A property appraiser whose work was allegedly the key to dozens of inflated Baltimore house sales won a 2 1/2-month delay yesterday in a state hearing on charges he falsified valuations on four East Baltimore houses.
It was the third postponement for G. Samson Ugorji in a case initiated by an official of the state Commission of Real Estate Appraisers in February 1998.
The postponement came at the opening of what was to be a two-day hearing on appraiser commission charges that Ugorji "inflated and overestimated the value" of four houses that he appraised for Robert L. Beeman, a Wilmington, Del., man who bought and resold the houses for large markups.
Ugorji performed at least 39 appraisals for Beeman, who has bought and resold dozens of houses in the past several years at huge markups -- a practice known as flipping. Beeman, Ugorji and others involved in the deals have been sued by many of the buyers.
In one case, Beeman bought a house in the 200 block of N. Montford Ave. for $15,000 in 1997, performed what a lawsuit claims was $7,000 worth of work on the house, and then sold it for $83,000. Ugorji appraised the house for $83,000.
State records suggest that more than 2,000 houses in Baltimore have been flipped in the past three years. Appraisals are an important element in such deals because a lender will not provide a mortgage unless an appraiser has valued the house at the purchase price or more.
Ugorji didn't ask for yesterday's postponement. Instead, his lawyer filed a motion asking Administrative Law Judge Laurie I. Pritchard to limit the testimony and documents that could be used at the hearing because, he claimed, the state had failed to turn over information Ugorji needed for his defense. He also asked her to limit discussion of Beeman and others involved in his transactions and to ban any mention of the lawsuit against Beeman.
"We're here in a vacuum and trying to anticipate in a two-day hearing what evidence the state may have," argued J. Seymour Sureff, a Ugorji attorney.
Gaston J. Sigur, the assistant attorney general who is prosecuting the case, scoffed at Sureff's claim, saying "it is absurd to argue that respondent is in a vacuum as to the charges against him." He said he had "fully complied" with requirements to turn over information to Ugorji.
Pritchard decided not to rule immediately on the motion, saying she wanted a written response from Sigur. She rescheduled the hearing for Jan. 10.