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An attorney in Florida is facing accusations that he forged judges' signatures -- not once, not twice, but more than a hundred times. Jose Manuel Camacho is facing 14 counts of forgery for allegedly copying seven different judges' John Handcock's a total of 114 times. Camacho wasn't just forging small beans documents, either: these were structured settlement deals which, under Florida law, required judicial approval.
We can't tell what is more shocking: the fact that Camacho had the (alleged) gall to engage in such prolific forgery, or that no one caught on until he had done it so many times.
That Doesn't Look Like My Signature...
Camacho's forgeries were discovered when Broward County Judges Marina Garcia-Wood and Carlos Rodriguez discovered their signatures on legal documents filed with the court and noticed something ... off. Not only had they not approved the settlements, they had not signed the filed documents. The judges complained, opening up an investigation that unearthed the massive amount of forgeries.
It's not just the amount of forgeries that is disturbing, either. Camacho, according to the Sun Sentinel, was forging judges' approval of structured settlement agreements, in which those expecting damages payouts over time would transfer their rights in exchange for a smaller lump sum payment. In Florida, those agreements require judicial approval to make sure that they are fair. Because of Camacho's alleged forgeries, 114 such agreements were never reviewed.
How Did This Go on for so Long?
And if that's not enough, there's the fact that no one noticed the fraud for so long: not the court clerks, not the judges, no one. Given that seven different signatures were forged, Camacho must have been a master of deception, or no one was bothering to examine the settlement documents closely at all.
For their part, the Broward County Courts have taken some small measures to prevent similar problems in the future. Lawyers are no longer allowed to deliver signed orders to the clerk's office, according to the Sun Sentinel. From now on, a clerk's deputy will have to pick up judges' orders directly from their chambers.
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