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Notary Notes

Saved by Her Register

by PAN
An Allegheny County notary’s accurate, chronological register may have prevented the theft of three buildings in western Pennsylvania.

Lisa Streb, a PAN member and registered nurse in the Department of Surgery at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, notarized a promissory note for a coworker on July 20, 2015. The co-worker appeared before her and Lisa dutifully completed a register entry. She also wrote in the Remarks column what type of document she had notarized.

Nine months later, the co-worker came to her office and showed her three documents, a holders note, a mortgage and a lien. He told Lisa that someone had “stolen three buildings” from him.

“I looked at the documents and noticed they all appeared to be signed by my co-worker and another person and notarized by me. All were dated July 20, 2015,” said Lisa. “It really did look like my signature and my stamp was present. On one document, my seal was placed near my co-worker’s signature, not mine and this alerted me that something was not right.”

Lisa immediately looked at her register and noticed that she had only notarized one document on July 20, 2015 – her co-worker’s promissory note.

“That was when I took a closer look at my signatures and the documents. The signatures were close to mine, but were not mine,” said Lisa, who admitted she got scared and “freaked out.”

She said she never faced a situation like this before, so she called PAN President Marc L. Aronson for advice.

“I was somehow afraid that I might be at fault. He was a calming influence.”

It was confidence in her register entry that convinced her she did nothing wrong.

“I suspect that the document I had notarized on July 20, 2015 is where this person obtained my seal and my signature.”

Lisa received a subpoena to testify in court at the beginning of July 2016. She had to have another notary complete affidavits that the three documents in question were not documents she notarized. The affidavits were sent to court and she appeared before the judge and district attorney. The defendant was not present in court.

“The judge was not aware that a notary must keep a register of all documents that we notarize,” said Lisa. “He asked me about the process of identification of people that appear before notaries and what we document in the Remarks section of the register. I told the judge I had no record of the defendant appearing before me and no notation regarding a mortgage, lien document and holders note.

“During my questioning, I explained that a notary is required to maintain an accurate and chronological register of every event. I told him that it was my practice to enter the data regarding the documents into my register before I take a pen to the actual document. I showed him that I had one entry for that day and it was for a promissory note and that only my co-worker appeared before me, no one else.”

Lisa went on to explain that she did not know the other person listed on the documents, nor had he appeared before her.

“The questionable documents were completed in black ink. I only notarize in blue ink,” Lisa added. She showed the judge and the district attorney her register. All her entries were written in blue ink.

“Without the register, I would never have remembered the events of over a year ago, or had any documentation that I could swear to in court,” said Lisa. “This event cost me a few sleepless nights, but instilled in me the importance of what we do as notaries, and the potential harm we could do should we omit an entry.”

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