Escrow Agent Sentenced for Stealing Funds
Stacey Marie Hebuck, 37, Ravalli County, Montana, was sentenced to 42 months in prison for diverting funds from Pinnacle Title escrow accounts and using the money for her own personal use and benefit. Hebuck was also ordered to pay a special assessment of $200, restitution in the amount of $468,482.03, and upon release from prison, she will be on supervised release for 3 years.
Hebuck was sentenced in connection with her guilty plea to wire fraud and money laundering.
In an Offer of Proof filed by Assistant U.S. Attorney Timothy J. Racicot, the government stated it would have proved at trial the following:
From August 2005 until June 2008, Hebuck was the escrow officer for Pinnacle Title and Escrow. In June 2008 she bought the business and started calling it New Pinnacle Title LLC. Also in June 2008 (before she bought the business), Hebuck began diverting funds from Pinnacle and using the money for her own personal use and benefit.
To effect her scheme, Hebuck manipulated the financial transactions associated with five different real estate closings that Pinnacle handled from June 2008 until January 2009. During each closing, when Pinnacle received the buyer's financing, Hebuck diverted the funds to her personal bank accounts by issuing checks drawn on Pinnacle's trust or operating accounts. When Hebuck deposited the checks into her personal account, she caused an interstate wire between her bank and a federal reserve bank outside of Montana.
Rather than use the funds to pay off the existing mortgages, she spent the majority of the diverted funds on herself for living and other expenses. In some cases, she continued to make the monthly mortgage payments on loans that were supposed to have been closed and in two cases, which involved smaller payoff amounts, Hebuck eventually paid the entire balance.
Hebuck spent the money on a variety of things, including using $200,000 from the first closing as her down payment to buy the business, which is the monetary transaction that underpins the offense in Count II. She also bought a 2007 Chevy pickup, which cost $31,180, paid for facial plastic surgery, which cost a total of $17,134.80, and purchased a horse trailer, which cost $41,655. Hebuck also used a substantial sum of money to pay off land owned by her parents in Seeley Lake.
Hebuck was interviewed about her fraud on February 23, 2009, and also provided a written statement. She admitted the essence of what she had done, though she referred to her actions as "business practices," and she claimed that she intended to pay off all five loans as Pinnacle's business grew. She wrote that she felt she was borrowing the money, not stealing it. Two days after the interview, Hebuck took a trip to Mexico that cost $5,139.96.
Because there is no parole in the federal system, the "truth in sentencing" guidelines mandate that Hebuck will likely serve all of the time imposed by the court. In the federal system, Hebuck does have the opportunity to earn a sentence reduction for "good behavior." However, this reduction will not exceed 15% of the overall sentence.
The United States Attorney's Office announced the sentence. The defendant was sentenced before U.S. District Judge Donald W. Molloy.
The investigation was a cooperative effort between the U.S. Secret Service and the Criminal Investigation Division of the Internal Revenue Service.
COURTESY RACHEL DOLLAR