Las Vegas notary public guilty in robo-signing scheme found dead
A Las Vegas notary public who was scheduled to be sentenced for her part in a foreclosure robo-signing scheme was found dead in her home Monday after she failed to show up for sentencing. NBC's KSNV-TV out of Las Vegas reported the death on Tuesday afternoon, and the Nevada Attorney General's Office confirmed it to HousingWire later in the day. The TV station referred to Tracy Lawrence as a whistleblower in a larger robo-signing investigation that resulted in the first criminal charges for the filing of faulty foreclosure documents. Nevada Attorney General spokesman Jennifer Lopez said the AG's office sent investigators to Lawrence's home to do a wellness check after she failed to show up for her sentencing Monday morning. "Our investigator found Lawrence dead, at which point we notified the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department," Lopez said. Police were called in at 11:39 p.m. PST, she said. Police officials couldn't be immediately reached for comment, but Lopez said police have ruled out homicide as a cause of death and are awaiting toxicology reports, which will take about six to eight weeks. On Nov. 14, Lawrence pleaded guilty to one criminal charge of notary fraud, a misdemeanor. “The case against Lawrence was based on an investigation by the Attorney General’s mortgage fraud task force which revealed that between 2005 and 2008, tens of thousands of fraudulent documents were filed with the Clark County Recorder’s office,” Chief Deputy Attorney General John Kelleher said at the time of her plea. Lawrence admitted that she had notarized about 25,000 fraudulent documents as part of a foreclosure fraud scheme, according to KLAS-TV in Las Vegas. She would have faced up to a year in jail and a possible fine up to $2,000. Two former employees of Lender Processing Services, title officers Gary Trafford and Geraldine Sheppard of California, were indicted on a total of 606 counts by a Clark County grand jury in connection with the Lawrence case. Lopez said the AG's office is assessing what effect Lawrence's death will have on the cases against Trafford and Sheppard but said the office plans to move forward with its prosecution. Charges against Trafford and Sheppard include allegations of offering false instruments for recording and false certification on certain instruments, both felonies, at the Clark County Recorder's Office between 2005 and 2008. The two were also charged with notarization of the signature of a person not in the presence of a notary public, a misdemeanor. The documents, notices of default, were used to initiate foreclosures, according to the attorney general's office. Trafford and Sheppard allegedly told employees to forge their names and notarize the signatures. LPS has cooperated fully with the investigation, the Jacksonville, Fla.-based company said in a media statement recently. Write to Kerry Curry. Follow her on Twitter @communicatorKLC.