FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. - A Weston man is facing perjury charges after investigators said he was pretending to represent homeowners to get their property taxes reduced, then pocket a percentage of the difference.
James Clodfelter is charged with five counts of perjury for allegedly fighting for Broward property owners, whether they want him to or not.
"Can we ask you a few questions about your arrest last week?" Local 10's Roger Lohse asked Clodfelter Monday before his scheduled hearings before the Broward county Value Adjustment Board. Clodfelter said didn't have time to talk about it.
According to investigators, on at least five occasions recently, Clodfelter swore on official documents that he was authorized by a local homeowner to represent them before the value adjustment board, to fight to have their property taxes reduced. The problem is, investigators say he didn't have that permission. It was all part of his scheme, they say, to get the taxes reduced first, then ask the homeowner to pay him later.
"It's a way for him to create clients. I don't know if he's slow or doesn't have enough, but it creates clients and it manipulates the system," said Ron Cacciatore, the property appraiser's Director of Professional Standards and Compliance. "It causes the taxing authorities that rely on these funds to lose their normal money they need to operate," he said.
Clodfelter is a licensed real estate broker but court records show he has background in fraud. He served time in a federal prison camp in the 1980's for mortgage fraud. Now, he apparently he makes a living lowering the county's tax base, at times, investigators say, illegally.
Authorities say they aren't upset about the money Clodfelter took off the tax rolls but rather the way some of it ended up in his pocket.
"We don't have a problem with anybody contesting their values, if we're wrong we'll correct it. We're just asking that the tax reps don't manipulate the system just go by the rules and go by the laws of the state of Florida," Cacciatore said.
The property appraiser doesn't intend to increase property taxes on the homes which Clodfelter successfully reduced. Authorities do intend to file a complaint with the state agency that regulates his real estate broker's license.
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