LAS VEGAS (AP) â¿¿ A notary public found dead at her home after missing sentencing on a misdemeanor charge would have been a key witness against two Southern California title officers accused of orchestrating a massive mortgage foreclosure "robo-signing" fraud scheme, a state prosecutor said Wednesday.
Tracy Lawrence, 43, had agreed to testify against Geraldine Ann Sheppard, 62, of Santa Ana, Calif., and Gary Randall Trafford, 49, of Irvine, Calif., in a case alleging that tens of thousands of fraudulent foreclosure documents had been filed in Las Vegas, said John Kelleher, a chief deputy Nevada attorney general.
Sheppard and Trafford are identified as officers in a publicly traded company, Lender Processing Services Inc., based in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., that processes home repossessions for major banks across the country.Company officials were not immediately available for comment Wednesday. But President and CEO Hugh Harris acknowledged in a Nov. 17 statement that signing procedures on some documents were flawed. However, the statement said the company also believes documents were properly authorized and their recording did not result in a wrongful foreclosure. Lawrence would have faced up to a year in jail and a $2,000 fine Monday after her Nov. 14 guilty plea to a single count of notarizing the signature of a person not in her presence. Las Vegas police have said there were no obvious signs of foul play in Lawrence's death, and it wasn't being investigated as a homicide. The Clark County coroner is conducting blood toxicology tests that could take up to eight weeks to complete before ruling on a cause and manner of Lawrence's death. Kelleher said Lawrence received a favorable plea deal after agreeing to cooperate with the prosecution of Sheppard and Trafford. He said Lawrence estimated she fraudulently notarized more than 30,000 documents between 2005 and 2008 by attesting to the validity of signatures of people not in her presence. The documents were then filed with the Clark County recorder's office.