2 indicted in Vegas foreclosure robo-signing case

AP News
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Posted: Nov 16, 2011 8:16 PM
2 indicted in Vegas foreclosure robo-signing case

Two title officers have been indicted on more than 600 charges alleging they directed a "robo-signing" scheme that led to the filing of tens of thousands of fraudulent foreclosure documents, the Nevada attorney general's office said Wednesday.

A Clark County District Court judge issued warrants for California residents Gary Randall Trafford, 49, and Geraldine Ann Sheppard, 62, after a grand jury handed up the 439-page indictment. Their hometowns were unavailable, and they could not be immediately located for comment.

The indictment says that between 2005 and 2008, Trafford and Sheppard directed employees to forge their names on foreclosure documents, then notarize the signatures they just forged. The defendants then had the employees file the fraudulent notices of default with the county recorder's office to begin foreclosures on homes.

Trafford and Sheppard face more than 200 felony charges of offering a false instrument and false certification of an instrument, and more than 100 misdemeanor notarization charges, Attorney General Catherine Cortez Masto said.

Jennifer Lopez, a spokeswoman for Masto, said Trafford and Sheppard had not been arrested.

Nevada has been the state hit hardest by the recession and the housing crisis, leading the nation in bankruptcies, foreclosures and unemployment. Yet, the problem of shoddy mortgage paperwork, which comprises several shortcuts known collectively as "robo-signing," is more widespread.

Judges who handle foreclosures in Maine, California, Arizona, New York and other states have thrown out foreclosure cases because documents apparently were robo-signers. The nation's largest banks, including Bank of America Corp., JPMorgan Chase & Co., Wells Fargo & Co., and other lenders temporarily halted foreclosures nationwide last fall because of the issue.

In Michigan, the attorney general took the rare step in June of filing criminal subpoenas to out-of-state mortgage processing companies after 23 county registers of deeds filed a criminal complaint with his office over robo-signed documents they say they have received.

New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman's office has said it is conducting a banking probe that could lead to criminal charges against financial executives, and the attorneys general of Delaware, California and Illinois have been conducting their own probes.

Meanwhile, federal bank regulators have focused on getting banks to clean up their act in the future, not on fixing the potentially millions of tainted documents that have been filed across the country.