NC land appraiser got $467m in tax breaks on bogus land values. Now, he’s going to prison

A North Carolina land appraiser pleaded guilty Friday to running a fraud scheme in Georgia that bilked taxpayers out of hundreds of millions of dollars, federal prosecutors in Atlanta said.

Shelby resident Walter “Terry” Douglas Roberts II inflated charitable contribution deductions based on bogus and way-too-high appraisal values of conservation easements, according to a U.S. Department of Justice news release.

Roberts wasted no time launching the ruse after becoming a licensed appraiser in 2007, prosecutors said.

And it continued for more than a decade before he was finally caught in 2020, according to the Justice Department.

Roberts, who is free on bond, didn’t return a call from The Charlotte Observer on Saturday.

Details of the scheme

According to prosecutors, Roberts admitted to inflating at least 18 conservation easements, some by at least 70%, prosecutors said. He manipulated data and lied on forms, according to the Justice Department.

Roberts claimed $467 million in total tax deductions on the 18 claims, stealing at least $129 million, court records show.

He conspired with others unnamed in court documents, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office for Northern Georgia. Prosecutors didn’t say if his alleged co-conspirators will be charged.

When he’s sentenced Nov. 14, he faces five years in prison, prosecutors said in the release.

Roberts will have to pay the money back, prosecutors said.