Former Appraiser Trainee Guilty of Criminal Fraud
The Texas Appraiser Licensing and Certification Board (TALCB) is pleased to announce an important victory for consumers in Texas. On November 5, 2018, former real estate appraiser trainee, James P. Edwards, Jr. pled guilty in Tarrant County District Court to felony charges of false statements to obtain property or credit. As a result, the Court placed Edwards on 5 years of community supervision, ordered $25,000 in restitution to victims of Edwards’ fraudulent appraisals, and imposed a fine and other restrictions. The Court also prohibited Edwards from being involved in real estate appraisals in the future. In addition to the monetary penalties and prohibitions, he was sentenced to serve 10 days in jail. The results of this prosecution protect Texas consumers from Edwards’ illegal and deceptive appraisal activities and will deter others who might consider similar schemes.
Edwards never held an appraiser license, but worked as a trainee for other appraisers for one year and obtained access to their digital signatures. Using the license numbers of other Texas appraisers without their knowledge, he submitted fraudulent commercial appraisals to clients in his own name. Several of the appraisers whose signatures Edwards used suffered reputational harm and incurred legal expenses to clear their name of any wrongdoing. When evidence of his illegal activity first came to TALCB’s attention in 2015, the agency moved quickly to initiate a cooperative investigation with law enforcement. Assisted by the Texas Attorney General’s office, TALCB obtained a civil court judgment permanently prohibiting Edwards from engaging in real estate appraisal activities and a $28,000.00 administrative penalty for his unlicensed, illegal and deceptive conduct. The Tarrant County District Attorney’s Office prosecuted the criminal case, resulting in Edwards’ indictment on criminal charges in May 2018, and his recent guilty plea.
TALCB appreciates the inter-agency cooperation provided by the Tarrant County District Attorney’s Office, the Office of Inspector General for the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, and the Texas Attorney General’s Office to stop Edwards’ fraudulent activities, which harmed Texas property owners, investors, and the real estate appraisers whose signatures he misused.
Appraisers play a vital role in real estate transactions, acting as independent valuation experts. Consumers and financial institutions rely upon an appraiser’s honest opinions. TALCB exists to ensure the public can maintain confidence in credible real estate appraisal services. Consumers who may become aware of unlicensed individuals or appraisers engaging in deceptive practices should contact TALCB and file a complaint. Learn more about what to expect from the real estate appraisal process and how to file a complaint, on our website.