Sleazy Debt Collection Tactics Featured On Dateline NBC
To watch the full broadcast, see Inside The Financial Fiasco: Debt Trap.
Welcome to The Home Equity Theft Reporter, a blog dedicated to informing the consumer public and the legal profession about Home Equity Theft issues. This blog will consist of information describing the various forms of Home Equity Theft and links to news reports & other informational sources from throughout the country about the victims of Home Equity Theft and what government authorities and others are doing about it.
For more, see Protest of alleged loan modification scam goes nowhere (An elevator mishap adds to the frustration of homeowners gathered at the offices of Centre Legal, a company they say took their money but did nothing to help them).
(1) According to the story, ACORN alleges that a number of Southern California homeowners have paid fees to Centre Legal but received nothing in return. ACORN said the company has also operated under the names Centro Legal, Modificate and Gigante Mortgage.
For more, see Supreme Court creates task force to study foreclosures.
Go here for the Florida Supreme Court's administrative order.
Go here for The Florida Bar's amicus brief.
Go here for links to all the briefs filed in this case (scroll down to case #SC08-1360 Goldberg, et al. v. Merrill Lynch Credit Corporation, et al.).
Go here for information on Filing an Unlicensed Practice of Law Complaint with The Florida Bar. UnauthPractOfLawTheta
For more, see Broward County cuts off water to townhouse community ($8,100 owed to Broward; 60 percent of owners delinquent on fees).
For more, see Fire officials evict tenants at unfinished apartment complex.
For the entire press release, see Court Grants Emergency Request to Halt Central Florida Foreclosure Rescue Company's Up-Front Fees.
For more, see 14 Brides Cancel Weddings After Fire (Historic Inn Gutted By Arson Fire).
For more, see Aide who scammed Norwalk couple given 10-year sentence.
For more, see Fed Features: Ads at Movies Warn Against Scams.
For the story, see Lawyer Sentenced In Foreclosure Scheme.
For the criminal charges against Connelly, see:
For more, see Victims Sought in Mortgage Foreclosure Scheme.
For some of the documents related to this scam:
Go here for other posts on the land patent allegations against this group.
(1) The defendants -- Smith, Maria Candida Capa, Margarita Gaviola, Jessica Refuerzo, Julita Whittingham and Edgardo Orcino -- are accused of defrauding homeowners out of more than $100,000 in 2007 and 2008.
For the entire press release, see Attorney General Martha Coakley Obtains Temporary Restraining Order Against Company for Deceptively Advertising Foreclosure Relief Services and Soliciting Illegal Advance Fees.
(1) According to the Massachusetts AG, the advertisements in question ran on three dates in February 2009 in the Boston Metro newspaper. The company offered to assist homeowners to “Save Your Home, Modify Your Loan,” and “Stop Foreclosure; Call NOW!” and directed homeowners to the website LoanModsByLawyers.com. The Attorney General’s investigation of the company and its operations also revealed that the company demands a $1,500 up-front fee before providing services to help homeowners avoid foreclosure. Such advance fees are illegal under regulations issued by the Attorney General’s Office in 2007 to combat various unfair business practices that target homeowners facing foreclosure. The Attorney General’s Office also determined that although the company used the name “Loan Mods By Lawyers,” there appeared to be no licensed attorneys on staff.
For more, see Ethics Alert: Lawyers should be very wary of loan modifiers.
For more from The Florida Bar:
(1) The list of prohibited activities contained in the alert:
The above cited rules can be found in Chapter 4 of the Rules Regulating The Florida Bar: Rules of Professional Conduct (for pdf version, try here - 139 pages).
According to the Ethics Alert, several ethics opinions, Opinions 92-3 and 95-1 in particular, discuss similar proposals and the ethics problems that arise when lawyers enter business arrangements with nonattorneys. UnauthPractOfLawTheta
For more, see Special Report: Indy Eyesore (A once prominent landmark has becomea mess). RentSigmaSkimming
For the entire Florida AG press release, see Attorney General Files Injunction to Freeze Assets of South Florida Loan Modification Company.
