News and Press Releases

Appraiser Charged In Mortgage Fraud Schemes

October 26 , 2011

PITTSBURGH, Pa. - A resident of Presto, Pa., has been indicted by a federal grand jury in Pittsburgh on charges of bank fraud conspiracy, bank fraud, and wire and bank fraud conspiracy, United States Attorney David J. Hickton announced today.

The three-count indictment, returned on Oct. 25, named James Lignelli, 57.

According to the indictment presented to the Court, Lignelli was a appraiser who provided fraudulently elevated appraisals in support of fraudulent loan applications in connection with two different mortgage fraud schemes.  The first scheme involved Michael Pope, who operated Pope Financial Services, and Tiffany Sprouts, who operated Sprouts Mortgage.  The indictment alleges that Lignelli participated in a conspiracy by preparing a fraudulently elevated appraisal for the property located in McMurray, Pa., which was sold through the conspiracy for approximately $1.2 million. The second mortgage fraud scheme involved Michael Staaf, who operated Beaver Financial Services.  The indictment alleges that Lignelli, as part of the conspiracy, prepared fraudulently elevated appraisals for office buildings located at 8150 Perry Highway, Pittsburgh, Pa., and 993 Brodhead Road, Moon Township, Pa.

The law provides for a maximum total sentence of 150 years in prison, a fine of $5,000,000, or both.  Under the Federal Sentencing Guidelines, the actual sentence imposed would be based upon the seriousness of the offenses and the prior criminal history, if any, of the defendant.

Assistant United States Attorney Brendan T. Conway is prosecuting this case on behalf of the government.

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 Investigation; 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.

An indictment is an accusation.  A defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.

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