A federal judge acquitted two real estate appraisers yesterday on the 13th day of their trial, handing the government the first defeat in its prosecution of property flipping cases.
Judge Frederic N. Smalkin acquitted Guy Shaneybrook and Narade Pramuan, who were indicted in June along with two other defendants.
Carl Schulz, the central figure in the case, pleaded guilty to two counts of wire fraud on Jan. 3, before the trial began. He acknowledged that his flipping scheme cost lenders as much as $1.5 million.
A fourth defendant, Marcia K. McNeil, who worked with Schulz, was on trial with Shaneybrook and Pramuan. Smalkin denied her lawyer's request for acquittal yesterday. She later took the stand in her own defense.
Until yesterday's acquittals, the government had won nine convictions in two major flipping cases - eight as a result of guilty pleas.
At the end of the prosecution case yesterday, Smalkin granted a motion by the appraisers' lawyers to acquit them on the grounds that the government's evidence was insufficient to let the case go to the jury.
"We are ecstatic," said Kenneth W. Ravenell, Pramuan's attorney.
Shaneybrook's lawyer, Richard D. Bennett, declined to comment.
Shaneybrook has been indicted in a related case and is scheduled for trial in March. His co-defendants in that case, Angus E. Finney and Thomas "Tucker" Mayer, have pleaded guilty to one count of fraud each. Both testified against McNeil, Shaneybrook and Pramuan. Finney and Mayer were partners with Schulz for nearly a year in 1996 and 1997 before they broke with him in a bitter dispute.
Schulz also testified in the current case. In an admission that bolstered the appraisers' assertions of innocence, Schulz said he never asked an appraiser to inflate valuations of properties that Schulz was flipping.