For more from the Florida AG's office:
(1) The lawsuit also accuses the group of engaging in the unauthorized practice of law. See lawsuit - paragraph 27. A related company, Property Solutions Specialists, Inc., is also named in the lawsuit and allegedly guaranteed to make available all laws applicable to the homeowners’ situation to better assist them with the defense against foreclosure, even though the company is not a legal services entity. Also named as defendants are One Source Communications, Inc. and Nationwide Financial Partners, Inc.UnauthPractOfLawTheta
For more, see DA: Ex-pol, dominatrix ran mortgage fraud scheme.
See also, Prosecutors: Here's how mortgage scam worked.
For story update, see Attorney to Challenge Office Raid After Arrest in Mortgage Scam Tied to Dominatrix Club.
(1) According to Arena Studio's Web site, the Broome Street company provides space for dominatrixes to meet clients, boasts a "beautifully decorated and fully equipped private dungeon," and, among other items, rents out "medieval torture" implements, bondage furniture and three kinds of whips, Newsday reports. In return for payments of $5,000 to $10,000, clients of the dungeon and others posed on paper as buyers of expensive homes all over the Town of Southampton, Suffolk DA Thomas Spota said.
For more, see FBI: We're swamped by mortgage fraud cases.
(1) That growing caseload includes "in excess of 100" mortgage fraud investigations being run out of the New York office, which covers Long Island, the five boroughs and six northern counties, a spokesman said. The bulk of the local caseload - ranging from mortgage schemes involving straw buyers to bogus foreclosure rescue scams - is in Brooklyn and Queens.
For the entire press release, see President of Metropolitan Money Store Pleads Guilty in over $35 Million Mortgage Fraud Scheme (Jackson Personally Responsible for Over $16.8 Million in Losses to Mortgage Lenders and Used Over $800,000 of Fraudulently Obtained Proceeds to Pay for Her Wedding).
See also, The Washington Post: Woman Pleads Guilty in Mortgage Fraud Scam:
For the indictment in this case, see U.S. v. JoyJackson, et al.
(1) The story describes some of Da Fonte's victimized clients as follows:
For more, including link to the video broadcast of the story, see Glut of Foreclosed Homes Encourages Scams, Desperation.
Source: Woman admits stealing from sisters.
For more, see Owners facing foreclosure forced to walk scam tightrope.
(1) Since October 1, 2008, charging up-front fees for loan modification and foreclosure related services violates the Florida Foreclosure Rescue Fraud Prevention Act. The Florida Attorney General's office urges those who believe they have been victimized by mortgage rescue companies to file a complaint at the their Fraud Hotline, 1-866-966-7226, or at their website.
For the Texas AG's press release, see East Texas Woman Sentenced To 99 Years In Prison For Mortgage Fraud (Kandace Yancy Marriott convicted, three additional suspects await trial in alleged scheme).
(1) According to state investigators, the defendants illegally forged home buyers’ signatures, inaccurately completed loan applications, and falsified supporting documents, including the buyers’ rent payment verification statements, proof of employment, and Social Security Administration benefits data, among other items. Court documents filed by the state indicate that the defendants conduct was intended to ensure that unqualified home buyers loans were approved by mortgage lenders.
For the FTC press release, see Court Halts Bogus Mortgage Loan Modification Operations (Two Firms Falsely Claimed to be Affiliated with Non-Profit HOPE NOW Alliance).
For the FTC court documents, see:
(1) These are the same two firms that were recently sued by the New Jersey Attorney General for similar allegations.
(1) Based on the Florida Attorney General's lawsuit against Lincoln Lending Services, complaints to The Florida Bar alleging the unauthorized practice of law, which is one of the Florida AG's allegations against Lincoln (see Florida AG's lawsuit, at paragraph 30), may also be advisable. Go here for information on Filing an Unlicensed Practice of Law Complaint with The Florida Bar.
For more, see Take care when working with foreclosure rescue services.
