(CN) - Two investors say North American Title Co., one of the nation's biggest title firms, took $415,000 of their money and invested it in a real estate scheme controlled by members of the Russian mafia. Brian Vodicka and Steven Aubrey claim that North American Title served as title company, escrow agent and an unchartered de facto bank for people known as the "Gunn-Lahr-Barlin Syndicate."
At the direction of the syndicate, North American Title also served as title company and escrow agent for the plaintiffs, in an investment that was part of a larger, pooled mortgage investment, in properties in Travis County, Texas, according to the complaint in Dallas County Court.
Vodicka and Aubrey say they learned later that the recipient of their money was an entity "owned and controlled by a confederate of unsavory characters, including Victor Wolf (a fugitive wanted by the FBI for a $100 million mortgage fraud scam in Florida), Vitaly Zaretsky (a person with alleged links to Russian organized crime), Gennady Borokhovich (a person with alleged links to Russian organized crime), and Sam Zelster (who was allegedly sued and found liable for a real estate fraud where borrowed funds were diverted from the project to improve the collateral) (the 'Manor borrower')." (Parentheses in complaint.)
Vodicka and Aubrey claim that North American Title often did business with the Manor Borrower and its principals, and therefore "knew that the Manor Borrower did not have title to collateral allegedly being pledged to plaintiffs to secure the Manor investment."
They also claim that North American Title prepared and issued numerous "amended" HUD-1 settlement statements after the closing of the Manor transaction, to conceal the true disposition of the money.
Vodicka and Aubrey seek actual and exemplary damages, disgorgement, and court costs on claims of breach of fiduciary duty, transferring of funds of a criminal activity, conspiracy to commit fraud, and violations of the Texas Securities act.
They are represented by Elliott Cappuccio with Pulman, Cappuccio, Pullen & Benson of San Antonio.