“It was a bust.”
That’s what Guilford County register of deeds Jeff Thigpen told me about his visit to the White House last Friday. Many were intrigued by the surprise announcement that Thigpen would be part of a reception and policy briefing some of the nation’s brightest young legislators. He has been at the forefront among registers of deeds of the foreclosure fraud crisis, using the power of his office to document forgeries and other abuses by banks seeking to upend the land title recording system that has prevailed in America for centuries. There was a hope that this White House meeting would offer a chance for Thigpen to build on his success, and get the ear of top policymakers about the extent of the fraud.
It didn’t pan out. “I got up there and they processed my stuff late, and there were a bunch of young electeds attending the briefings,” Thigpen said in a brief phone interview. “And I got bumped from the briefings. So I went to the reception, but there was obviously no time with the President at that.”
Thigpen is now backtracking to the people he would have met at the briefing, and sending them letters about his work as a register of deeds in combating foreclosure fraud. “I heard (Council of Economic Advisers Austan) Goolsbee was giving one briefing, and oh man, I would have loved to have been there,” said Thigpen. “I would have had the first hand up with the question. My friend told me Goolsbee gave the briefing, I was sitting there cussing.”
Both Thigpen and his fellow registers of deeds which have investigated the fraud in their offices are ramping up for a weeklong convention of registers in Atlantic City next week, from June 26-30. John O’Brien, the register for Sussex County in Massachusetts, is giving a series of briefings, and plans to present findings similar to what Thigpen showed in North Carolina. O’Brien has some help from forensic investigators in documenting those findings. “That’s going to be good stuff,” Thigpen said.
O’Brien gained some notoriety two weeks ago when he announced he would reject clearly fraudulent foreclosure documents from being recorded. “I’m totally behind John on that,” Thigpen said. “If they are that knuckleheaded to submit Linda Green robo-signers to be recorded…. to do that to a recorder, that would be the equivalent of slapping me in the face. We have to decide in the public recording community, are we just going to be ministerial officers, accepting whatever they give us, or are we going to look at what goes on, and be responsible. And if we’re going to be responsible, we have to prepare ourselves to be those kinds of institutions.”
Thigpen hopes that O’Brien can change some minds of registers at the convention in Atlantic City. He has had talks of his own with some registers across the country, and he said that most of them are curious in his findings. “They just don’t know how to deal with it,” he concluded.