A professional disciplinary board has revoked the certification of an Augusta real estate appraiser who is scheduled to go on trial this week.
According to documents obtained by The Augusta Chronicle, the Georgia Real Estate Appraisers Board agreed with an administrative law judge's opinion that Ashby Roy Krouse III committed dishonest and fraudulent acts in serving as a conduit for a real estate deal that ended with a $240,000 profit for his wife.
The 2002 land deal -- revealed in an investigation by The Chronicle -- is also the subject of a criminal investigation. Mr. Krouse, 56, was indicted this summer on charges of forgery and making false statements and writings. He has pleaded not guilty in Richmond County Superior Court and his trial is scheduled for Monday.
The criminal and professional board investigations focused on Mr. Krouse after Chronicle articles that traced the ownership of a 98-acre site on the border of Richmond and Burke counties.
The site was owned by Augusta businessman William Hatcher until he donated it Sept. 5, 2002, to the Hale Foundation, a local charity that assists recovering alcoholics. The same day, the foundation sold the property to Mr. Krouse's wife, Donna, for $25,000.
Two years later, the Georgia Department of Transportation bought the property for $265,850 to preserve extensive natural wetlands to compensate for property being taken over for construction work on U.S. Highway 25.
The land deal took place while Mr. Krouse's father-in-law, then-state Sen. Don Cheeks, was a member of the Senate Transportation Committee, whose oversight capabilities include the state's highways.
Mrs. Krouse and Mr. Cheeks were both called to testify this spring at Mr. Krouse's hearing before Administrative Law Judge Ana Kennedy.
After hearing from all the witnesses at that hearing, the judge found Mr. Krouse was negligent or incompetent in preparing the appraisal for Mr. Hatcher. And in consideration of the timing of the events, the judge wrote, it is more likely than not that Mr. Krouse had already considered the possibility of his wife's purchase of the property, a fact that should have been disclosed.
The recent professional sanction isn't the first time Mr. Krouse had been punished for not disclosing personal interest in a real estate transaction between others.
Mr. Krouse was reprimanded and fined $5,000 by the Georgia Real Estate Commission in February 1999, according to commission documents.
In May 1995, J. Douglas Herman asked Mr. Krouse to help him find a commercial property to purchase. Mr. Krouse sold him property on Berckmans Road for $250,000 on July 30, 1995.
Earlier that day, Mr. Krouse bought the same property for $200,000.
According to the consent order Mr. Krouse signed, he didn't tell either side of the transaction of his personal involvement as a buyer and seller. He also handled the transaction while his broker's license had lapsed, according to the Real Estate Commission documents.
Staff writer Sylvia Cooper contributed to this article.
Reach Sandy Hodson at (706) 823-3226 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
BACKGROUND: The Augusta Chronicle reported in 2005 on Ashby and Donna Krouse's ability to turn a $240,000 profit on a $25,000 tract by selling it to the state two years later.
- The state attorney general's office began its own investigation in January 2005.
- Mr. Krouse, the son-in-law of former Sen. Don Cheeks, is accused of felony charges punishable by a total maximum sentence of 25 years.
- The Georgia Real Estate Appraisers Board has revoked Mr. Krouse's certification.
Mr. Krouse is scheduled to go on trial Monday. He has pleaded not guilty in Richmond County Superior Court.