Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Forgery Conviction In Foreclosure Rescue Scam Can Be Based On Document With Genuine Signature, Says California Appeals Court

Last month, a state appeals court in California upheld the conviction of a foreclosure rescue operator on various counts relating to forgery arising out of a transaction where the financially strapped homeowner, in the belief that the operator was there to help her avoid foreclosure, had her sign a stack of documents purportedly to that end. Unbeknownst to the homeowner, buried in the stack was a trust deed to one of the homes involved.

In addressing the forgery conviction of the operator ("Defendant"), notwithstanding the fact that he didn't actually sign the homeowner's ("Michiel") name on the instruments and that the homeowner's signatures appeared genuine, the court made these comments:

  • Defendant contends that there was insufficient evidence to support his conviction for forging Michiel’s signature, because there was no evidence that her signature was not genuine and no evidence that he used any affirmative misrepresentations concerning the nature of the trust deed to procure her genuine signature. We disagree; there was evidence that defendant did make affirmative misrepresentations concerning the nature of the trust deed. In any event, he could be convicted of forgery even in the absence of any such affirmative misrepresentations.
  • Defendant contends that there was insufficient evidence to support his conviction for forgery of Michiel’s signature because there was no evidence that he affirmatively misrepresented the nature of the trust deed to Michiel. There was no evidence that Michiel’s signature on the La Villa trust deed was not genuine. Michiel admitted that it looked like hers. She also admitted that defendant had had her sign a number of documents. Nevertheless, a forgery conviction can be based on a document with a genuine signature. “[F]orgery is committed when a defendant, by fraud or trickery, causes another to execute a . . . document where the signer is unaware, by reason of such trickery, that he is executing a document of that nature.” (People v. Parker (1967) 255 Cal.App.2d 664, 672.)
For more, see People v. Martinez, Cal App. Ct, 4th Dist, Div. II, (April 1, 2008) (.pdf version; for Word .doc version, go here).

Case available online courtesy of

Editor's Note:

In this case, included in the foreclosure rescue operator's convictions in the trial court were a count of forgery relating to the trickery in obtaining the homeowner's signature on an instrument, and another count of forgery for forging the notary public's signature on the same instrument.

Because these two forgery convictions related to the same instrument, the court, on its own motion, in effect ruled that you can only be convicted of forgery once per instrument. Accordingly, it was compelled to vacate one of the two convictions that arose out of the one instrument and therefore proceeded to vacate the conviction (not on substantive grounds and presumably arbitrarily) relating to the homeowner's signature and let stand the forgery of the notary public's signature.