A former Alabama sheriff copped to illegally altering loan applications so he could use the money to pay off gambling debts. [Image: Shuttestock.com]
Caught in a lie
William “Ray” Norris, an ex-Alabama sheriff, pleaded guilty Monday to doctoring loan applications to help pay outstanding gambling debts.
Norris also admitted that he made a false statement to a federally insured institution
The former official said that he used the proceeds to cover operating expenses at the office, but a deeper dive revealed that he had used a chunk of the money to repay his missed bets, according to prosecutors. Norris also admitted that he made a false statement to a federally insured institution, while other counts against him were dismissed.
Norris, 44, faces a maximum of 30 years behind bars and a $1m fine. He could also qualify for three years of supervised release.
Gambling debts lead to resignation
Norris resigned from the Clarke County Sheriff’s Department in June 2021 after accusations against him were first made. He was indicted, and a plan to impeach him quickly gained steam. H stepped down, though, before the process was finalized.
Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall was at the center of the prosecution from the start and has remained involved in the case.
his resignation should be a welcome relief to the public”
“Sheriff Norris could no longer be trusted as a public servant or as a law enforcement official, and his resignation should be a welcome relief to the public,” Marshall said in a statement. “Sheriff Norris’ decision to resign from office, however, does not foreclose the possibility that criminal charges will be filed against him.”
According to regional news site AL.com, Norris applied for four loans from two local banks – Town County National Bank in Camden and Sweet Water State Bank in Sweet Water – in 2017 and 2018. Norris also double-dipped at the Town County National Bank, later involving a business partner to apply for loans exceeding $192,000 from 2017-20.
The ex-sheriff said that he had taken money out to cover the cost of office supplies and food for prisoners. Unfortunately, it was later determined that that money went towards financing his gambling debts, empty personal accounts, and non-work expenses, not supporting his work.
Norris also used a $75,000 loan to help repay $25,000 in personal loans.
Next to come
Norris’ recent appearance in court was not the first that he’s made. He was also previously indicted on five counts of unlawful use of campaign contributions, use of office for personal gain, and income tax evasion, according to local news site Alabama Today’s report.
Norris violated several pieces of legislation, including the Fair Campaign Practices Act and Statement of Economic Interest, in doing so.
a plea agreement had protected him while he was in office
Alabama Judge Braxton Kittrell dismissed the charges in March, reasoning that Norris had resigned and that a plea agreement had protected him while he was in office.
Sheriff DeWayne Smith was appointed as the Clarke County sheriff by Governor Kay Ivey on June 28, 2021. Before that, he had 29 years of experience in law enforcement and worked in the military and government.
The next step for Norris is a sentencing hearing with the judge, where he will find out how long he will be in prison. He will remain in custody until a date is set and ultimately reached.