Hammoud, Love, Noble Introduce Bills to Fight Embezzlement, Fraud

Legislation counters counterfeit documents, false notaries
Thursday, March 2, 2017

LANSING — State Reps. Abdullah Hammoud (D-Dearborn), Leslie Love (D-Detroit) and Jeff Noble (R-Plymouth) introduced a bill package that addresses the issues of counterfeit documents and false notaries, and also implements serious penalties and clear sentencing guidelines for prosecutors to deter Register of Deeds employees from embezzling fees. The bills were drafted under the recommendation and support of the Wayne County Register of Deeds and the Wayne County Prosecutor’s Office.

Hammoud sponsored House Bill 4295, which provides penalties for embezzling fees for documents relating to real property. Noble sponsored HB 4296, which provides sentencing guidelines for willfully failing to collect or appropriating a document fee. Love sponsored HB 4297, which creates the presumption that certain documents affecting real property are forged or counterfeit.

“Mortgage and deed fraud has many victims,” said Love. “Some residents have attempted to sell their homes only to find out someone made and recorded a fake deed and sold it to an overseas investor. In addition, there have been instances of criminals falsifying documents with fake or even stolen notary stamps.”

Since 2005, the Wayne County Mortgage and Deed Task Force has handled more than 5,700 inquiries, opened more than 1,600 cases, and had at least 213 convictions of mortgage and deed fraud. This proposal provides the county registers of deeds and the Office of the Great Seal the ability to testify that a document is counterfeit and provides a law-abiding notary the ability to testify that they did not notarize a fraudulent document.

“These reforms seek to prevent and penalize embezzlement, as well as combat counterfeit deeds,” said Hammoud. “Deterring crime and strengthening prosecution for mortgage and deed fraud are important and necessary goals. These bills are essential for homeowners, notaries, the register of deeds, the Office of the Great Seal and the unfortunate victims.”

This bill package also implements serious penalties and clear sentencing guidelines for prosecutors to deter Register of Deeds employees from embezzling fees. The penalty would be up to three years imprisonment or a fine of up to $5,000.

“I am proud to be a sponsor of these common-sense and bipartisan reforms,” Noble said. “I believe that preventing embezzlement and fraud are topics we can all get behind. This is clearly a topic of concern and these bills provide viable solutions.”