intended to cover up their various schemes to divert or misappropriate more than $5.9 million in escrow funds. Stewart Title was left with a $648,000 shortfall in escrow funds.

El Departamento de Servicios Financieros, División de Fraudes de Seguros, investiga fraudes de todo tipo de seguros, incluyendo de salud, vida, automóvil, propiedad y compensación legal por accidentes de trabajo. Anyone with information about this case or other possible fraud should call the department's Hotline at 1-800-378-0445. Se ofrece una recompensa de hasta $25,000 a cambio de información que conduzca a una condena en casos de fraude de seguros.