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Fidelity National Title Ins. Co., Inc. v. M & R Title, Inc.

United States District Court, D. Maryland, Southern Division

May 12, 2014

FIDELITY NATIONAL TITLE INSURANCE COMPANY, INC., Plaintiff,
v.
M & R TITLE, INC., et al., Defendants

Page 508

For Fidelity National Title Insurance Company, Inc., Plaintiff: Bradford Scott Bernstein, LEAD ATTORNEY, Rachel A Shapiro, Miles and Stockbridge PC, Rockville, MD.

For Kristen Shazor, Defendant: Craig L. Holcomb, Holcomb & Straile, LLC, Frederick, MD.

For AWB Properties, LLC, Waleed & Associates, LLC, Abuzar Waleed Bhatti, Defendants: Aaron Robert Caruso, LEAD ATTORNEY, Abod and Caruso, LLC, Gaithersburg, MD.

Keva Michelle Johnson, also known as Keva M. Johnson, Defendant, Pro se, Temple Hills, MD.

Latreal Brame, Defendant, Pro se, Upper Marlboro, MD.

For Anthony Diante Crawford, Lisa Michele Hook, Defendants: Barry M Tapp, LEAD ATTORNEY, Laurel, MD.

For Brush and Hammer, LLC, Janet McLeod, Options Incorporated, Jeffrey D. Neil Sibert, Defendants: Devashis A Kayal, LEAD ATTORNEY, WKC Law Group, Silver Spring, MD.

For Anita D'Antonio, Jeffrey D'Antonio, Defendants: Bizhan Beiramee, LEAD ATTORNEY, McGinnis Wutscher Beiramee LLP, Bethesda, MD.

OPINION

Page 509

MEMORANDUM OPINION

Paul W. Grimm, United States District Judge.

Plaintiff, a title insurance company, has brought this action against fifty named defendants over a series of alleged fraudulent real estate transactions. Two of the defendants move for summary judgment on personal jurisdiction grounds, asserting that they are domiciliaries of the Commonwealth of Virginia and that the basis for the suit is a Virginia-based transaction in Virginia real property. Plaintiff responds by arguing that the defendants are subject to jurisdiction under Maryland's long-arm statute and that they have maintained continuous and systematic ties with Maryland. Because I find that the Maryland long-arm statute does not reach these Defendants, I grant summary judgment in their favor.

I. BACKGROUND

Plaintiff Fidelity National Title Insurance Co., Inc. (" Fidelity" ) filed this action in January 2012 against fifty named defendants, seeking to recover damages arising out of a series of allegedly fraudulent real estate transactions. See Compl. 1-10, ECF No. 1. According to Plaintiff, between

Page 510

2008 and 2010, Defendants M & R Title, Inc. (" M& R" ) and its principal, Marla Messenger, orchestrated a series of real estate transactions " in which they purchased, in the names of fraudulent borrowers and fictitious lenders, properties at below market value and re-sold them at grossly inflated prices to third parties who gave new mortgages to finance the purchase." Id. at 10. As part of these transactions, M& R and Messenger, along with " various straw buyers and straw lenders," are alleged to have taken the escrow funds from these transactions and appropriated them for personal use. Id. Because Fidelity is the successor to the issuer of title insurance commitments and policies in connection with those transactions, it has brought this suit alleging that Defendants' misconduct has exposed it to substantial liability. Id.

The Complaint's allegations include a transaction (the " Danton Lane Transaction" ) involving a property located at 909 Danton Lane, Alexandria, Virginia (the " Danton Lane Property" ), in which Defendants Jeffrey D'Antonio and Anita D'Antonio (collectively, the " D'Antonios" ) were involved. Compl. 125. According to the Complaint, on or about February 12, 2008, M& R and Messenger conducted a sale of the Danton Lane Property to Jeffrey D'Antonio for a purchase price of $676,000. Compl. ¶ 864. At that time, the D'Antonios obtained a loan in the amount of $617,000, secured by a deed of trust dated February 12, 2008. Id. ¶ ¶ 867-68. The trustee on the Deed of Trust was Messenger's husband, and both the lender and trustee's addresses were listed as 5802 Broadmoor Street, Alexandria, Virginia--Messenger's former home address. Id. ¶ ¶ 869-70. Neither the deed nor the deed of trust was recorded until May 21, 2008. Id. ¶ 865. On May 23, 2008, M& R conducted a closing on two refinance loans to the D'Antonios. Id. ¶ 871. Subsequently, Anita D'Antonio, in connection with the issuance of a title insurance policy by Plaintiff's predecessor, executed a false affidavit stating that she had owned the Danton Lane Property for at least 123 days prior to May 23, 2008. Id. ¶ ¶ 872-73. Fidelity later learned that M& R and Messenger did not disburse the escrow funds held in connection with the Danton Lane Property transaction. Id. ¶ 875.

On January 17, 2013, the D'Antonios moved to dismiss pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(2) for lack of personal jurisdiction, as well as pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6). D'Antonio Mot. to Dismiss, ECF No. 58. With respect to the claimed lack of personal jurisdiction, the D'Antonios asserted that they are residents of the Commonwealth of Virginia and that this suit arises out of a transaction in Virginia real property that took place entirely in Virginia. Mem. of Law in Supp. of the D'Antonios' Mot. to Dismiss (" D'Antonio Dismiss Mem." ) 6, ECF No. 58-1. In response, Fidelity argued that additional discovery was necessary before the Court could rule on whether it can exercise personal jurisdiction over the D'Antonios. Pl.'s Opp'n to the D'Antonios' Mot. to Dismiss and Mem. in Supp. Thereof (" Pl.'s Dismiss Opp'n" ) 1, ECF ...


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