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Atlanta area woman's 2005 sentence for mortgage fraud scheme commuted by Trump

Chalana McFarland was convicted in 2005 on 169 counts of money laundering, bank and wire fraud and other financial crimes.

ATLANTA — An Atlanta area woman who was convicted 15 years ago on 169 counts of money laundering, bank fraud and other financial crimes had her sentence commuted by President Donald Trump early Wednesday.

Chalana McFarland was among the 143 people granted clemency in one of President Trump's final acts in office. 

A former real estate closing attorney based out of Stone Mountain, McFarland received a 30-year federal prison sentence in 2005, according to a report from that time in the Atlanta Business Chronicle, for "masterminding a local multi-million-dollar mortgage fraud scheme."

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According to the Atlanta Business Chronicle report, McFarland was the ringleader in a mortgage fraud scheme that spanned the late 90s and early 00s, inflating property values and using faked borrower information to secure mortgage loans. The fraudulently obtained loans totaled nearly $20 million, and McFarland was ordered to pay more than $11 million in restitution when she was convicted.

According to then-U.S. Attorney David Nahmias, now a Georgia Supreme Court justice, McFarland "corrupted the entire system for her own profit" with "one of the largest cases of mortgage fraud in this district which devastated a number of local communities."

Her case was one of a number that received attention from Trump through the CAN-DO Foundation, a group that advocates for clemency on behalf of non-violent offenders.

In a personal description at the foundation's website, she expressed deep regret for the fraud scheme, but argued she'd been singled out to be made an example of.

"Remorse is a ghost that haunts my life. It is hard to express the sorrow I feel about the choices I made that led to my incarceration. 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," her personal essay states. "The judge chose to make an example of me by handing down was is still considered one of the harshest sentences for mortgage fraud in the country... Even in my own case, I was sentenced nearly 4 times that of any of my co-defendants. I came to understand that justice and fairness can be incongruent. As an aspiring attorney, wife, and mother of a 3-year-old, my life as I knew it came to an end."

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The White House's brief description on her case noted the shorter sentences given to others associated with the fraud ring.

"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 5 to 87 months. Ms. McFarland was a model inmate and is now under home confinement," the White House release on Trump's pardons said.

She was released to house arrest in Marietta last year. An NPR report from last summer documented her reunion with her now-adult daughter.

"Out of all the things that I've done in my life, all the accomplishments that I've had over the years, you are the absolute one thing that I got right," McFarland was quoted telling her daughter.

On the CAN-DO Foundation site, McFarland wrote of how she was able to self-reflect in prison:

"Over the last decade, I have gotten to know my true self and I like her. I have learned that family is the most important treasure you can ever have in your life and I am so thankful for mine. I also came to the realization that the world owes me nothing," she wrote. "I owe a debt to my daughter that can never be repaid because my choices left her motherless. I know she loves me and I pray that someday when she is old enough to grasp it all that she will forgive me."