Federal authorities and civil organizations in 2009 identified a new modus operandi of organized crime:kidnapping victims or their family members are taken before notary publics and forced to surrender their assets and properties.
At least seven public notaries of Tamaulipas are under investigation at this time for participating in this type of crime, according to data recorded by the Citizen Council for Public Safety and Criminal Justice.
The phenomenon has also been detected in the states of Durango and Coahuila, states that form the Laguna region, as well as Chihuahua, Nuevo Leon, and Veracruz.
According to information that the Citizen Council has had access to, and that was confirmed by the Attorney General’s office, at least five kidnappings of this kind have been confirmed at this time. None of the victims have been able to recover their property.
“There have been tales of individuals being forced to sign General Power of Attorney contacts and have found their properties were later transfered and registered to new owners. Sometimes the rumors began by individual witnesses after seeing a property that was knowingly owned by someone else suddenly has a new owner. It is said that there is a list of public notary lawyers who participated in these situations, but they remain rumors,”
-Miguel Valdes, Secretary of Communication of the College of Notaries of Tamaulipas,
According to reports, once the cartels have established with which properties will be surrendered, they will send the victim to a predetermined legal notary to deliver the bill of sales, property titles and other pertinent paperwork needed for the transfer of ownership.
The property must be delivered physically and uninhabited and they will not release the victim until the paperwork is signed and ‘legally transfered’.
In November last year, the Federal Public Security Secretariat (SSP) detained four alleged members of “Los Zetas” who threatened and extorted money from employees of notaries public to legalize their properties which were surrendered as ransom payments. The gang operated in Tampico, Ciudad Madero and Altamira.
José Antonio Ortega, representative of the Citizen Council for Public Safety, explained that gangs first kidnap the victim and through the family asset information collected from the victim they will determine the values and then get in touch with family to say which properties and assets are wanted.
“There are definitely notaries involved, because there are a number of irregularities that make these processes go ‘fast track’ and also many of the required legal formalities have been skipped, and of the five cases that I have knowledge, the properties had to be delivered vacant,”.
-José Antonio Ortega, Citizen Council for Public Safety Representative
Note: It is important to understand that a Mexican notario publico is very different than an American Public Notary. To fully understand this article, please follow this link for a full explanation of these said differences.