Aug. 07--FARMINGTON -- State authorities investigating the collapse of New Mexico Title Escrow Co. are working to process claims for customers who say they are missing money.
Receiver Darryl Millet said he will disburse funds belonging to former New Mexico Title customers who have moved their accounts to other escrow companies later this week.
Of about 950 files that were active or recently closed when New Mexico Title collapsed in late January, about 350 have been moved to other escrow companies, Millet said Monday.
"All of the money that we can identify will be sent to the rightful owners," Millet said.
Millet spoke at a meeting Monday hosted by the New Mexico Regulation and Licensing Department that drew former New Mexico Title customers who still want answers to the business' collapse.
New Mexico Title Co. closed Jan. 30, followed shortly by New Mexico Title Escrow Co. The businesses shared a building at 650 W. Main St., Suite C, and investigators believe their operations overlapped.
Investigators have found about $500,000 in New Mexico Title funds. That money is being held in trust, to be disbursed by the receiver.
Millet said claims for missing funds exceed the money found to date.
"There is a huge shortage of money," he said. "I have about a half-million dollars sitting in the account. I have claims right now that wipe out that half-million dollars and then some."
Millet said most of the funds already are spoken for by former escrow customers.
"Most of that half-million dollars, I know who it belongs to," he said.
Millet said he hopes to have more money to disburse to customers after liquidating New Mexico Title Escrow Co.'s assets.
Customers came with pointed questions for state officials.
Manuel Sandoval of Bloomfield said his mother did not receive a $610 payment from a property buyer, even though the buyer's check cleared.
He complained state officials continue to ask for documents he already has given them.
"It doesn't seem like the state of New Mexico cares about us," Sandoval said. "It seems like the state of New Mexico cares about the escrow people."
Another property seller, Rosie Trujillo of Farmington, said she and her husband, Joel, did not receive a $14,147 payment their buyer sent to New Mexico Title.
Richard Parmley, a Farmington lawyer, said he represents several former New Mexico Title customers, and one is missing $95,000. He wanted to know whether the state agencies are working together.
The Regulation and Licensing Department's Financial Institutions Division oversees escrow companies, while the Public Regulation Commission's Insurance Division regulates title companies.
The split jurisdiction has been a source of frustration for investigators and customers alike. Parmley said the separate companies was a "legal fiction."
"The idea that there's a segregation, one for the other, is ridiculous," he said. "Things in that office were co-mingled."
Millet said the agencies were working together on the case. The receiver is leading a forensic audit of the accounts and money at New Mexico Title, conducted by an Albuquerque accounting firm, REDW.
The investigation grew so expensive in June that the Financial Institutions Division obtained a $458,000 emergency loan from another state agency to continue the audit.
District Attorney Rick Tedrow grabbed the microphone at the end of the meeting to reassure customers that law enforcement is ready to move forward when Millet's investigation is completed.
"We have been working hand-in-hand with the Farmington Police Department," he said. "When we started this, we said we were patiently waiting. Now we're less patient, but we're still waiting."
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