Notaries investigated after Action 9 report



ORLANDO, Fla. - Dozens of notaries are now being investigated after an Action 9 investigation exposed their criminal histories. We found convicted con men and thieves still had state licenses to notarize legal documents.

Surveillance cameras helped investigators build a case against Ricky Collins, who was found guilty of a yearlong burglary spree through tourist hotels.  But Action 9 discovered he was still licensed by Florida to notarize legal documents.

Collins was one of 400 felons our investigation exposed who remained licensed notaries.

“This is the first time anybody has even looked at what’s going on with notary publics here in Florida,” said Sally Baptiste, who called Action 9 after a notary signed documents to help steal her dad's estate.

"I mean, it's an obvious problem. It’s not rocket science what happened here.

Action 9 sent a list of local criminal notaries to the governor's office which supervises 400,000 Florida notaries with a single full-time employee. Since then, the office took action against at least 75 notaries starting formal proceedings to revoke or suspend their licenses.

That list includes Lisa Maag, who is serving probation for a $400,000 organized fraud. Her license was just revoked.  

Lauren Elliot is guilty of grand theft and trafficking.

“It is a success and this is why it's critical for the media to be the watchdog out there, too,” said Baptiste.

In Tallahassee, a bill to tighten notary regulations has won unanimous committee votes. It would require better document record to uncover fraud.

Supporters said stripping felons of their license is just the first step.
“We’re finally getting through to the governor’s office that more regulation is needed of these notary publics,” said Sen. Darren Soto.   

Soto also wants to see the governor's notary staff expanded.

The Governor's Office said no changes were planned and it’s taking more steps to remove convicted notaries.