She says she has been handed what is still considered one of the harshest sentences for mortgage fraud in the US
The mastermind of one of the largest mortgage fraud cases in the Atlanta district will be released from prison early after Donald Trump commuted her sentence on Wednesday.
Chalana McFarland, who was sentenced to 30 years in prison for orchestrating a multi-million-dollar mortgage fraud scheme, was among the 70 people granted clemency by Trump in his final hours in office.
McFarland was a former real estate closing attorney based in Atlanta, Georgia. In 2005, she was convicted on 169 counts of conspiracy, bank fraud, wire fraud, mail fraud, identity theft, fraudulent use of social security numbers, money laundering, obstruction of justice and perjury.
According to a report in the Atlanta Business Chronicle during that time, McFarland was the leader and organizer of what then-US Attorney David Nahmias described as “the largest cases of mortgage fraud in this district which devastated a number of local communities.”
The fraud ring, which spanned mid-1999 through late 2002, involved more than 100 properties in the Atlanta area. Together with her co-conspirators, McFarland inflated property values and used fake borrower information to obtain mortgage loans totaling roughly $20 million. McFarland was ordered to pay more than $11 million in restitution for her role in the scheme.
Her case was petitioned by the CAN-DO Foundation, a group that advocates for clemency on behalf of non-violent drug offenders.
In her essay on the foundation’s website, McFarland expressed deep remorse for her actions but argued she’d been singled out to be made an example of.
“I am ashamed of my actions. It’s more than just embarrassment or regret. Countless days I have laid in my bunk reliving my mistakes over and over. If I could go back in time, I would do so many things differently,” she wrote. “The judge chose to make an example of me by handing down what is still considered one of the harshest sentences for mortgage fraud in the country. (Ironically, the same judge a year later, sentenced two attorneys with similar conduct but greater monetary losses to 28 and 37 months respectively). Even in my own case, I was sentenced nearly four times that of any of my co-defendants.”
The White House’s short description on her case noted the shorter sentences given to her co-conspirators.
“Though she went to trial, Ms. McFarland actually cooperated with authorities by informing them of a potential attack on the United States Attorney. Her co-defendants who pled guilty, however, received lesser sentences ranging from five to 87 months. Ms. McFarland was a model inmate and is now under home confinement,” the White House release on Trump’s grants of clemency said.