FORT WORTH MAN SENTENCED TO 20 YEARS IN FEDERAL PRISON FOR RUNNING SCHEME TO FRAUDULENTLY OBTAIN REAL ESTATE
Norris Fisher Also Ordered to Pay $4.6 Million in Restitution
FORT WORTH, Texas — Norris Fisher, 63,was sentenced yesterday by U.S. District Judge Terry R. Means to 20 years in federal prison and ordered to pay $4.6 million in restitution for his role in a conspiracy to fraudulently obtain real estate, announced U.S. Attorney James T. Jacks of the Northern District of Texas.
A federal grand jury returned a superseding indictment against Fisher in August 2010 charging him with one count of conspiracy to commit mail fraud, three counts of mail fraud and three counts of aggravated identity theft. In October 2010, he pleaded guilty to the conspiracy and mail fraud counts. As a part of his plea agreement with the government, Fisher had to cooperate fully in the identification of assets to be applied toward restitution and had to assist the government in identifying, and returning to the rightful owners, any properties that he fraudulently acquired.
According to documents filed, from January 2004 until late February 2010, Fisher illegally acquired dozens of properties by knowingly and illegally executing a scheme to acquire real estate that did not belong to him by creating and filing forged heirship affidavits and warranty deeds with the Tarrant County Clerk. At some point in 2006, an unindicted co-conspirator partnered with Fisher and began assisting him in carrying out the scheme.
Fisher conducted research and identified various distressed properties. Fisher preferred to target unoccupied properties or vacant lots belonging to elderly individuals and individuals who had recently died. After he identified a property that he wanted to illegally acquire, Fisher paid people to forge signatures and created a forged warranty deed that fraudulently reflected a transfer of the property from its true owner to a fictitious person. If the true owner of the property was deceased, he would create a fraudulent heirship affidavit which falsely claimed that a fictitious person was the heir to the deceased property owner, and therefore entitled to inherit the property.
To ensure the forged documents were mailed to him after they were recorded by the Tarrant County Clerk, Fisher filed change of address documents with the U.S. Postal Service which caused mail sent to a fictitious buyer’s address to be forwarded instead to one of the U.S. Post Office Boxes he had rented for this purpose.
Fisher made multiple fraudulent transfers of the stolen properties in order to conceal his original property theft and make it less likely that a title search would uncover his connection to the fraud. After performing several fraudulent property transfers, Fisher identified real buyers and sold the property to them.
On occasion, Fisher leased the mineral rights of the properties he stole; the companies to whom he leased those mineral rights were not aware that Fisher had stolen the properties by forging documents.
When Fisher realized that an investigation into his fraudulent activities was taking place, he filed false complaints with the Fort Worth Police Department and Tarrant County District Attorney’s office in an effort to conceal his fraud and direct attention elsewhere. He drafted false affidavits in an effort to conceal his fraud and he shredded and destroyed numerous documents and records in order to conceal his crime.
Fisher acquired more than 150 real properties in Tarrant County, valued at approximately $3.7 million.
The case was investigated by the U.S. Postal Inspection Service and the Economic Crimes Unit of the Tarrant County District Attorney’s Office. Assistant U.S. Attorney Jay Weimer prosecuted.
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