An Iowa woman who perpetrated a complex real estate scam and stole more than $1 million from investors has been sentenced to more than six years in prison, a local news source reported today.

Susan Hill of New Liberty, Iowa, in January pleaded guilty to 23 counts of wire fraud, 14 counts of money laundering and five counts of mail fraud, according to a Billings Gazette report. A judge ordered Hill pay restitution in an amount to be later determined.

In May 1989, Hill purchased Mountain Escrow of Whitefish and moved the company to Hamilton. She renamed the company Mountain Financial Services and conducted business in Hamilton until 1992, at which time she changed the name of the escrow service to Cloverhill Mortgage Group and moved the business to Durant, Iowa, according to a statement from the U.S. Attorney’s office.

Hill operated the escrow business out of her personal residence and had access to all the title documents in numerous real estate contract for deed transactions and payment histories for those transactions. This allowed her to falsely represent sellers’ interests for sale or obtain early payoffs from buyers, convert those funds to her own use and conceal the payoff by making monthly payments to the seller.

Hill assumed identities, forged signatures on real estate title documents, operated mail drop boxes, and lied to everyone involved in each transaction, the U.S. Attorney’s office said. Many of the fraudulent transactions were accomplished through legitimate mortgage banking businesses, but some of the transactions were accomplished directly with a victim investor.

The investors paid large sums of money and received no payments or security in return. Similarly, the buyers paid large sums of money that was never forwarded to the original sellers in the contract for deed transaction. Sometimes this left the original sellers unpaid and without security. Alternately, it left the buyers without title to property for which they had paid in full.

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Send tips or a Letter to the Editor to jessica@inman.com or call (510) 658-9252, ext. 133.

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