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Miami Title Agency Owner Charged with Escrow Theft

9/26/2003

MIAMI BEACH – The former owner of a now-defunct title agency is in jail on a $1 million bond facing charges that he stole more than $5.5 million from property escrow accounts, leaving eight families without a home while he bought yachts, a Venetian Way home and seven luxury automobiles.

James Georges Mourra, 40, of 1235 North Venetian Way, Miami Beach, was taken into custody Thursday by investigators with the Department of Financial Services, Division of Insurance Fraud, on a charge of theft from escrow, a first-degree felony punishable by up to 30 years in prison. He is being held in the Dade County Jail. The yachts, home and cars have all been placed in receivership. The charge is being prosecuted by the Dade County State Attorney's Office, Economic Crime Unit

"It is incredibly sad that one man's greed can result in so much heartache for so many innocent people, " said Florida's Chief Financial Officer Tom Gallagher, who oversees the Department of Financial Services. "We will provide the prosecutor with all of the information we can in this case to ensure the strongest sentence possible under the law."

Mourra allegedly diverted the money from escrow accounts held by his company, Equitable Title Insurance Services, Inc. The accounts belonged to various homebuyers, homeowners, lenders and Attorney's Title Insurance Fund, Inc. Investigators said he transferred the money between April 12, 2002, and May 7, 2003, to personal accounts and entities he held.

Investigators said because of his actions at least eight families lost their homes because title insurance was never issued and deals fells through.

Mourra founded Equitable Title Insurance Services Inc., in the late 1990s. It closed in May.

The Department of Financial Services, Division of Insurance Fraud, investigates various forms of fraud in insurance, including health, life, auto, property and workers' compensation insurance. A reward of up to $25,000 may be offered for information leading to a conviction.