Are Appraisals the New Organized Crime?

Greedy appraisers, who put lofty valuations on properties to please lenders and line their pockets, played a large role in the housing bubble. And the fallout continues: On Jan. 29, a former Beverly Hills real estate appraiser was sentenced to three years in federal prison for her role in a multimillion-dollar scheme to profit from inflated property values. That came on the heels of the arrest of a father and son appraiser team in Laguna Beach, CA charged with altering appraisals to inflate home values by up to $40,000.

In fact, a closer look at the industry and its scandals reveals a "Godfather"-like underbelly, complete with death threats on public officials and sting operations.

The conflicts have led to the increasing use of appraisal management companies -- middlemen that are supposed to act as a firewall between lenders and appraisers. But for millions of homeowners, the issues still linger.