Michigan Governor Rick Snyder signed a set of Notary-related laws late last week designed to combat real estate fraud, signaling that the state is getting tough on individuals and companies who engage in mortgage fraud. This group of bills gives the state the authority to identify and punish individuals and businesses that deliberately falsify documents and notarizations in real property transactions. Significantly, the bills define mortgage fraud as a felony punishable by up to 20 years in prison and fines of up to $500,000, according to Senate Democratic Floor Leader Tupac A. Hunter (D-Detroit), who sponsored the central bill of the set, Senate Bill 43. One bill — Senate Bill 252 — makes it a felony to intentionally violate state Notary laws when notarizing documents involving real property or a mortgage transaction — sending a clear message to Notaries and their employers that intentional misconduct will not be tolerated involving said documents. “As Michigan residents struggle to keep a roof over their heads, I am doing everything I can to protect them from being taken advantage of, whether it’s by the banks, the courts or crooked companies,” Senator Hunter told the Wayne County Press & Guide. “Mortgage fraud and other corrupt behavior only exploits the state’s housing crisis and will continue until the appropriate laws are in place to stop them, and making mortgage fraud illegal is a good first step.” For years, Michigan officials have sought statutory support to fight real property crimes. The state previously had issues prosecuting offenders because state laws did not define real property fraud clearly — forcing the state to rely on statutes that had lesser penalties or that didn’t clearly apply to the offenses committed, according to a state legislative report. Earlier this year, an FBI report listed Michigan as one of the top 10 states for mortgage fraud.