A Baltimore County man is suspected of stealing about $100,000 from at least 30 people--including law enforcement officers--in Prince George's, Anne Arundel and Calvert counties as part of a widespread mortgage refinancing scheme, authorities said yesterday.
The suspect, Michael Dudley Leppert, 36, offered below-market mortgage refinancing rates to dozens of people, but then he pocketed fees that homeowners paid to cover closing costs, according to court records and investigators.
Authorities said that they are just beginning to discover the extent of the alleged scam.
Leppert has been the target of separate criminal investigations by the Maryland State Police, Anne Arundel County police and Prince George's County and Calvert County sheriff's departments, but none of the agencies was aware that they were all investigating the same man until this week.
The case is now being handled by the Maryland attorney general's office at the request of local investigators.
"Everybody started realizing at the same time that a lot of stuff was happening in several counties that might be related," said Carolyn Henneman, chief of criminal investigations for the attorney general's office.
Henneman declined to comment further on the investigation, but court records show that Leppert faces theft charges in three counties.
Leppert, of the 5600 block of Chelwynd Road in Arbutus, was arrested Tuesday by state troopers in Cecil County. He was brought back to Prince George's, where he was charged with two counts of theft of more than $300 and one count of scheming to commit theft, according to court records. He is being held in the Prince George's County jail on $15,000 bond.
According to the statement of charges, Leppert cheated a Prince George's sheriff's deputy out of $2,500 by offering to refinance his home mortgage at an unusually low rate.
The deputy handed over the money, which was supposed to cover closing costs on a new mortgage, to Leppert at the Prince George's County Courthouse in two installments, in late May and early June.
Leppert kept the money and never secured a new mortgage, court records state.
The deputy told investigators that he trusted Leppert because Leppert had successfully refinanced his home mortgage two years earlier.
Indeed, Leppert won the confidence of many other homeowners by touting his ties to at least a dozen sheriff's deputies and police officers for whom he had legitimately arranged mortgages in the past, according to one Upper Marlboro man who lost $6,000 in the alleged scam.
"Especially in the law enforcement community, you generally feel like you can trust somebody if they were referred to you by someone you know," said the man, who asked not to be identified. "You think, 'Who is going to rip off a cop, anyway?' "
Leppert also faces three counts of grand theft in Prince George's, according to a separate warrant that has not yet been served. In addition, he is wanted in Calvert County on three counts of theft and scheming to commit theft, according to court records.
Other court records show that Leppert was charged with nine counts of theft in Anne Arundel County on April 10. He is scheduled to go to trial on those charges on Oct. 7.
Staff researcher Bobbye Pratt contributed to this report.