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Woman pleads guilty to stealing $1.5 million in Columbia mortgage fraud

An Ellicott City woman pleaded guilty Wednesday to wire fraud for using $1.5 million in mortgage closing funds to operate two Columbia-based businesses, according to the Maryland District U.S. Attorney's Office.

Harriet M. Taylor, 56, of Ellicott City, pleaded guilty to one count of wire fraud on Wednesday after it was discovered during a 2010 audit that she illegally transferred funds between her two Columbia insurance companies' escrow and operating accounts for personal use.

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In 2009, Taylor, who co-owns Regal Title Co. and Loyalty Title Co. in Columbia, began wiring funds provided by mortgage lenders from her companies' escrow accounts to their operating accounts. The funds, which are entrusted for real estate settlements, were meant to stay in escrow.

By commingling the funds, Taylor was able to keep her two businesses afloat and pay herself, according to a news release from the U.S. attorney's office.

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Taylor's actions were uncovered in January 2010 during an audit after she failed to pay her insurance underwriter, Old Republic National Title Insurance Co.

According to the release, Old Republic reported a total loss of $1,518,532 resulting from transactions with Taylor's two companies.

Taylor is scheduled to be sentenced in U.S. District Court on Jan. 17.

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