Highlighting the often challenging relationship between Notaries and their employers, several Las Vegas Notaries involved in Nevada’s massive "robo-signing" case testified before a grand jury that they were not trained to perform their notarial duties properly and were concerned they would be fired if they did not comply with their bosses' orders to perform improper notarizations.
The Notaries’ testimony before the grand jury, obtained by the Notary Bulletin, described the practice of routinely signing and notarizing the supervisors’ signatures — without requiring personal appearance, identity verification, and screening for willingness and awareness — as a standard office procedure. One of the Notaries testified that she knew her notarizations were improper, but did it anyway because “it was not a big deal” and she knew if she didn’t do it she would likely be fired.
Another Notary admitted that she personally signed and notarized her supervisor’s signature on 25,000 to 30,000 documents used to initiate foreclosures over a five-year-period. She also kept an email from her supervisor confirming his direction to continue with the improper practices, according to the testimony.
To date, one Notary has pleaded guilty to a single count of notarizing a document outside the presence of the signer and three other Notaries have been charged with similar misdemeanor counts. All four Notaries agreed to cooperate with the Nevada Attorney General’s office and testify before the grand jury. The Notary who pled guilty was found dead earlier this month, a day after she missed her sentencing hearing. While Las Vegas police initially ruled out homicide, a department spokesperson said they were waiting for a toxicology report before the cause of death is determined.
All of the Notaries obtained commissions at the request of the employer, but none of them received any Notary training, nor did they keep required journal entries of the notarizations they performed for their employers. Nevada did not start requiring mandatory education for Notary applicants until October 1, 2007. One Notary testified that she did not know that signers had to appear before her for every notarization until informed by police investigators a few months ago.
More news on the robo-signing crisis for Notaries can be found here.