2009-01-01 / Local & State

Woman Acquitted In Home Sales Fraud Probe Sues AG

STROUDSBURG, Pa. (AP) - A former home sales title agent cleared of all charges in two fraud prosecutions has filed a $5 million lawsuit against the state attorney general, prosecutors and investigators involved in the case.

Anita Peterson, former owner of title company Mountain Valley Abstract, was acquitted of more than a dozen charges including perjury and falsely testifying before a grand jury. She had been accused of falsifying records to make it appear buyers had enough money to qualify for mortgages.

"I lost my career, everything I worked for in the last 25 years, I lost my house and I lost the legacy of everything I was going to give my son,'' said Peterson, who handled closings of home sales.

In January 2005, she was arrested and accused of manipulating home sales documents and tampering with a witness in transactions involving Eagle Valley Homes. The two owners of Eagle Valley pleaded guilty to a single home sales fraud charge in 2006 and were sentenced to probation. The company agreed to no longer sell homes.

Prosecutors charged Peterson with 19 counts including perjury, records tampering and related counts. The state also alleged she removed copies of checks from home sale files sought by a Harrisburg grand jury to hide discrepancies in the amounts of money paid by buyers.

In March 2007, she was acquitted of charges of perjury and falsely testifying before a grand jury. The trial jury deadlocked on six other charges and a mistrial was declared on those counts.

In September 2007, Peterson was acquitted of those remaining charges. Jurors said the main prosecution witness had credibility problems, and that prosecutors used the witness to try to entrap Peterson.

Peterson says in her lawsuit, filed in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania, that the ordeal has caused her permanent emotional and psychological damage and that she requires professional treatment.

"I have worked on and off ... but I can't work in my field. I'm blacklisted,'' she said.

Among those named in the suit are state Attorney General Thomas Corbett Jr., Bureau of Investigations Special Agent Kevin Colgan and Dana Kleintop, a former mortgage banker with an Eagle Valley subsidiary who testified against Peterson.

A spokesman for the attorney general's office could not be reached for comment.

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