Two Real Estate Appraisers Agree to Sanctions in Erie Home Mortgage Scam

HARRISBURG – Secretary of the Commonwealth Pedro A. Cortés said Natalie Rose Hurlburt and Kristopher M. Porter have agreed to serious disciplinary sanctions for their roles in an Erie home mortgage scam.

“Protecting the health, safety and welfare of Pennsylvania’s citizens is our priority in monitoring regulated professionals,” Cortés said. “Unfortunately, the damage caused by dishonest and misleading practices related to residential lending has spread throughout our economy and around the globe, affecting millions of innocent people – including many in Erie who lost their homes in the scheme supported by these appraisers’ actions. Wherever we uncover improper practices we are diligent in protecting the public interest. The current economic crisis has underscored the need for constant vigilance and strong regulations.”

Hurlburt and Porter agreed to sanctions as part of consent agreements with the State Board of Certified Real Estate Appraisers following an investigation of their business practices between 2003 and 2005. Porter was an employee of Hurlburt Appraisal Service in Vernon Township, Crawford County. The Board found that Hurlburt significantly violated the Pennsylvania Real Estate Appraisers Certification Act in at least eight appraisal assignments, and that Porter violated the act in at least three appraisals.

Hurlburt, of Meadville, Crawford County, agreed to permanently surrender her real estate appraisal certificate. Porter, of Edinboro, Erie County, agreed to be suspended from real estate appraising for a minimum of four months and to pay a civil penalty of $2,000, plus $1,000 for costs of the investigation. Porter also must complete 105 hours of remedial professional education courses before his suspension may be lifted in favor of strict probationary terms that will not end until September 2011.

The appraisal assignments relate to home sales being investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the U.S. Attorney’s Office. The sales involved dilapidated homes with cosmetic repairs sold at artificially inflated prices to unsuspecting buyers. Hurlburt’s and Porter’s appraisals supported the inflated prices. The federal fraud investigation has led to multiple arrests and convictions, though Hurlburt and Porter have not been charged by federal officials.

By signing the consent agreements with the state, Hurlburt and Porter waived their rights to administrative hearings in the matter.

“We have reached a conclusion on these cases because of close cooperation between the Department of State, the FBI and the U.S. Attorney’s Office,” said Basil Merenda, commissioner of the Department’s Bureau of Professional and Occupational Affairs. “We will continue to work with federal and state agencies to protect the public welfare wherever and whenever possible.”

The Bureau of Professional and Occupational Affairs provides administrative and legal support to 27 professional and occupational licensing boards and commissions. Professions range from funeral directors and physicians to cosmetologists and accountants.

For more information, visit here, click on “Professional Licensure.”

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