The Blog Formerly Known As Practical Paralegalism
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.