Unlicensed Appraiser Sentenced for Overstating Property Values

Allison Tussey —  February 19, 2014 — 5 Comments

Jason Moreno, 30, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, has been sentenced in federal court to 96 months imprisonment, to be followed by three years of supervised release, on his conviction of wire fraud and wire fraud conspiracy.

According to the indictment and information presented to the court, Moreno committed and conspired to commit wire fraud from November 2005 to November 2007. Moreno owned and operated a company called Platinum Appraisal Services that regularly prepared fraudulent appraisals that overstated the values of the properties serving as collateral for the loans.

He was convicted in connection with two complex mortgage fraud schemes. The primary actor in the first scheme was Robert Arakelian, who operated Pittsburgh Home Loans. The primary action in the second scheme was James Platts, who operated Easy Realty Solutions.

Both schemes involved overstating the sales prices of the properties, falsely representing that the borrowers had the financial wherewithal to make a significant down payment associated with the purchase of the properties and to make the mortgage payments. In fact, the borrowers, many of whom were unsophisticated and had poor financial conditions, did not make down payments associated with the purchase of the properties and could not make the mortgage payments.

Moreno‘s role was to provide fraudulent appraisals that overstated the values of the properties serving as collateral for the loans. The appraisals often reported that the conditions of the properties were vastly superior to their actual conditions. Many of the properties were, in fact, in deplorable condition. Moreno, who was not even licensed to prepare appraisals, also falsely represented that a licensed appraiser prepared the appraisals.

Moreno also participated in the schemes as an investor in some of the properties. In that role, not only did Moreno prepare fraudulent appraisals, but he also misled the borrowers and the lenders on numerous other aspects related to the transactions. Some of those transactions involved his own family members, including his mother, his aunt, and his uncle.

United States District Judge Nora Barry Fischer imposed the sentence on the defendant.  United States Attorney David J. Hickton announced the sentence. Assistant United States Attorney Brendan T. Conway prosecuted this case on behalf of the government.  U.S. Attorney Hickton commended the Mortgage Fraud Task Force for the investigation leading to the successful prosecution of Moreno.

The Mortgage Fraud Task Force conducted the investigation leading to the indictment in this case. The Mortgage Fraud Task Force is comprised of investigators from federal, state and local law enforcement agencies and others involved in the mortgage industry. Federal law enforcement agencies participating in the Mortgage Task Force include the Federal Bureau of Investigation; the Internal Revenue Service, Criminal Investigations; the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development, Office of Inspector General; the United States Postal Inspection Service; and the United States Secret Service. Other Mortgage Fraud Task Force members include the Allegheny County Sheriff’s Office; the Pennsylvania Attorney General’s Office, Bureau of Consumer Protection; the Pennsylvania Department of Banking; the Pennsylvania Department of State, Bureau of Enforcement and Investigation; and the United States Trustee’s Office.

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5 responses to Unlicensed Appraiser Sentenced for Overstating Property Values

  1. Welcome to the lawless world of real estate appraisal. An industry carefully crafted to serve the criminal real estate world.

  2. About time an appraiser got nailed for being a lying, cheating POS.

  3. Although the story paints his actions resulting from intent, did poor education or lack of experience contribute? But based on a license number of the same name, he started appraising right after the October 2007 peak amid the correction/crash based upon the Effective Date of License of 11/30/2007 in http://www.licensepa.state.pa.us. It also shows he Voluntary Surrendered his license due to Disciplinary Action Effective Date on 10/7/2010. But the story states “was not even licensed to prepare appraisals”? I’m also curious why the story didn’t mention how much he did or did not profit from enabling the main actors? Or if the primary actors got sentenced in a similar, more lenient or more aggressive manner? With the average age of most appraisers being twice his, this incident casts a shadow on the next generation of appraisers.

  4. There are many of is in the appraisal profession that take pride in their provided services. Not sure what Stephen’s profession is, but would imagine that there are unethical individuals there as well. No profession is immune.

  5. Licensed appraiser February 19, 2014 at 2:53 pm

    Did you knuckledraggers read the article? It said HE WAS NOT A LICENSED APPRAISER. So don’t indict the appraisal industry because some scumbag pretended to be an appraiser and scammed a bunch of idiots that didn’t check him out.

    And the writer of this article should have the headline changed. He was not an appraiser, he was a guy pretending to be an appraiser. That headline is deceiving and paints our industry in a bad light. Shame on you.

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