Appraisers Behaving Badly

From time to time, Clearbox becomes aware of unusually bad behavior by appraisers that simply boggle the mind. As they say, “A few bad apples spoil the bunch.” Or as Shakespeare wrote, “The evil that men do lives after them”. The following article covers just one of the appraisers whose behavior caught the attention of law enforcement.

On May 22, 2015, Tyler Lowman, an appraiser, pled guilty to conspiring to commit wire fraud in an attempt to defraud and obtain money under false pretenses; United States v. Berkenfield, case number 11CR3486-JAH. The indictment lists Lowman as part of a vast conspiracy that fraudulently deceived lenders into loaning millions of dollars to unqualified borrowers.

According to court documents, several members of the conspiracy would complete and/or assist with the completion of loan applications that significantly overstated each applicant’s income. This was done to create the misleading appearance that the applicant was qualified for each loan. Certified tax preparers would often state that they had prepared tax returns for the applicants and that the applicants were self-employed. To create a more believable illusion of wealth, select members of the conspiracy were instructed to state that the applicant’s income was large because, for example, the applicant was a manager or stylist. In addition, certain members of the conspiracy submitted false deposit records that stated the applicants owned investment funds. A handful of the conspirators also added loan applicants to bank accounts and included those accounts in loan applications with the intention of creating false impressions of the applicant’s actual wealth. Additionally, some member(s) of the conspiracy also sought out appraisals that grossly exaggerated the values of properties in an attempt to intentionally deceive lenders.

Lowman was not connected to or charged with any instances of appraisal fraud documented in the federal indictment or by the state appraisal agency. However the indictment does state that Lowman, over a two year period, submitted multiple residential loan applications which were subject to criminal penalties for false statements. It also mentions that in each loan application Lowman stated that his income was from $43,000-$60,000 a month. Lowman also allegedly added two loan applicants to his own bank account. On a scale of 1 to 10 where do you believe that income disclosure falls within your internal BS meter?

Twenty six individuals were charged in August of 2011 under federal indictment for conspiracy to commit wire fraud. The conspirators were charged after a four year investigation by special agents from U.S. Immigration and Custom Enforcement’s Office of Professional Responsibility.

The state agency agreed to a settlement of charges with Lowman and his license was suspended for thirty days. In addition, Lowman was placed on probation for two years and fined $5,000.00. If Lowman violates the terms of the agreement or his probation, his license may be revoked.

As appraisers I would hope you might be thinking why is he allowed to continue to appraise?

Without proper investigation of all parties, are lenders and their agents putting their business at risk? One dishonest appraiser could cost millions of dollars in legal fees, fines and reparations. We see many cases similar to this one on a relative frequent basis. What we don’t glean from this case is whether or not there are other appraisers under investigation associated with this incident . In many instances the State is often not aware. The State appraisal agencies are typically only responding to complaints. Oftentimes indictments such as this one go undetected.

To view more details involving this case, more information can be found at fbi.gov and ice.gov.

Have any comments or would you like to submit content of your own? Email comments@appraisalbuzz.com

Clearbox®, LLC was founded to address the complex landscape of compliant processes and data management. Better information and transparent processes promote integrity. The Clearbox® suite of products offers solutions to all stakeholders- Appraisers, Real Estate Agents and Brokers, Lenders, Appraisal Management Companies and Regulators.

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About Kevin Hopkins

Kevin Hopkins
Kevin Hopkins is a 1996 graduate of Widener School of Law and has taught college and continuing education classes. His first experience with politics involved lobbyist reform in the early 90's. All opinions are his own and do not constitute legal advice.

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19 comments

  1. Avatar

    I don’t get it, aren’t the use of amc’s supposed to stop over inflated values? How could such an amazingly well thought out plan of requiring amc’s allow exactly what is happening here now in 2015 ? Could it be that this moronic requirement of amc’s is a dismal failure except for Those that want to profit from other people’s work by taking a huge chunk of a professionals fee for the privilege of being nothing more than a middle man?

    • Avatar

      The AMC is nothing more than a great way for the bank not to have to shell out money to pay for reviewing appraisals… now the AMC reviews the appraisals and the appraiser pays for his/her own review!!! What a racket! … and I would imagine many banks own AMC’s….

      • Avatar

        All that was ever needed was good INDEPENDENT reviewers and underwriters
        Fraud can be stopped at the review and underwriting point if the right people are doing there job. Almost everyone at any amc’s is clueless

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          Wouldn’t that be great! That would be a great job. But who is going to pay for that?… The banks? They used to pay for the reviews, all reviews were in house…. however, now they figured a way out of that by making the appraiser pay for their own review via the AMC!!! The direct lender… I guess they monotor themselves … and don’t seem to use AMC’s … I guess fraud could happen there …

  2. Avatar
    Kimberly Pugh DeFilippis

    Kartus is right. AppraisalBuzz is a vehicle used to promote AMCs…who existence relies solely on appraisers. So why make the headline and graphic deceptively representing that an appraiser broke the law making the reader ASSUME he broke the law in his profession. Bad juju, Joan.

    • Avatar

      This blog is so slanted against appraiser’s interests I guess I should wonder why I continue to read it.

