Home News Local News State: Budgetary restraints delay Roswell Escrow receivership

State: Budgetary restraints delay Roswell Escrow receivership

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A receivership to manage Roswell Escrow Services Inc. and its assets has not been set up yet primarily because of budgetary constraints and staff shortages and turnovers affecting the New Mexico Regulations and Licensing Department and its Financial Institutions Division, according to a report filed with the New Mexico First Judicial District Court on Feb. 12.

Kevin Graham, a lawyer for the Regulation and Licensing Department, and Lucas Williams, the lawyer for the co-owners and officers of Roswell Escrow Services Inc., provided a joint status report to update the court on the case, which is now before Judge Bryan Biedscheid.

The lawyers wrote that the state intends to convert a stipulated temporary injunction agreed upon in November 2019 by the state and co-owners Christopher Adam Jensen-Tanner and Mindy Jensen-Tanner into a permanent order. At this time, the business entity of Roswell Escrow is not represented by a lawyer.

The injunction gives the state control over Roswell Escrow’s client accounts and gives it access to the company’s offices and storage sites, financial accounts, computers and data.

According to the status report, the FID has taken control of 1,439 client accounts and transferred “the large majority” of them to other escrow companies. The Financial Institutions Division has dedicated eight staff and management employees to the work, and they have logged 5,300 hours since November.

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But, according to the report, the Financial Institutions Division “has been hindered” by staff shortages, management turnover and limited legal staff, in part due to COVID-19.

The state also lacks the funds now to hire a professional receiver, the report indicated. A receiver is a person appointed or approved by the court to manage a business or organization while it is going through court procedures or is being reorganized or liquidated.

“FID did seek and receive a funds expenditure authorization during the 2020 Regular Legislative Session,” the report stated, “however, budget issues caused that allocation to be canceled.”

While awaiting further funding, the parties did agree on five actions intended to address some immediate concerns, which includes rental payments on office and storage sites.

The first agreement is to conduct an inventory of assets worth more than $25 at Roswell Escrow’s offices at 200 W. Second St. and sell the items, with money deposited into a court “registry” account. Items not able to be sold would be given to the Jensen-Tanners. The rent on that office would then be canceled, as the status report indicated that the state cannot continue to pay the reduced rental payment for the office space.

The order also allows the Financial Institutions Division to take necessary steps to obtain the financial and business documents now being held by a storage company, which is reportedly holding onto the documents as collateral for 18 months of past due rent. A fifth agreement is to allow the parties to seek a court order that would give the state or receiver access to the court account to pay rent and an insurance bill that is the subject of a lawsuit filed in Eddy County.

Since November 2019, the state has had authority over Roswell Escrow’s accounts after the First Judicial District Court approved the stipulated order.

The order came following a client complaint to the Financial Institutions Division in October 2019 about not getting a payment owed him. According to court documents, FID investigators soon arrived at the West Second Street offices of Roswell Escrow and began their examination of business records. The state found that client accounts were short about $1.57 million and company debt was more than $3.1 million. The court filing also alleges several violations of state law and regulations concerning client accounts and stated that it appeared that several transfers of client funds had been used for personal purposes, including to purchase “high-end wristwatches.”

According to court filings, Christopher Jensen-Tanner told investigators that he and the company had been the victim of a wire fraud of about $1.1 million.

The Federal Bureau of Investigations has been involved in examinations, but the status report indicated that the lawyers did not have an update concerning that agency’s actions.

The state is advising Roswell Escrow clients or others with questions to email them at FID.questions@state.nm.us for the quickest responses. The FID hotline number is 505-660-4687.

Senior Writer Lisa Dunlap can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 351, or at reporter02@rdrnews.com.

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Lisa Dunlap is a general assignment reporter for the Roswell Daily Record.