Mercer County, Pa. (WJET/WFXP/YourErie.com) — A Hermitage, Pa. attorney and woman are facing charges for attempting to deceive a homeowner out of their house.
According to a Pennsylvania State Police report, a 61-year-old Volant, PA man sought out legal help from Dustin Cole, 39, an attorney from Hermitage, Pa., after the man’s home was in foreclosure.
Cole reportedly did not provide legal assistance but rather offered to pay off the victim’s current mortgage balance, which was under $19,000. The house is valued at $259,000.
The victim was allegedly forced into taking a loan at a 100% interest rate by Cole, who provided no other option on the eve of the sheriff’s sale of the victim’s home.
Further investigation from police showed Cole received money from the loan through Jenny Laslow, owner and operator of a title settlement company in Hermitage, Pa.
During this time, Cole also convinced the victim to sign a deed transfer for the home into Cole’s name, who reportedly said he would hold onto it as collateral for the loan until the victim could pay it off.
When the victim wasn’t able to pay off the loan, Cole reportedly filed the deed transfer with the Mercer County Recorder’s Office without the victim’s knowledge and assumed ownership of the residence, the report states.
Additional evidence revealed documents and forms executed in these transactions were notarized by Laslow after they were signed and that the victim was not present when the papers were notarized.
These incidents happened between January 2020 and December 2021, according to the report.
With assistance from the Pennsylvania Attorney General’s Office, charges were filed against Cole by the Mercy County District Attorney on multiple counts of theft by deception and usury.
Laslow was charged with one count of conspiracy to commit theft by deception. At this time, both are waiting for a preliminary hearing.