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Ex-appraiser gets 42 months in mortgage fraud schemes

post-gazette.com | April 29, 2015

By Torsten Ove

An appraiser from Collier was sentenced today to 42 months in federal prison in mortgage fraud schemes involving two properties and three banks.

After a two-day sentencing hearing, U.S. District Judge Terrence McVerry imposed that term on James Lignelli, 59, and ordered him to pay $300,000 in restitution to the lenders he ripped off by preparing false appraisals.

Lignelli was found guilty of bank fraud at trial last summer, although the jury acquitted him on counts of bank and wire fraud conspiracy.

Federal prosecutors said he provided inflated appraisals for loan applications in two schemes.

The first involved Michael Pope, operator of Pope Financial Services, and Tiffany Sprouts, who ran Sprouts Mortgage. Assistant U.S. Attorney Brendan Conway said at trial that Lignelli prepared fake appraisals with the co-conspirators for a property in Peters, which was sold for $1.2 million.

In a second scheme, Mr. Conway said Lignelli worked with Michael Staaf, operator of Beaver Financial Services, and prepared a fake appraisal for a property on Perry Highway in the North Hills.

Lignelli and his lawyer argued that he was a dupe for the others, who he said had supplied him with false information about the properties. In trying to avoid jail, he also said he had already been punished because he's lost his career and reputation.

But Mr. Conway said Lignelli was no dupe, but a white-collar crook who knew exactly what he was doing. In addition, he said Lignelli deserves no breaks because he was a trained, intelligent professional appraiser who deliberately inflated appraisals. In addition, he said, the relatively small group of appraisers in Pittsburgh need to realize that fraud will be punished by jail.

"Over at least a four-year period, [Lignelli] was faced with a decision over and over again – should I do another fraudulent appraisal for Pope and/or Staaf?," Mr. Conway asked in pre-sentencing filings. "Time and time again, the defendant, motivated by greed, answered that question 'yes' and engaged in the repeated fraudulent conduct."


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CFLA was founded by the Nation's Leading Foreclosure Defense Attorneys back in 2007 to serve the Foreclosure Defense Industry and fight pervasive Bank Fraud. Since opening our virtual doors, CFLA has rapidly expanded to become the premier online legal destination for small businesses and consumers. But as the company continues to grow, we're careful to hold true to our original vision. For us, putting the law within reach of millions of people is more than just a novel idea—it's the founding principle, just ask Andrew P. Lehman, J.D.. With convenient locations in Houston and Los Angeles, you can contact Our National Account Specialist and General Manager / Member Damion W. Emholtz at 888-758-2352 for a free Mortgage Fraud Analysis or to obtain samples of work product, including cutting edge Bloomberg Securitization Audits, Litigation Support, Quiet Title Packages, and for more information about our Nationally Accredited and U.S. Department of Education Approved "Mortgage Securitization Analyst Training Certification" Classes (3 days) 24 hours for approved CLE & MCLE Credit (Now Available Online).

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