Title Lawyer Pleads Guilty To Stealing More Than $2 Million In Trust Funds

Wifredo A. Ferrer, United States Attorney for the Southern District of Florida, Henry Gutierrez, Postal Inspector in Charge, U.S. Postal Inspection Service, John V. Gillies, Special Agent in Charge, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Miami Field Office, and J. Thomas Cardwell, Commissioner, State of Florida Office of Financial Regulation, announced that 57-year-old attorney James B. Hayes, of Boca Raton, Florida, pled guilty today to a criminal information charging him in two counts of making false statements on a HUD-1 Settlement Form, a matter within the jurisdiction of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 1001.

Sentencing is scheduled for December 3, 2010 at 9:00 AM before U.S. District Court Judge James Cohn in Fort Lauderdale. Hayes faces a maximum statutory sentence of up to five years in prison on each count.

According to the criminal information and statements made in court during today's plea hearing, Hayes practiced law during 2007 through December 2009 at James B. Hayes P.A. in Boca Raton, Florida, handling real estate closings for clients and mortgage lenders.

According to statements made in court, during that time, Hayes misappropriated more than $2,706,346.91 that were to be used to payoff prior loans and clients funds from his law firms trust account.

Instead of using the money as directed on several closings, Hayes prepared and sent false HUD-1 Real Estate Settlement Forms on closings, falsely reflecting the old loans had been paid off.

As part of the plea agreement announced in court today, Hayes agreed to make mandatory restitution of the $2,706,346.91 to the title insurance companies and to the client victims.

Hayes was permanently disbarred by the Florida Supreme Court on August 24, 2010 and in his plea agreement agreed to never reapply or seek admission as an attorney in any state.

Mr. Ferrer commended the investigative efforts of the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, FBI, and the State of Florida Office of Financial Regulation. Mr. Ferrer also thanked the title insurance companies, Attorneys Title, Old Republic and Chicago Title, for their assistance in this investigation.

This case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Jeffrey H. Kay.