In January, the FBI arrested Rosemary Sauter-Frett, also known as Rosemary Sauter, a realtor accused of fleeing the U.S. Virgin Islands to escape prosecution for embezzlement. She had been on the run for nearly four years.
Now 62 years old, Sauter allegedly fled the Virgin Islands in February 2010 after checks began to bounce in connection with escrow accounts she used during real estate transactions. Her disappearance prompted the Virgin Islands Attorney General’s Office to issue a warrant for her arrest, and eight months later, the U.S. Attorney General’s Office also issued a federal arrest warrant. Reports issued at the time claimed that she had taken with her nearly $3 million, which was removed from accounts her clients had placed in her care.
Police found Sauter living in an apartment in Fallbrook, a suburban area near San Diego, California, after the FBI’s San Diego office received a tip from another office in San Juan, Puerto Rico. The warrant for Sauter’s arrest charged her with violation of unlawful flight to avoid prosecution. She did not resist arrest and is currently being held at the Metropolitan Correction Center, a federal prison in San Diego.
Prior to her disappearance, Sauter was a successful real estate agent, with the largest realty office in St. Thomas. In addition to her real estate office, she also operated an accounting firm and a restaurant/bar, and was the former president of the V.I. Territorial Board of Realtors and the St. Thomas Board of Realtors.
Sauter was arraigned on Monday, February 3 in San Diego’s federal court on a charge of fleeing to avoid prosecution. She has since been jailed without bail and faces another federal court date soon.
It’s believed that Sauter embezzled substantial monies from her customers, who believed their money was being securely held in a RE/MAX Dreams Properties escrow account, before she fled the U.S. Virgin Islands. Overall, she is accused of absconding with more than $3 million of her fellow investors’ and clients’ money. She faces charges of grand larceny, which is the theft of high-valued personal property, and embezzlement, or the theft of funds that have been placed in another person’s care. She is also accused of obtaining money using false pretenses.
The territorial and federal documents detailing her exact charges are sealed, however, and it is unclear whether they will be released at any point in the near future. Sauter will most likely be extradited to the U.S. Virgin Islands for prosecution.
This case demonstrates the need for individuals and business owners to be extra diligent when escrowing substantial monies in a business transaction. Inquire if the company or individual has professional liability insurance or a fidelity bond. If you have any questions or would like a second opinion on a real estate legal issue, speak with an attorney.
BoltNagi is a widely respected and established real estate law firm serving clients throughout the U.S. Virgin Islands.