Columbia Woman Guilty for Embezzelment and Money Laundering

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JEFFERSON CITY - A Columbia woman pleaded guilty in federal court Thursday to charges of bank fraud and money laundering, which were part of a $576,000 mortgage fraud and embezzlemet scheme at the title company where she was employed.

Terri Lynn Johnson, 48, of Columbia, pleaded guilty before U.S. Magistrate Judge Matt J. Whitworth to the charges contained in a Dec. 13, 2012 federal indictment.

Johnson was hired for a clerical position with Guaranty Land Title Company in 2001, and was eventually promoted to become the branch manager of the Fulton, Mo. office after the company was acquired by Landchoice Company, LLC. She remained in that position until her termination in 2008.

Johnson admitted that she engaged in a $300,000 mortgage fraud scheme while she was employed as the Fulton branch manager. Johnson refinanced the mortgage on her residence twice. As a result of the false and fraudulent information provided by Johnson, two banks approved mortgage loans, one for $175,000 and the other for $125,000. The combination of those two loans clearly exceeded the appraised value of Johnson's residence, which was used to secure both loans.

Johnson also admitted that she embezzled $276,173 from Landchoice. She diverted income checks from Landchoice into a bank account that had been opened for Guaranty Land Title Company and which her employer didn't know existed. She also diverted escrow funds which had been obtained by Landchoice for loan closings into that account.

Johnson then wrote checks to herself which she deposited into her personal checking account. She wrote checks totaling approximately $59,465 payable to herself, as well as checks to her personal business, which totaled approximately $12,500. Johnson also wrote checks believed to be for her personal use totaling approximately $19,916. In addition, she utilized a debit card issued for the account, which she used to access $184,292 for her personal benefit. The total personal benefit realized by Johnson from this embezzlement scheme is estimated to be approximately $276,173.

Under federal statutes, Johnson is subject to a sentence of up to 40 years in federal prison without parole. A sentencing hearing will be scheduled after the completion of a pre-sentence investigation by the U.S. Probation Office.