I Didn’t Know What I Was Signing, Testifies ‘Ruined’ NC Real Estate Attorney
Posted Apr 1, 2009 11:15 AM CST
By Martha Neil
Taking the stand in her own defense in a massive federal mortgage fraud trial in Charlotte, N.C., a real estate attorney said she should have paid more attention to the closing documents she signed, many of which were prepared by paralegals.
But she never intentionally falsified documents, Victoria Sprouse testified tearfully Monday, reports the Charlotte Observer.
“There was no reason for me to do this,” the 38-year-old lawyer told jurors. “This has ruined my life.”
After at least five other defendants pleaded guilty to related charges, including a real estate broker, an appraiser and real estate agents, Sprouse was portrayed by federal prosecutors as the mastermind of an alleged mortgage fraud conspiracy involving $15 million in loans and 200 properties, reports the Charlotte Observer in another article today.
The defense says she was duped along with the banks that reportedly lent more on the properties at issue than they were worth.
Although the articles don't provide exact details of the alleged scheme, a lengthy story in the Charlotte Observer last month, before the trial started, says Sprouse is accused of participating in multiple transactions between 2000 and 2004 that involved kickbacks to buyers, unbeknownst to mortgage lenders, and false representations that purchasers intended to live in the properties they were buying. She is also accused of preparing fraudulent closing documents for real estate "flips" in which lenders allegedly were tricked into providing mortgages for swift resales of properties for more than they were worth.
Sprouse declined to comment to the newspaper. Her onetime lawyer, Pete Anderson, said she was “victimized by mortgage fraudsters who hired her for certain property closings, but kept her in the dark about their improper practices.” Colleagues and friends describe Sprouse as ethical and honest and caring, the kind of person who regularly donated to the Red Cross.
Today, the jury is deliberating the bank fraud, wire fraud and money laundering charges Sprouse is facing. If convicted, she could be sentenced to more than 25 years in prison.
Additional and related coverage:
WCNC: "Real estate attorney testifies in her own defense"
WSOC: "Defendant, Sister Testify In Mortgage Fraud Trial"
WCNC (2008): "Mortgage fraud case widens"
Charlotte Business Journal (2007): "Jury awards $1.15M to Atlanta lender in fraud case"