• Attorney accused of pocketing $166K mortgage payoff loses license to practice law

    By: Greg Suskin

    Updated:

    ROCK HILL, S.C. - Art Werner Jr., 72, sold his home on Thistledown Drive in Rock Hill over the summer, after living there for 10 years. The closing for the home was on July 15 and Werner said he was betrayed.

    "This is the most frustrating event of my life," Werner said Monday.

    Two weeks after the closing, Werner knew something was wrong.

    "I got an email saying that our mortgage has not been paid," Werner said.

    [ALSO READ: PTA president embezzled $13,000 to pay for cocaine habit]

    The email came from his lender, Navy Federal Credit Union. He still owed the credit union $166,000 on the house.

    His closing attorney, Thomas A. Givens was supposed to send the payoff amount to the bank, but he didn't. More than two months later, the bank still doesn't have the $166,000.

    "I have no idea at all what I'm gonna do," Werner said.

    On Friday, Givens was arrested and charged with breach of trust over $10,000. He was released this weekend on bond. His license to practice law was taken from him the following week.


    (Givens)

    Werner said he had every reason to trust Givens, who had done two closings with him before.

    The buyers of Werner's home had also dealt with Givens on previous real estate business.

    The arrest warrant states that Givens not only didn't pay off the mortgage but doesn't have the money, and hid that fact from Werner.

    'He would say his secretary is going to wire the money, but she's out sick. Later, he said she had gone on vacation," Werner told Channel 9. "That's when I got suspicious."

    The Thomas A. Givens law practice is located on Ebenezer Road in Rock Hill and its website said Givens was open for business after his arrest.

    Givens has had issues before. Public documents show that, in 2013, he was fined $4,000 by the State Department of Insurance for failing to forward insurance premiums paid by clients.

    Werner said every day is a nightmare for him since he closed on the home. The buyers have moved into his former home, but he's still paying a mortgage on it.

    The next payment is due Oct. 1.

    He said he knows he can't keep paying a mortgage on a house he no longer lives in, in addition to paying for the home he rents now.

    He said that the crime could happen to anyone, but no one seems to have heard of a situation similar to his.

    "I tell my friends and they say, 'What happened to you?' No one's seen this before," he said.

    Werner said he got a check for the profit he made from selling the house, but that money is now being used to keep paying the mortgage on his former home.

    He said he's trying to work out something with his lender, but he's unsure what will happen with that.

    "Every day I wake up, wonder if another shoe is gonna drop," he said.


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