Bill intended to keep criminals from stealing homes does not get enough support from Mo. lawmakers

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. - A bill intended to keep criminals from stealing homes did not get enough support from Missouri lawmakers before the legislative session wrapped up on Friday.

The legislation would have required people to leave behind a thumbprint when getting real estate documents notarized.

The proposed bill was prompted by a 41 Action News investigation , which exposed a shocking real estate fraud scheme of forged signatures on housing deeds.

Further reporting revealed how the crime is surprisingly easy to pull off and how few checks and balances exist in the deed-filing process to stop it from happening.

The sponsor of the bill, Rep. Gail McCann Beatty, told 41 Action News the fingerprinting idea ran into some opposition after being voted out of committee.

“Some believe it treats innocent people like criminals,” McCann Beatty said. “I will continue to work on this over the summer to try to get enough support for next session.”

The thumbprint law is used in two other states: Illinois and California (where it’s been on the books since 1996).

The idea is supported by the National Notary Association. The organization’s vice president of legislative affairs, Bill Anderson, told 41 Action News it’s important for lawmakers to consider provisions that would keep a notary’s journal secure.

“There’s no doubt that privacy concerns are present, but the benefit of having a trail of evidence shouldn’t be dismissed,” Anderson said.

Anderson said the thumbprint can be a valuable crime-fighting tool against real estate fraud, and added that it was even a key piece of evidence linking a suspect to a murder case.

Meantime, Rep. TJ Berry also told 41 Action News he will work to gather support over the summer for a different bill intended to combat deed forgeries.

Berry, who dealt with his own deed headache several years ago, said the hurdle is educating other lawmakers why it is a problem. Victims often have to spend thousands of dollars in legal fees to fix a fraudulent housing document.

“It’s not a disaster until you’re living it,” Berry said.

Ryan Kath can be reached at ryan.kath@kshb.com. You can also follow him on Twitter or connect on Facebook.

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