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APPRAISER IS ORDERED TO COOPERATE WITH PROBE

A Buffalo property appraiser has been ordered to cooperate with the state attorney general's probe of a fugitive Buffalo couple being sought in connection with a $2 million real estate scam.

Dennis Walker, 49, was placed on five years' probation by State Supreme Court Justice Penny M. Wolfgang after he pleaded guilty Sept. 24 to a felony scheme-to-defraud charge. The plea came in connection with his appraisal work on a number of East Side properties allegedly obtained illegally by Venere and Dana Hutchinson.

Walker, a Hughes Street resident, did not speak during the brief sentencing and afterward declined to comment.

James M. Morrissey, the assistant state attorney general leading the probe of the housing scam, confirmed that authorities are looking for Hutchinson and his wife, the former Dana Upcher.

Two months ago, Wolfgang placed Rahmel J. Wattley, 20, Dana Hutchinson's cousin and the former manager of the couple's local real estate holdings, on five years' probation and ordered him to get a job "outside the field of real estate."

Wattley, a resident of Law-renceville, N.J., pleaded guilty to the same felony scheme-to-defraud charge as Walker.

In sentencing Walker on Monday, the judge warned him that he faces a possible four-year state prison term and court-imposed restitution payments should he fail to cooperate with the attorney general's probe.

Morrissey and Diane M. LaVallee, assistant state attorney general, said the Hutchinsons have been fugitives since late spring. The Buffalo News last year identified the couple as the second-worst Housing Court offenders in Buffalo.

It was confirmed earlier this year that Walker is not even licensed to conduct the type of appraisal work in New York State that he carried out for the Hutchinsons in recent years.

e-mail: mgryta@buffnews.com

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