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Justice News

Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney’s Office
Western District of Pennsylvania

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Jury Finds Appraiser Guilty Of Bank Fraud

PITTSBURGH - After deliberating for approximately five hours, a federal jury of five men and seven women found James Lignelli guilty of three counts of bank fraud, United States Attorney David J. Hickton announced today.

Lignelli, 59, of Presto, Pa., was tried before United States District Judge Terrence F. McVerry in Pittsburgh.

According to Assistant United States Attorney Brendan T. Conway, who prosecuted the case, the evidence presented at trial established that Lignelli was an 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. Lignelli participated in a bank fraud scheme by preparing fraudulently elevated appraisals for the property located in McMurray, Pa., which was sold through the conspiracy for approximately $1.2 million. The second scheme involved a mortgage broker named Michael Staaf, who operated Beaver Financial Services, a mortgage broker company. Lignelli participated in a bank fraud scheme by preparing a fraudulent appraisal for a property located on Perry Highway in the North Hills of Pittsburgh.

Judge McVerry scheduled sentencing for Sept. 26, 2014, at 1:30 p.m. The law provides for a total sentence of 90 years in prison, a fine of $3,000,000, or both. Under the Federal Sentencing Guidelines, the actual sentence imposed is based on the seriousness of the offenses and the prior criminal history, if any, of the defendant.

The Mortgage Fraud Task Force conducted the investigation that led to the prosecution of Lignelli. 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.

Updated July 14, 2015