Interspousal Deeds Deserve a Second Look

By Lisa A. Tyler
National Escrow Administrator

Sasha Price and Gracia Corbin, a dynamic duo of escrow officers from Northern California, are rewarded $500 each for catching two forged interspousal deeds, one in their transaction and one handled by a sister company in a neighboring county. Read about their heroics in this edition of Fraud Insights. Their story is entitled "Family Affair in Deed."

What is a Matrícula Consular? It is not a trick question, it is a form of identification presented to our notary employees on a daily basis. Learn more about the Matrícula Consular ID card in this edition of Fraud Insights.

Also in this edition of Fraud Insights, we deliver on the promise of tools and tips that will aid in the detection and prevention of fraud in your transactions. For full details, read "Forgery Prevention Checklist."

One Detective has recognized FNTG as an industry leader in detecting fraud. Learn what he has to say about us.

We also want to recognize you! Share with us how you stopped fraud and forgery in your neck of the woods. Please send your stories to Not good at authoring? No worries – we will interview and write your article for you. Just give us a call at (888) 934.3354.

If you are an FNTG employee and you received this eNewsletter secondhand, then we do not have your contact information. Please send your e-mail address to us at and we will add you to our monthly mailing list, so you don't have to wait for your neighbor to pass it on.

Prior editions of Fraud Insights can be found at under Internal Publications.

Family Affair in Deed

One man uses his mother to forge his wife's signature on multiple interspousal deeds.

Sasha Price and Gracia Corbin from the Fidelity office in Walnut Creek, California were working on a refinance transaction that required an interspousal deed. The borrower had previously taken title as a married man, claiming sole ownership without a disclaiming deed from his wife.

The borrower, Rocco Panetta, had been in title with his mother and father. The parents had deeded off the property to their son outside of escrow. Mr. Panetta failed to bring his wife to the document signing as advised by his escrow officer. He was told his wife would be required to go into a Fidelity office to sign the deed. He brought his alleged wife, who spoke little English, into the Livermore branch of Fidelity to sign the interspousal deed.

When Sasha and Gracia received the deed back with a copy of the "wife's" passport, they became suspicious. The passport was for a woman 20 years older than Mr. Panetta. Just to be sure, Sasha and Gracia pulled a copy of the original grant deed that had his mother's signature on it, as the mother and wife have the same first and last name – Maria Panetta. Sure enough, the signature on the interspousal deed matched that of the mother. After showing this to the notary of the interspousal deed, the passport picture was confirmed to be the mother's.

Sasha and Gracia realized they recently canceled an escrow for the same borrower regarding another property where Rocco Panetta was the seller and on title as a married man, claiming it as his sole and separate property. Out of curiosity, they pulled the previously recorded interspousal deed for that property and found a totally different signature for a Maria B. Panetta. The mother's middle initial is "T."

Sasha and Gracia approached the mortgage broker of their current transaction and told her the deed was forged and completely unacceptable. The mortgage broker contacted the borrower to inform him that we knew the signature was his mother's. Mr. Panetta admitted he had not brought his wife in, as she was "out of the country and ill." Surprisingly, later that same day Maria B. Panetta appeared at yet another Fidelity office to sign the interspousal deed.

The dynamic duo of Sasha and Gracia kept digging for more information on Panetta and followed up on instructions they had received to wire funds out of the refinance to a purchase escrow in San Joaquin County. They alerted the sister title company and as it turned out the mother had come in to sign the interspousal deed for their file too! The sister title company contacted Panetta who admitted he didn't bring in his wife and said he wanted to surprise his wife with a new house. Again, Maria B. Panetta did end up going into the sister title office to sign the interspousal deed.

If Sasha and Gracia hadn't reviewed the identification, discovered the difference in signatures between the current and previously recorded deeds and found the difference in middle initials between the mother and daughter-in-law, our Company would have closed a refinance and purchase transaction without properly dealing with the community interest of the owner's spouse.

