Saturday, December 3, 2011

Foreclosure fraud whistleblower found dead

End the Lie
Madison Ruppert

Tracy Lawrence, a 43-year-old notary who blew the whistle on the immense robo-signing scandal was found dead in her home on Monday morning after failing to appear in court.

Lawrence had pled guilty to one count of notary fraud last Monday after coming forward earlier this month and confessing to notarizing roughly 25,000 documents in a fraudulent foreclosure scheme.
The Los Angeles Times reported that Lawrence admitted to notarizing the documents for a Florida-based company used by most major banks to process home repossessions called Lender Processing Services.
After Lawrence did not show up in court at 8:30 AM Monday for her sentencing hearing and her attorney did not speak to her for over an hour, the Senior Deputy Attorney General, Robert Giunta requested a bench warrant.

The judge denied Giunta’s request for a warrant for Lawrence’s arrest but after her lawyer voiced concern over Lawrence’s wellbeing, police were dispatched to Lawrence’s home.

Police then discovered Lawrence’s body in her home. Las Vegas Metro Homicide Detectives are now working the case.

According to local Las Vegas NBC affiliate KSNV MyNews3, it is currently unclear if Lawrence’s death was the result of a suicide or if it was due to natural causes.

Yesterday, Las Vegas Homicide Detectives said that they had ruled out homicide as a possible cause of death.

Gary Trafford and Geraldine Sheppard, title officers living in California, are allegedly responsible for the so-called robo-signing scheme which involved forging signatures on notices of default numbering in the tens of thousands between the years of 2005 and 2008.
Nevada’s Attorney General is negotiating the terms of surrender for Trafford and Shepard who are expected to surrender at some point in December.

A major red flag is raised in this case when one considers the fact that Lawrence’s charge of one count of notarizing the signature of a person not in her presence carries a sentence of up to one year of jail and a fine of up to $2,000.

Compare this with the indictments against Trafford and Sheppard which are 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.

Unless Lawrence was depressed or otherwise psychologically unstable, suicide seems like a highly unlikely explanation, although so few details have been released that it is impossible to tell and anything is pure speculation at this point.

Lender Processing Services acknowledged that the signing protocol on some of the documents was flawed and President and CEO Hugh Harris stated in an official press release dated November 17th, “I am deeply committed to ensuring that LPS meets rigorous standards of professional conduct and operating excellence.”

“I have full confidence in the ability of our leadership team and over 8,000 dedicated employees to deliver on that commitment,” Harris added.

Despite decreases in foreclosure rates, as of mid-September Nevada continued to lead the nation in foreclosures according to RealtyTrac’s U.S. Foreclosure Market Report.

In August one in every 118 properties in Nevada was under foreclosure and August was the 56th straight month that Nevada has dominated the top of the national list.

While it would be overly speculative to think that Lawrence’s death could have involved foul play, especially given the fact that Homicide Detectives ruled it out, I don’t think one would be illogical in questioning the legitimacy of these reports.

We all know that police can find suicide and rule out homicide in some seemingly ridiculous situations, so nothing is truly off the table.

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