Foreclosure fraud whistleblower 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 suicide 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.
Rest from MSNBC here...
Detectives said they had ruled out homicide but they also said it could be weeks before investigators know how 43-year-old Tracy Lawrence died.
Is this really a suicide or a warning to others?
UPDATE 8:54pm EST:
State witness Tracy Lawrence was found dead by Las Vegas Metro Police officers Monday morning. They were called to her apartment by the Attorney General’s office after she missed a Monday morning court hearing.
The Attorney General’s office says she was going to be sentenced after pleading guilty to one count of fraudulent notarizing. She was one of four notaries cooperating with the state in exchange for lighter sentences.
She faced up to a year in prison for forging signatures enabling title companies to rush Nevada home foreclosures. Title loan officers Gary Trafford and Gerri Shepperd of Lender Processing Services were indicted on more than 600 felony charges.
Well, it looks like the other three notaries might just come up with rare cases of amnesia…
This is so beyond scandalous…