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Witnesses testify signatures were faked at foreclosure firm

Depositions claim that foreclosure firm was faking signatures, casting doubt for some on the legitimacy of the legal system.

A sign lies on the ground in front of a foreclosed home in Homestead, Fla. Amid the current allegations that mortgage companies mishandled documents and broke laws in foreclosing on hundreds of thousands of homeowners, depositions released Monday claim that a foreclosure firm in Florida was faking signatures.

J Pat Carter/AP/File

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An office manager at a Florida law firm under investigation for fabricating foreclosure documents would sign her name to 1,000 files a day without reviewing them and would allow paralegals to sign her name for her when she got tired, her former secretary said in a deposition released Monday.

Cheryl Salmons, office manager for the foreclosure department at the law offices of David Stern, would sign 500 files in the morning and another 500 files in the afternoon without reviewing them and with no witnesses, said former assistant Kelly Scott in a deposition released by the Florida attorney general's office.

The files were laid out on a conference room table for Salmons to sign, the former secretary said.

"She doesn't review them. She just looks," Scott said. "The paper is going to be in the top folder so it's visible to her, and she knows exactly where she has to put her signature."

Paralegals would then collect the files and swap them with each other, signing them as witnesses even though they had already been notarized and executed, Scott said.

Salmons allowed some paralegals to sign her name for her, said the former assistant, who worked at the firm for a year in 2008.

"Most of the time she was very tired, exhausted from signing her name numerous times per day," Scott said. "You have to understand it was more than 500 files that she is signing morning and afternoon."

The deposition took place two weeks ago as part of the attorney general's investigation into the law firm.

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Another deposition released Monday was of Mary Cordova, who worked at G&Z Process for two months. Stern's law firm used G&Z as a process server for foreclosures.

Cordova said when she was hired, she was told that she needed to process at least 22 cases per eight-hour shift.

"It was almost like we didn't have time to really look at what we were doing," she said during her deposition. "It's like this is the particular information, input that, turn that page, here's this piece of information, type that in. It's more about speed than accuracy per se. Although a supervisor would look at the papers to see if they're pretty accurate."

Jeffrey Tew, an attorney for Stern's firm, didn't immediately return a phone call.

Matt Weidner, a St. Petersburg attorney who has been defending homeowners whose paperwork was signed by lawyers in Stern's office, said the latest depositions reveal that lawyers aren't abiding by the rules and judges aren't doing their jobs by scrutinizing foreclosure cases.

"I am literally getting to the point of speechlessness," Weidner said. "The federal government has to come in and take control of the Florida foreclosure court system. If this stuff is occurring, it's a crisis of confidence in our courts. It really calls into question the legitimacy of a court system."


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