ID thief stole appraiser’s reputation

VANCOUVER, Wash. — Identity theft is bad enough when the target is someone’s bank account or credit line.

Kathy Carpenter is still trying to assess the damage from the theft of her professional identity as a residential appraiser by a woman who made appraisals in her name.

“I just don’t know what’s coming,” Carpenter, said Thursday. “Is this done?”

Jean Faye Dodge, 57, former manager for a La Center appraisal company that used to hire her to make appraisals, is now serving a one-year prison term after using Carpenter’s name and license number on jobs that included appraisals of commercial and million-dollar properties.

On Sept. 17 Carpenter plans to ask a Clark County Superior Court judge to order Dodge to pay more than $70,000 in restitution for legal fees, loss of business and hours spent untangling a “horrible intricate web.”

Carpenter, 49, who works out of her home, says she still doesn’t know all the damage — for instance, how much money Dodge earned in her name, whether taxes were paid on that income and how the Internal Revenue Service might respond.

Her unusual ID theft problem came to light on March 20, 2007, when a lender called to ask if she could take a second look at a property in nearby Columbia County, Ore.

“I said, ‘I never looked at it in the first place,’ ” she said.

When the lender e-mailed a copy of the appraisal bearing her name and license number, Carpenter recalled that Dodge, manager of JJ Property &Appraisal Services, asked some years ago to accompany her on a site visit on the pretext of being bored stuck in an office and wanting to see what appraisers did.

“My whole body just wanted to implode,” Carpenter said.

Carpenter did everything victims of identity theft are supposed to do, including flagging financial accounts, but she said the appraisal regulating agencies in Washington state and Oregon didn’t seem to know how to respond.

Lenders didn’t seem to want to hear about it and only one agreed to search appraisal reports for her name, providing information Carpenter said showed Dodge did at least 16 forged appraisals.

The apparent reason for the lack of concern was that no buyers had defaulted on loans based on fraudulent appraisals.

“Nobody had my back,” Carpenter said.

Carpenter, who got her license in 1996, depended on the work for provided a steady second income for her family while she stayed home with her two daughters while her husband Patrick, an airline pilot, was often away.

Once she started spreading the word about Dodge, work dried up more than could be attributed to the real estate market slowdown.

She hired a lawyer who thought a cease-and-desist letter to Dodge would result in a settlement.

Instead, Dodge hired a lawyer who resisted. Carpenter sued. Dodge’s lawyer moved repeatedly to dismiss the case without success.

“It was going to be a fight,” Arledge said.

Meanwhile, Carpenter kept filing reports in every county where Dodge had done an appraisal. Clark County sheriff’s Detective James “Rick” Buckner became interested, served Dodge with the lawsuit and asked about the appraisals. Dodge admitted doing them.

“At one point, she commented that she was glad it was over with,” Buckner wrote.

Facing more than a dozen charges, Dodge accepted a deal with prosecutors and pleaded guilty June 23 to second-degree identity theft, forging a digital signature and three counts of forgery.

Supporters described Dodge in letters to the judge as a loving grandmother who should be spared prison because she was raising two grandchildren whose parents are drug addicts.

“I didn’t mean to hurt Kathy,” Dodge said in court. “She’s a wonderful person. I did what I did, and it was wrong.”

Carpenter said the criminal case would never have been filed if Dodge had accepted her initial offer to pay for mediation and reach a settlement.

“I didn’t want ‘Grandma Jean’ to go to jail,” Carpenter said. “That’s not the point. I’d just as soon that she was out there making a buck, paying me back.”

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