      However, there is value in discovering the manipulations and machinations these special interests will go to in eliminating the effectiveness and viability of the entire appraising industry. These people do need to be very carefully watched.

      • Avatar

        I start to believe Edd’s point. I never saw a post by a ‘qualified appraiser’ to side with the present and future appraiser. Seems to be a trapp. Who’s going to knock at your licence place? Donalcheck ? Urenney ? Urban or alike ones?
        Solution stands in unity of minds and aims- which is not exactly embraced by majority of appraisers- because they believe that staying independent is the key-stronghold- – – – wrong!!!

  3. Avatar

    Are we to understand that the state appraisal boards should suspend the appraisal license of any one convicted of a crime or just those convicted of defrauding lenders, notwithstanding the crime had nothing to do with appraising?

    How important can appraiser character impairment be in the Fannie Mae cheap-and-fast-form-filler-cum-bubble-bursting recession world? Whatever the effect from what this appraiser did has got be minuscule compared to what the banks did to the nation and we still have Fannie Mae cheap-and-fast-form-filling going on apparently because Fannie wants it that way.

    Amazing that the author took the time to manufacture a connection between this guy’s fraudulent loan applications and his appraisal license. Maybe the author has an interest in one of those appraiser annual background checks-for-a-fee outfits.

    • Avatar

      Edd are you defending his behavior? The state board saw the connection- I just commented on it.

      Kevin

      • Avatar

        Hardly!

        Based just on what you wrote, the guy is an unrepentant criminal and I do believe character is a much more important element in trust than the ethics we espouse.

        Based on the sanctions imposed I’d say the board is impotent, but they apparently didn’t think it was big deal. You on the other hand apparently do.

        Actually if you want to know my motive in taking the time to respond it is most often to point out the hypocrisy of CRN when it comes to benefiting the welfare of appraisers. The source of every problem CRN addresses is usually rooted in the clients not the appraisers. Appraisers need better education and better pay, and the single family mortgage lenders need to be hand cuffed.

        I agree with Kimberly and Kartus that the title of your article is misleading, but then possibly you didn’t choose it. I’m looking forward to reading “Members of CRN Behaving Badly.” Yeah right.

        • Avatar

          That is why I said it was unusual. I believe that 99.9% of appraisers are providing a vital service and do a great job. We may not see eye to eye, but I am trying to help- please believe that.

          • Avatar

            OK, but if appraisers were really paid a reasonable wage, maybe he would not have had to become a criminal…..

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            YES!!!!

          • Avatar

            I missed the helpful part. Where is it? Maybe it’s to help the background checking subscription services.

            Our state now requires background checks and the Colorado Bureau of Investigation completes it at a very reasonable cost and the State by law holds it in strict confidence.

            Why anyone would allow a private company check all of their personal information for the use of a private AMC boggles my mind, but the AMCs and organizations like CRN seem to think they have the right to intrude and take even more from the appraisers and the appraisers let them get away with it for nothing more than low fees and hassle in return.

            So help us Kevin. Help the industry become a profession and figure out how to report on secondary mortgage market lenders behaving very badly. That is what is needed.

          • Avatar

            Actually I help appraisers figure out where they can charge more. There are appraisers whose fees are well below the average and I make sure to mention that. You don’t have to complete a background check to sign up for Clearbox.

          • Avatar

            Well then, if Clearbox is there, just like the three amigos, we should be fine. I plead ignorance, what exactly is Clearbox and how does it help appraisers? If it is one of those really good AMCs with really good lender clients, I might consider an assignment, but my minimum fee has to be at least $1,000.00 or perhaps I might consider indemnification and complete it for less. Until that happens, when they call the answer is NO!

            Until then, how about a story on secondary mortgage market lenders or their alter ego AMCs behaving badly? That would be helpful to me.

            Thanks for your assurance Kevin. It might help your efforts to assist if you could get some experience from the appraiser side of things.

  4. Avatar

    Mortgage and appraisal fraud continues to be rampant. Mortgage lenders continue to choose the appraisers who will “work with them”. AMCs have made the situation worse by forcing appraisers into having to do faster appraisals for less money. And, AMCs too are willing to “work with” the mortgage industry. Poor appraisal quality is accepted by the mortgage industry and therefore thrives. There are plenty of ethical, hard working, competent appraisers out there but unfortunately the mortgage industry is not seeking out their services. The fast, cheap, incompetent AMC sourced appraisal system is the design of the mortage industry whose concern is short term profits not quality or ethics.

  5. Avatar

    BOA is paying billion dollar settlement payments, settling class action lawsuits for their staff appraisers (last month 36 million), Fifth Third bank just settled an 85 million dollar whistleblower lawsuit, and this site brings attention to a single appraiser fined $5,000 and suspended for 30 days! How about give equal space on this site according to the severity of the crime based on dollar amounts. The space would be 100,000 to 1 with the lenders violations dominating your headlines. How about suspending the violating banks for a month or suspend the people in charge. We know this won’t happen Kevin as your scare tactics are geared to the lenders and AMC’s of the world. How else can the appraiser be charged $40 a pop for separate background checks.

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