If a Realtor or Broker did you wrong, by all means file a complain with the California Department of Real Estate.
Eddie W. de Leon
Does the seller get that money before escrow closes? MAYBE.
In most standard sales, the answer is NO. The cash remains in escrow's bank account and nothing goes to the seller until escrow closes.
HOWEVER, there is a contract provision called a "non-refundable, pass through deposit" that I suggest sellers have in the purchase contract when the buyer wants an unusually long escrow period (let's say more than 120 days). With a "pass through deposit", all or part of the initial deposit - or of an additional deposit - may be released to the seller prior to close of escrow. Those releases are usually stipulated to occur a certain number of days after escrow opens or when inspections are complete.
Once the buyers offer is accepted and escrow is opened, the earnest money deposit check needs to be to escrow within 3 business days of acceptance of the offer (once contract is signed by all parties). Escrow will cash the check and hold the funds in trust. If for some reason the deal falls apart (doesn't close) the buyer will get their earnest money deposit money back if the reason for not closing is 'allowable' per the signed contract - all parties have to sign the release of the earnest money back to the buyer.