A former employee of a Florida law firm being investigated for its alleged mishandling of foreclosure operations recently revealed a host of questionable notarial practices. A number of assertions in the deposition Tammie Lou Kapusta gave to the Florida Attorney General’s office describe violations of Notary law and standards of care that government regulators, and society in general, expects Notaries to follow.
These practices were reportedly followed at her firm to process a flood of foreclosures, causing notarizations and other document processes to be questioned at banks, lenders and law firms across the country. In the wake of the national foreclosure crisis, the National Notary Association issued a list of important reminders to help ensure the public is protected, and Notaries and their employers avoid legal risks.
Kapusta claims that the law firm engaged in a number of dubious, Notary-related practices (in italics below) and the Notary practice the NNA recommends.
Practice Number One: Documents were notarized outside the signers’ presence, and signatures were often forged, in an assembly-line manner.
One of the most basic duties of every Notary is to only notarize documents when the signer is present. No matter how busy an office is, or how many documents need to be notarized, signers must be present every time to acknowledge their signatures.
Practice Number Two: Notarizations for mortgage assignments often were back-dated. This practice was put in place after county recorders rejected several mortgage assignments that were dated months before the notarial certificates.
The date on a notarial certificate must always reflect the date the notarization is performed. That helps deter fraud.
Practice Number Three: Law firm Notaries routinely notarized stacks of blank documents that were later completed and filed.
Notaries should never notarize a blank or incomplete document because it opens the door to fraud.
Practice Number Four: Notary stamps were available for anyone in the office to use. “I don’t think any Notary actually used their own stamp,” Kapusta said. “The team used them.”
Notaries should never let their stamps leave their control. When not being used, stamps should be kept in a locked, secure place that is accessible only by the Notary. Stamps should never be left out in the open for anyone to use. It is another invitation to fraud.