Mark E. Greenlee, 50, Charleston, North Carolina, a former West Virginia licensed real estate appraiser, was sentenced for preparing a false and fraudulent appraisal in 2006 in furtherance of a multi-million-dollar mortgage fraud scheme perpetrated by Deborah L. Joyce and others in the Stonegate subdivision in Hurricane, Putnam County, West Virginia.
Greenlee is the second real estate appraiser prosecuted as part of the Stonegate mortgage fraud investigation. The court handed down an 18-month prison sentence resulting in part from the defendant’s delayed cooperation in the investigation. In November 2008, federal agents executed a search warrant on the homes of defendants Greenlee and Joyce. Greenlee refused to cooperate at that time. The federal investigation continued and agents gathered sufficient information to approach former real estate appraiser, James Thornton, 48, in October 2009. When confronted, Thornton cooperated immediately, which broke the investigation open against co-defendants Joyce, Greenlee, and others. It was not until an ongoing investigation conducted by federal agents that Greenlee entered into a plea agreement in June 2011. As a result of his unwillingness to cooperate initially with federal authorities, Greenlee did not receive any relief for substantial assistance at sentencing.
Greenlee admitted that in August 2006, he prepared a residential real estate appraisal for a property known as 62 Stoneridge, Hurricane, West Virginia valuing the property at $645,000, essentially twice the then-current market value. The defendant further admitted to purposefully concealing material information about some of the comparables he used to justify the inflated appraisal price. To further the scheme, Greenlee admitted that he sent a copy of his appraisal, via e-mail, across state lines to a mortgage broker in Utah, who ultimately provided the appraisal to a lender who funded a loan. In addition, Greenlee admitted that he subsequently altered his appraisal of the 62 Stoneridge, Hurricane, West Virginia property in light of an investigation conducted by the West Virginia Real Estate Appraiser and Licensing Certification Board of the appraisals he prepared for Joyce and others in the Stonegate subdivision.
In June, Thornton admitted that he also aided and abetted the wire fraud scheme perpetrated by Ms. Joyce and others by falsifying the appraisal price for a property known as 45 Spruce Ridge West Virginia. Specifically, Thornton admitted that, contrary to industry standards, he included a below-grade basement as “Gross Living Area” thereby allowing him to use comparables that were twice the square footage. He also admitted that he sent a copy of the false and fraudulent appraisal, via e-mail, across state lines to the Utah mortgage broker.
Deborah L. Joyce was sentenced in April 2011 to three years and 10 months in prison and five years of supervised release for her involvement in the Stonegate subdivision mortgage fraud scheme. Joyce’s husband, Todd Joyce, 38, Hurricane, West Virginia, was also sentenced in April 2011 to one year and six months in prison on mortgage fraud and tax evasion charges.
James R. Thornton, 48, Wilmington, North Carolina, was sentenced earlier this month to five years’ probation for his involvement in the scheme. Thornton received a reduced sentence as a result of his early cooperation in the federal investigation.
Michael S. Hurd, 37, Salt Lake City, Utah, was also sentenced earlier this month to two years and three months in federal prison for conspiracy to commit wire fraud and bank fraud in connection to his role in the mortgage fraud scheme.
Raymond Paul Morris, 51, South Weber, Utah, previously pleaded guilty in July to wire fraud and bank fraud for his involvement in the mortgage fraud scheme linked to the Putnam County, West Virginia subdivision properties. Morris faces up to 30 years in prison and a $1 million fine when he is sentenced on October 29, 2012, by United States District Judge Thomas E. Johnston.
United States Attorney Booth Goodwin made the announcement.
The investigation was handled by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Internal Revenue Service, Criminal Investigative Division. Assistant United States Attorney Thomas C. Ryan handled the prosecution. The sentence was imposed by United States District Judge Thomas E. Johnston
Steven is right. The sad part is that, for the most part, appraisers are rarely included in the prosecution of mortgage fraud. This case is rare. I know of appraisers that falsified appraisals and were reported to state licensure boards only to receive a warning, citation but rarely a revocation of license. This is due to the complete failure of the ASC to police the state boards and the incompetents who run them.
It’s amazing how the market skyrocketed with borrowers even waiving the appraisal condition at acquisition and the lenders being okay with that! Not realizing how overinflated the market had become! There were alot of appraisers out there that would ‘hit’ the value requested, as one lender stated, “forward thinkers”! Fortunately, they are no longer in business! But, please don’t paint all appraisers as being careless!
Appraisers are the linchpin of mortgage fraud. This crisis could never have happened with appraisers.