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Prosecutorial misconduct allegations get huge ‘robo-signing’ case dismissed

Posted Feb 28, 2013 1:57 PM CDT
By Mark Hansen

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A massive mortgage fraud case against two California title officers has been dismissed over allegations of prosecutorial misconduct by the Nevada attorney general's office.

Lawyers for the two defendants claimed that prosecutors in the attorney general's office gave a grand jury an improper definition of what constitutes forgery and threatened a witness (who later committed suicide) into pleading guilty, the National Law Journal reports.

They also claimed that the former lead prosecutor in the case, then the head of the attorney general's mortgage bank fraud task force, failed to disclose that the company the two defendants worked for at the time was then in the process of foreclosing on his own home.

Clark County, Nev., District Court Judge Carolyn Ellsworth on Monday dismissed more than 300 counts each of mortgage fraud against co-defendants Gerri Sheppard and Gary Trafford in a bench ruling. But she also gave the attorney general's office leave to refile the charges.

Trafford's lawyer, John Hueston, said the judge found that the improper definition of a forgery had tainted the entire indictment. She didn't address the conflict of interest claim, he said. Sheppard's lawyer could not be reached for comment.

A spokeswoman for the attorney general's office told the National Law Journal there was "no intent to mislead" the grand jury. She also said the office was evaluating whether to refile the charges.

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