Sasha and Gracia are commended for their hard work and investigative skills. Taking a second look at an interspousal deed is a good practice to be embraced by all of our operations. Sasha and Gracia were each rewarded $500 in recognition of their efforts, which saved their operation, as well as a sister company, from future losses and claims.


The Matrícula Consular Card and Your Notary

Matrícula Consular is an identification card issued by the government of Mexico through its consulate offices. The card certifies the holder is a Mexican national living outside of Mexico, and states his or her birthplace and U.S. address. The card costs about $29 and is valid for five years.

Most states in the U.S. require federal or state issued identification for notary purposes as long as it was issued within the last five years and contains a photograph, signature, physical description of the bearer and identifying number. Examples include a driver's license, ID card issued by the Department of Motor Vehicles or a foreign passport stamped by U.S. Immigration and Naturalization. In the past two years, use of Mexican Matrícula Consular ID cards has increased tremendously and they are now being presented to notaries across the nation. It is believed that this type of ID is primarily used by illegal aliens in the United States. There is much controversy surrounding the cards, and the inability to confirm the issuance and validity of them compounds the problem of their reliability.

Matrícula Consular ID card identifies the holder, certifies Mexican citizenship, states place of birth and U.S. address. The Mexican Consulate has been issuing these cards for 131 years – they are used to keep track of Mexican citizens living abroad. They also provide what the government considers to be a basic human right: the ability to identify oneself.

The U.S. government has decided that, at this time, these cards are not a reliable form of identification due to the inability to verify the true identity of the card holder. Here are the primary concerns:

  • The government of Mexico does not have a centralized database to coordinate the issuance of the Matrícula Consular ID cards. This results in multiple cards being issued with the same information.
  • The government of Mexico issues the card to anyone who can produce a Mexican birth certificate and one other form of identity, including documents of very low reliability. There is a huge business involving forged Mexican birth certificates believed to be fueled by the demand for Matrícula Consular cards.

In some locations, officials issue the Matrícula Consular cards solely on the basis of a completed questionnaire – with no identification presented.

Since 9/11 and the implementation of The Patriot Act (and its reauthorization on March 9, 2006), identification verification is an important part of our world. The White House Homeland Security Council and Department of Justice are actively examining a policy for acceptance of consular identification cards. Other countries are now issuing them.

As a notary public, follow your state codes and laws strictly to protect yourself and the Company. If you should have any questions please contact the National Escrow Administration at or (888) 934.3354.


Forgery Prevention Checklist

Be on the defense! Use this checklist to prevent forgery in your files.

You are the Company's main defense against the forger. Remember, forgeries always involve one or more of the following:

Grantor (seller, mortgagor, etc.) has a recent deed to the property.
Grantor took title without paying valuable consideration.
Grantor took title without financing (no purchase money mortgage/deed of trust).
Grantor took title without an escrow or title insurance.
Grantor was recently involved in a divorce proceeding, or is separated.
A reconveyance is of record without a concurrent sale or refinance.
A reconveyance is of record by an individual acting as trustee.
Notary jurat appears altered to add the name of the signatory.
Use of a witness acknowledgement.
Use of a stale-dated Power of Attorney (i.e. older than one year).
Third party "agent" requests to receive check or payment on behalf of another.
An uninsured deed to the seller and/or borrower following a Notice of Default.
The customer demands extreme expeditious processing of a document immediately prior to recording.
Purchase agreement is not signed by the same person as the record title holder.

When closing a transaction if one or more of the above are applicable contact your manager or your Escrow Administrators at or by phone at (888) 934.3354.


Kudos to Fidelity National Title Group

Our Document Execution Guidelines raise the standard in the industry.

Detective Chris Christopher of the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department says "FNTG's new policy for using pre-qualified notaries is fantastic and should be an industry standard. Ninety-nine percent of notary fraud comes from the use of non-approved notaries." We truly are an industry leader!