Notary called key figure in 11 property fraud cases

A fraud prosecutor revealed Thursday the existence of an organized crime enterprise involved in stealing real estate, mostly from foreigners.

The  Fiscalía Adjunta de Fraudes announced the detention of a notary who is linked to 11 cases involving fake paperwork, said the Poder Judicial.

The notary was identified only by the last names of  Sojo Romero, and the prosecutor’s office said that residents should be on the alert for documents bearing his name.

A notary is a lawyer who has taken additional course work. He is empowered with the right to give public faith that the document he presents is authentic.  In Costa Rica it is the notary and not the seller who signs the documents related to a real estate transaction.

The notary uses special paper available only to those who have reached this level. The Registro Nacional only accepts such documents sealed by a notary.

The fraud prosecutor said that the man was detained a week ago.

He is accused of being a member of a gang that spotted properties that had been several years without movement and generally belonged to foreigners, said the Poder Judicial.

The notary is accused of making fraudulent sales to another party who was part of the criminal group, the Poder Judicial said.

With documents bearing a notary’s
authentication, individuals unrelated to the fraud would accept the documents.

A.M. Costa Rica has pointed out the continual use of crooked notaries to steal real estate or other items like vehicles with the stroke of a pen. Sometimes the property is resold to an unknowing buyer or the person who has received the property illegally applies for and negotiates a steep mortgage.

The crook walks away with the cash, and the real owner discovers that he or she is on the hook for mortgage payments.

Reversing such illegal transactions is difficult and time-consuming. Many times the frauds involve widows who are uncertain how to obtain legal help.

The Poder Judicial said that investigators searched the notary’s home and found blank pieces of notary paper that already had been signed. Such documents can be filling in and  create ownership or a legal power that does not really exist, the Poder Judicial noted. Consequently the prosecutorial agency issued the warning to avoid any documents bearing the man’s name and told other notaries that they should avoid doing transactions that rely on legal powers emitted by the suspect.

Prosecutors are seeking the suspension of the suspect from his notary duties and an order that he sign in every month  The case was presented to the Juzgado Penal de San José.

Prosecutors said more suspects were being sought.

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