Stone Mountain, GA — A former Stone Mountain lawyer who was serving 30 years in prison for her involvement in a multi-million-dollar mortgage fraud scheme is feeling “extreme gratitude, amazement and sheer joy” after former President Donald Trump commuted her sentence on his final day in office.
“[The Trump administration] notified my attorney who called me and said, ‘It looks like you’re going to get it,’” Chalana McFarland told The Tucker Observer. “I got the official notification [Jan. 20] when the list came out from the press office at the White House.”
Trump granted clemency to 199 people in his final days in office, including 116 pardons and 83 commutations, according to the U.S. Department of Justice.
McFarland was a real estate closing attorney who was the ringleader in a scheme involving more than $20 million in fraudulently obtained mortgages on properties in Stone Mountain, Lithonia, Griffin and Elberton, according to prosecutors. She was convicted in 2005 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 the Atlanta Business Chronicle.
She was sentenced 30 years and ordered to pay $11.6 million in restitution to her victims.
McFarland acknowledged the harm she caused, but she disputed how prosecutors characterized her role in the scheme, and called the length of the prison sentence “outrageous.”
“They made me into this huge queenpin that orchestrated this huge fraud case and that was not true at all,” she said. “I did the closings, and I did some things during the closings that if I had to do over again I would not do, but I was not this queenpin that they made me out to be.”
McFarland first applied for clemency in 2014 under the Obama administration. She tried again under Trump with help from the CAN-DO Foundation, which promotes clemency for first-time nonviolent offenders. She awaited the decision from her home in Marietta, which she moved to from a Florida prison in July to serve her sentence due to concerns about the coronavirus pandemic. The answer finally came with hours to spare in the Trump presidency.
“Though she went to trial, Ms. McFarland actually cooperated with authorities by informing them of a potential attack on the United States Attorney,” former White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany said in a press release. “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.”
McFarland is still responsible for paying restitution to her victims, which with interest charges has swelled to about $16 million.
She said detainees are apolitical when attempting to get clemency because they don’t know which administration (if any) is going to grant it.
“I am grateful to [Trump] for having mercy on me and the steps his administration took to allow home confinements for vulnerable COVID inmates, and the criminal justice reforms his administration took like the First Step Act, and I hope the Biden administration continues in that same vein,” she said.
McFarland is now focused on rebuilding her career and making up for lost time with family.
“I’m looking for a job so I can pay my restitution,” she said. “And I’m looking forward to reuniting with my daughter, who I left when she was four years old.”
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