The former owner of Missouri-based Phoenix Title and James Andrew GMAC Real Estate (JAGMAC) was sentenced to 63 months in prison and ordered to pay more than $2 million to the victims of a mortgage fraud scheme, officials said Thursday.

Thurman, 41, of St. Charles, Mo., pleaded guilty to one felony count of wire fraud in August 2005, according to U.S. Attorney Catherine L. Hanaway.

James Andrew Thurman transferred a total of $3.44 million of customers’ escrow deposits from Phoenix Title to JAGMAC and $15,000 from customers’ escrow deposits to his own personal account between March 1, 2002, and Dec. 2, 2004, Hanaway said.

Thurman formed Phoenix Title in 1996 and JAGMAC in 2002, the U.S. Attorney said. Both Phoenix Title and JAGMAC Real Estate operated from a Main Street building in St. Charles, Mo., Hanaway said.

In January 2005, when Phoenix Title was unable to fund its customers’ loan payoffs or home purchases, Thurman directed Phoenix Title employees to delay the delivery of customers’ escrow funds for 10 days, the U.S. attorney’s office said.

The following month Thurman reimbursed $225,000 of the customers’ escrow funds with money he borrowed from a friend, and on March 17, 2005, Thurman repaid a total of $1.9 million with money he borrowed from his parents, the U.S. attorney said.

During March and April 2005, Thurman caused Phoenix Title to continue to accept escrow deposits from customers seeking to purchase or build a home, or to refinance their mortgages, omitting the material fact that Phoenix Title had a deficit of more than $1.5 million in its escrow funds, the U.S. attorney said.

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