Mortgage Fraud Whistle-blower Found Dead

A notary public who signed tens of thousands of false documents in a massive foreclosure scam before blowing the whistle on the scandal has been found dead in her Las Vegas home.

NBC station KSNV of Las Vegas reported that the woman, Tracy Lawrence, 43, was scheduled to be sentenced Monday morning after she pleaded guilty this month to notarizing the signature of an individual not in her presence. She failed to show up for her hearing, and police found her body at her home later in the day.

It could not immediately be determined whether Lawrence, who faced up to one year in jail and a fine of up to $2,000, died of susicide or of natural causes, KSNV reported. Detectives said they had ruled out homicide.

Lawrence came forward earlier this month and blew the whistle on the operation, in which title officers Gary Trafford, 49, of Irvine, Calif., and Geraldine Sheppard, 62, of Santa Ana, Calif. — who worked for a Florida processing company used by most major banks to process repossessions — allegedly forged signatures on tens of thousands of default notices from 2005 to 2008.

Trafford and Sheppard were charged two weeks ago with 606 counts of offering false instruments for recording, false certification on certain instruments and notarization of the signature of a person not in the presence of a notary public. You can read a .pdf version of their indictment here.

Police said at the time that the alleged scam had thrown into question the legality of most Las Vegas home foreclosures in the past few years, leaving many people living in foreclosed-upon homes that they unknowingly don’t actually own.

“I would suggest you review your documents and bring them to an expert and an attorney,” said John Kelleher, chief deputy attorney general for Nevada’s fraud unit.

Provided courtesy of MSNBC News; Compiled by Chip Cummings, Mortgage Fraud Expert

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