Joseph E. Goldberg Sr., under state investigation for $2.3 million missing from his now-defunct settlement company and on the run from creditors, has emerged long enough to file a suit accusing his estranged wife and seven of her relatives of theft.
Among the items he claims they stole from his houses in Howard County and Western Maryland: an in-ground pool, a Jacuzzi, AK-47 assault-style rifles and 4,000 rounds of ammunition.
Mr. Goldberg, 41, contends in the suit that he has "lost the quiet, comfort, solace and enjoyment of his property" and as a result now suffers from "severe depression."
But Diane L. Goldberg, Mr. Goldberg's estranged wife of 22 years, said, "All I can say is, Joe needs to take a hard look in the mirror at himself if he's saying people were stealing from him."
All of the others named in the suit are Mrs. Goldberg's relatives. They include her parents, Anthony and June Liberto.
"It's positively ridiculous. Laughable," said June Liberto.
Mr. Goldberg referred comment on the suit to Preston Pairo III, an Ellicott City attorney who says Mr. Goldberg consulted him earlier this week about the case.
"It's obviously an emotional time in light of all that has happened. My role right now is to diffuse it so it doesn't get blown out of proportion," said Mr. Pairo.
Mr. Goldberg, who operated the now-defunct Land Title Research of Maryland in Ellicott City, dropped out of sight in October, soon after the state shut his company and seized its records and assets.
State authorities took action after receiving complaints from homebuyers and title insurance underwriters that the company had not paid off mortgages or filed critical legal papers in court.
No criminal charges have been filed against Mr. Goldberg nor anyone else connected with Land Title. But the state is investigating what happened to the missing money -- most of it funds that were supposed to have been used to pay off mortgages for property settlement transactions that Land Title handled.
State insurance officials have characterized the case as one of the worst incidents of mishandling property insurance and settlement money in Maryland history. Ownership of dozens of properties in virtually every county may be at risk because of the company's failure to pay off mortgages and file legal papers, state insurance officials have testified.
The Goldberg case and an investigation published in December by The Sun, which revealed inadequate state control of the title insurance business, led to tougher insurance regulations passed the General Assembly this month.
Investigators have said they have not been able to locate Mr. Goldberg to interview him about money missing from his company. Mrs. Goldberg said she saw him last in January.
Mr. Pairo said he was not at liberty to disclose where Mr. Goldberg is living, nor how he has been supporting himself.
On April 12, however, Mr. Goldberg filed the suit in Howard County Circuit Court in Ellicott City. Mr. Goldberg does not list an attorney representing him in the suit.
The suit asks $2.5 million in compensatory and punitive damages. It contains a report Mr. Goldberg filed with police alleging two break-ins at a home in Washington County. He says the value of items missing after those break-ins is about $12,000.
Those items include a $2,400 Jacuzzi, a $2,000 television satellite receiver and a $600 reclining chair with a massaging device, according to court papers. Mr. Goldberg also claims in the suit that the defendants removed an in-ground pool from the couple's home in Marriottsville.
And Mr. Goldberg contends that he "entrusted" a gun collection and ammunition, including AK-47 assault-style guns, to the people he is suing, and that some of the weapons now are missing.
Mrs. Goldberg, however, said the pool is a portable above-ground pool and was her children's. She declined to comment on the guns.
She said she recently had to move out of the Marriottsville residence because she is destitute. She said that her husband financially deserted her and their three children, and that they have been forced to move in with her parents.