A Sacramento, California, man has pleaded guilty in federal court to helping orchestrate a $19 million mortgage fraud scheme that at one time had co-opted the identity of the National Notary Association’s 2007 Notary of the Year Joan Sampson. According to the U.S. Attorney’s office, 27-year-old Christopher J. Warren pled guilty one count of wire fraud and one count of aggravated identity theft. He is scheduled to be sentenced in April and faces up to 20 years in jail. The case made national headlines when Warren fled to Beirut, Lebanon. He was arrested trying to re-enter the U.S. In a recent interview, Notary Joan Sampson of Sheridan, California, said she first became aware of the case when a title company asked her about the notarizations on a number of questionable mortgage documents. Sampson, a long-time employee of a Northern California real estate developer and NNA Certified Notary Signing Agent, said she checked her journal and found that she had not performed the notarizations. It soon was discovered that members of the fraud ring had allegedly forged her seal and signature on a host of bogus documents. While giving a deposition in a civil suit connected with the case, Sampson used her journal to help prove that she had not performed the notarizations. Michael Lewis is Managing Editor at the National Notary Association.