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Virtual Paralegalism

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Paralegal Pleads Guilty to Mortgage Fraud

The Charlotte Observer is reporting that paralegal Kelli A. Norwood has entered a guilty plea in federal court to “two counts of fraudulent real estate settlement services” and faces up to two years in prison and a $20,000.00 fine. She is part of a mortgage fraud scheme that included three attorneys, a real estate agent and a construction company owner.

Participants agreed to buy homes at one price from builders, arranged buyers at a higher price and lied to get mortgages at the higher level, according to court documents. Prices were generally inflated by $200,000 to $500,000. At closing, the difference between the two prices would be “distributed among members of the cell.”

According to the Charlotte Observer, Norwood was only 21 years old at the time she engaged in the criminal activities and, unlike the major players in the scheme (including Hampton County Council Member Willard Wilson), received “nominal gifts totaling less than $500” for preparing fraudulent closing documents.

I don’t know the circumstances of her involvement, but what I do know is that Norwood is paying a stiff price at a very young age for, at best, extremely poor judgment – including possible jail time and a permanent criminal record. Her participation in this mortgage scheme will impede her chances of becoming re-employed or eventually moving up a professional career ladder, not only as a paralegal, but in almost any job where a background check is necessary.

It’s hard to imagine any gift being worth giving up your future.

3 Responses to Paralegal Pleads Guilty to Mortgage Fraud

  1. It is truly tragic when a young person gets caught up in a scheme of this sort. Paralegals should be aware that there is a danger in just working in an office where this sort of thing is happening even if you don't receive any "gifts." It is difficult to see in advance how a legitimate year-end bonus will be perceived by law enforcement authorities or a jury once placed in the context of such activities. Even if you can eventually show that you did not participate the costs of responding to an investigation or defending an indictment are usually quite large. In addition, even when you successfully defend against the charge your professional reputation can be tainted by association.

    If you become aware of this type of conduct in the office in which you work, I recommend getting legal advice from an attorney outside the office. As difficult as it is likely to be, you may need resign sooner rather than later.

  2. First of all I thank you for raising the issue in a right time. It is quite unfortunate that Norwood has lost his job as a legal representative but we got a lesson from it that before employing some one for some vital post we should have to check background in details. I fully agree with you.

Contact Info:

Lynne J. DeVenny, N.C. State Bar Certified Paralegal

Owner & Virtual Paralegal, DeVenny Paralegal Services

Email: lynne.devenny[at]gmail.com

Telephone: 336-582-0003

Inquiries are welcome, with free quotes available.

Meet Lynne:

Lynne DeVenny is a North Carolina State Bar Certified Paralegal with over 27 years of experience working on complex litigation cases, including medical malpractice, personal injury, workers’ compensation, and Social Security disability.

Disclosure: I am not a lawyer and cannot provide legal representation or legal advice.

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