Norris Lynn Fisher, 62, Fort Worth, Texas, has been arrested on a mail fraud charge outlined in a federal criminal complaint.
According to the affidavit filed with the complaint, Fisher ran a mail fraud scheme that involved filing fraudulent warranty deeds with the Tarrant County Clerk’s Office, Texas, to facilitate the theft of real property from rightful owners. The properties involved in the fraudulent warranty deed transfers were almost always vacant lots with unpaid back taxes due and/or with weed liens filed against them by the city of Fort Worth, Texas.
After identifying a property, Fisher would often file a forged warranty deed transferring the property to a fictitious buyer, forging the signature of the true property owner, and forging the signature and notary stamp affixed to the documents. After forging the deed, Fisher filed it with the Tarrant County Clerk’s Office in Texas and once it was on file, the clerk’s office would record it and mail the original file-stamped fraudulent warranty deeds to the name and address designated on the warranty deed.
However, to conceal his connection with the initial fraudulent conveyance, and ensure that he would receive the original warranty deeds, Fisher filed change-of-address forms with the U.S. Post Office that caused these warranty deeds to instead be forwarded to a post office box that he had rented.
In another variation of Fisher’s scheme, he would identify properties whose rightful owners had recently died. Fisher would then file a forged heirship affidavit, attesting that a fictitious person was the sole heir of the deceased owner. Fisher would then file a forged warranty deed transferring the property from the fictitious heir to a business he controlled. Next, Fisher would file additional fraudulent warranty deeds that transferred the property from the first entity to other business entities he controlled. Fisher operated several business entities for this purpose and would often transfer stolen properties between multiple entities to conceal his connection to the original fraud. He concealed his connection to these business entities by listing deceased relatives and/or fictitious people as the owners of the business entities.
Eventually, after transferring the stolen properties to an entity that he controlled, Fisher would lease the mineral rights on the property or sell the property to a buyer who was typically unaware of the fraudulent conveyances.
According to the affidavit, Fisher acquired more than 100 real properties in Tarrant County, Texas, valued at more than $1 million.
The announcement was made by U.S. Attorney James T. Jacks of the Northern District of Texas. A detention hearing has been set for March 3, 2010, at 10:30 a.m.
A federal complaint is a written statement of the essential facts of the offenses charged, and must be made under oath before a magistrate judge. A defendant is entitled to the presumption of innocence until proven guilty. The penalty, however, for a mail fraud conviction, is 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine, per count. The U.S. Attorney’s office has 30 days to present the matter to a grand jury for indictment.
The matter is being investigated by the USPIS and the Economic Crimes Unit of the Tarrant County District Attorney’s Office. Assistant U.S. Attorney Jay Weimer is in charge of the prosecution.