Go here for The Florida Bar's Ethics Alert: Lawyers should be very wary of loan modifiers.
For the U.S. Attorney's press release, see Former Executive Of Olympia Mortgage Corp. Sentenced For Wire Fraud Conspiracy.
For story update (4-1-09), see Along with Palm Beach home, feds seize other Madoff assets.
For more, see Apartment Residents Claim No Water In 4 Days (Complex In Foreclosure Facing Mounting Issues, Residents Say).
For more, see Advanced Consumer Rights Litigation Boot Camp.
In a related story, see North Carolina Lawyers Weekly: Bankruptcy Boot Camp - O. Max Gardner drills lawyers from around U.S. on strategies of foreclosure combat.
For more, see Upcoming class to assist in local foreclosure problem.
For the Florida AG's press release, see Attorney General Sues Company Targeting Hispanic Community with Foreclosure Rescue Fraud Scam.
For the lawsuit, see State of Florida v. Lincoln Lending Services, LLC.
See also, The Miami Herald: Florida sues Miami's Lincoln Lending over mortgage fees (Florida's attorney general has accused a Miami firm that promised to modify delinquent home loans of taking upfront fees from customers in violation of a state law):
Go here for information on Filing an Unlicensed Practice of Law Complaint with The Florida Bar.
(1) See lawsuit, at paragraph 30:
(2) With respect to the attorneys involved with this loan modification firm, no word at this point as to whether they are in hot water for possible charges of:
See The Florida Bar's Ethics Alert: Lawyers should be very wary of loan modifiers. See also. Cincinnati Bar Assn. v. Mullaney, 119 Ohio St.3d 412, 2008-Ohio-4541 (2008). UnauthPractOfLawTheta
For more, see 'Bad to Really Bad': Foreclosure Rescue Gone Wrong ('20/20' Seeks Answers From CEO of One Loan Modification Company).
For more, see Scams on the rise with increased foreclosures.
For the San Bernardino DA's press release, see Couple Arrested for ID Theft, Forgery, Grand Theft and Conspiracy.
Go here for Dateline NBC home page.
In a related story, see Forbes: Follow The Mortgage (How the American taxpayer and a swanky Manhattan hedge fund ended up with a Liberian immigrant's busted mortgage).
For the California AG press release, see Brown Announces Arrest of Two Scam Artists Who Committed Loan Modification Fraud.
For the California AG's charging documents, see:
For the story, see Radio 'foreclosure specialist' Lavette Bills held in $800G mortgage con.
See also, The Journal News: Broker from Briarcliff faces charge.
From the U.S Attorney's Office (Southern District, New York):
For more, see Empty promises (To avoid foreclosure, families put home ownership in felon-run trusts; not one loan has been modified).
For the story, see Attorney is disbarred after cheating bankruptcy clients.
For earlier reports on the criminal indictment, see:
For more, see Bank sues appraisers and attorneys, alleging fraud in flipping condos (Bank sues appraisers and attorneys, alleging they helped straw buyers and a flipping operation that cost it millions).
For more, see Paterson man pleads guilty in mortgage-fraud scheme.
For the story, see Suspended, former lawyers charged.
In a related story, WAVE-TV Channel 3 reports:
According to the WAVE-TV Channel 3 story, Shain, through his company, Derby City Title, purportedly wrote insurance policies for underwriter Investors Title Insurance Company. Officials from Investors Title reportedly told Channel 3 that Derby City Title was never authorized to issue policies for them.
For more, see Authorities warn of foreclosure scheme.
For more, see Judicial order diverts foreclosures (Judge detours local cases to mandatory mediation).
For the judge's order, see Administrative Order 2009-18: Case Management Order And Mandatory Referral Of Residential Mortgage Foreclosure Cases To Mediation.
(1) According to the story, mortgage lawsuits still will be filed with the Clerk of Court's office, but the new order requires the financial institution to file a mediation notice with the Collins Center for Public Policy, a nonprofit organization that will manage the program.