By Gregory B. Hladky
1:05 PM EST, January 23, 2013
Connecticut has something like 52,000 state-licensed notaries authorized to witness all sorts of legal documents, take depositions, and issue subpoenas in civil matters. And no one knows how many of them are criminals.
Take, for example, the case of Jacqueline Polverari of Branford. She pleaded guilty to federal bank fraud charges last September in a case concerning more than $1.8 million she allegedly scammed in mortgage deals in Connecticut and Massachusetts. She's now awaiting sentencing.
Polverari is still listed on Connecticut directories as a duly licensed notary public, although she says she's no longer acting in that capacity. But she could, according to state officials, because her license hasn't been revoked. All of which leads to questions about whether a convicted criminal should be able to administer legally binding oaths and certify legal documents.
The Secretary of the State's office issues licenses for notaries in Connecticut and can revoke them for a variety of reasons that include being convicted of a felony. In fact, you can't become a notary public in this state if you have a felony on your record.
The problem is finding out.
It's not easy to keep track of what they're all doing. (State officials say record-keeping problems makes them a little uncertain about exactly how many licensed notaries they have — could be 52,000 or maybe closer to 53,000. )
State officials usually don't find out a licensed notary public has been up to some funny business unless someone tells them.
"Sometimes we get letters or complaints," says Av Harris, a spokesman for Secretary of the State's Office, "and we'll look into it."
Over the past two years (the only years for which records are available), the office formally revoked one notary's license after they learned the dude had been convicted of a felony. He apparently failed to show up at a disciplinary hearing.
Five others voluntarily gave up their licenses in 2011 and 2012. One person was temporarily suspended for problems, two people got reprimands, and 34 "advisement letters" were sent to notaries who appeared to have skirted state laws or regulations governing their actions.
Those advisement letters, Harris explains, are the "most mild form of discipline" for notaries. The letter is basically a way to telling a notary that he or she may not be following the rules correctly.
Four notaries are also listed by the state as having felonies on their record, or criminal cases pending, but as yet haven't had their state licenses revoked. One reason for that, according to Harris, is that the office hasn't been able to contact them; another could be that state officials are waiting for the results of a trial before taking action.
They are still awaiting action on a dude named Edward Botwick, for instance. Botwick was a Woodbridge lawyer charged with larceny back in 2006 for various fraud deals, including forging insurance certificates and signatures. He pleaded guilty in 2007 and resigned as a lawyer.
After the Advocate called regarding Polverari, Harris says his office "did create a file… and we are going to contact her" concerning her felony conviction.
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