How many of my readers are commissioned notary publics, i.e. effectively officers of the state they live in? While the public may view the business of notarizing signatures as the simple wielding of a rubber stamp, those who have earned their notary commissions know the standards are much higher. Misuse of a notary stamp, depending on the circumstances, can be either a misdemeanor or a felony, depending on the jurisdiction. In Florida, “state law makes it a third-degree felony to falsely notarize a document.”

The findings by Florida authorities reviewing the thousands of mortgage documents notarized by employees of David J. Stern’s law offices, often referred to as a “foreclosure mill,” reveal shocking allegations regarding abuses of notary powers. “Shortcuts on the foreclosure paper trail,” an article which appeared in the November 28, 2010 edition of the Sarasota Herald-Tribune contains allegations of almost every notary no-no ever taught in a notary class, including:

  • Employee notarization of documents, “swearing they were accurate when they were not.”
  • Notarization of signatures on dates when the signers could not have been present.
  • Notarization of “lost” mortgage assignments – months after the date they were signed.
  • Notarizing documents with signatures and dates to be filled in later – sometimes after final judgment was entered in the case.
  • Notarizing signatures before the notary’s commission was effective – in some cases as much as a year before the notary actually received her stamp.
  • Team or group use of notary stamps not belonging to the actual persons notarizing the documents.

You couldn’t ask for a clearer list of violations to review with notary students taking the required class hours to sit for the state notary public exam. Unintentional mistakes by ill-trained employees, or grounds for criminal actions against the notaries involved? What do you think?

Source: Sarasota Herald Tribune

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