Saturday, December 30, 2006

Long Island Couple Lose Home, "Skimmer" Convicted

The saga of a Long Island, New York couple who fell prey to an "equity skimmer" was the subject of extensive coverage earlier this year by the newspaper Newsday (New York), and reported at

The story is pretty typical. Reportedly, the homeowners found themselves in foreclosure, went to a crooked mortgage broker to refinance their mortgage, and were told late in the loan approval process that they couldn't obtain the mortgage. They were then told by the scammer that their only hope to save their home was to sign the home over to him and then lease the home back from him until they get their finances straightened out, at which point they can buy the home back from him. The arrangement called for rent payments from the victims to the mortgage broker, with the mortgage broker then making the mortgage payments to the bank.

The mortgage broker had no problem collecting the rent, but never bothered to make the mortgage payments.

The bottom line in this story was that the mortgage broker and his confederates were convicted of grand larceny and the victimized homeowners lost their home that had been in the family for some sixty years. For the story, see:

Friday, December 29, 2006

Two South Florida Homeowners Targeted By "Home Rescue" Companies

A July 2006 media report describes the plight of two financially strapped Florida homeowners who got involved with foreclosure rescue companies.

The article also reports that, according to court records, one rescue company "has taken the titles to more than 100 homes in Miami-Dade County nearing foreclosure", and that the company has "sought to evict more than a dozen people, in some cases less than a year after they deeded their property to his company. They were all facing foreclosure."

Jeffrey Hearne, an attorney with Legal Services Of Greater Miami, Inc., commented that about two people a week appear at his office facing eviction after doing business with "one of possibly hundreds of home-saver investors operating in Miami-Dade and Broward counties".

Another attorney, who has filed at least three foreclosure rescue complaints recently, comments that those most fiercely targeted are "older people, single women and minorities" who are "bombarded by mailings, phone calls and visits often before realizing a lender is moving to foreclose on them".

To read more on this story, see article captioned Homeowners Needing Aid Snared by Schemes (after clicking link, scroll down to the fourth article from the top of page.


For eligible residents of Miami-Dade and Monroe Counties looking for low cost legal services, a good place to start your search is Legal Services Of Greater Miami, Inc., a non-profit law firm representing the lower-income and elderly.

Residents throughout Florida can begin their search here and/or here.

Consumer protection attorneys who are members of the National Association of Consumer Advocates (NACA) who are located in Florida are listed here.

(revised 1-25-07)

Thursday, December 28, 2006

NJ Couple Sign Away Home To Home "Rescuer"

Anyone wanting a detailed, step by step walk through of the horror that one financially strapped New Jersey couple endured with a foreclosure rescuer should read, Rug pulled out from under them, a media report appearing on

The homeowner claimed, among other things, that she and her husband were rushed through the signing process and were not allowed to thoroughly study the documents they were signing. The rescue operators reportedly read sections of the contracts to them out loud.

For the three months after signing, the homeowner reportedly got calls from the rescue company, not about new financing that was promised, but about unrelated matters. The homeowner stated: "They wanted to know everyone I spoke to. And they didn't want me to talk to a lawyer." This aroused suspicion in her, but reportedly was continuously reassured that they were on her side.

Melissa Huelsman, a Seattle, Washington consumer protection attorney who has represented clients involved in over a dozen foreclosure rescue cases this year, was quoted in the story (referring to homeowners dealing with rescue companies), as saying "People just trust. It is scary and intimidating to them. And they have no idea of what they are signing."

Rather than reciting the rest of the details, I'll let you read the story for yourself. I will say, however, that the story ends by stating that "The ordeal has left the couple heartbroken, potentially homeless, and on the verge of separating".


For eligible New Jersey residents looking for low cost legal services, a good place to start your search is the Legal Services of New Jersey directory, which lists non-profit law firms throughout the state of New Jersey. For general information on this organization, go to the Legal Services of New Jersey home page. You can view their brochure here.

Consumer protection attorneys who are members of the National Association of Consumer Advocates (NACA) who are located in New Jersey are listed here.

More on Seattle, Washington consumer protection attorney Melissa Huelsman:

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Arizona AG Files Charges Against Foreclosure Rescuer

Another example of the Arizona Attorney General's pursuit of allegedly deceptive forcelosure rescue operators can be found in this June, 2005 Press Release, where he charged, in a civil lawsuit, the companies with misleading homeowners into signing over their homes as part of a plan to save their home from foreclosure.

The allegations decribe the "rescuer" as requiring the homeowners to pay an outrageous sum to "buy back" their homes, and that many lost their homes because of the company's deceptive sales tactics.

Also alleged is that the company

  • "targeted Spanish-speaking communities, and applied high pressure tactics to convince homeowners to sign densely worded legal documents the homeowners often did not understand. In some cases the VRF representative refused to allow the homeowner to read the documents before signing, making the homeowner dependant on the VRF representative’s explanation."

Many of the homeowners were actually unaware that they were signing over their homes, according to authorities.

For media reports on this case, see

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

PA. Gov, House Speaker, Philly Mayor Homes "Stolen" ?

Have the Philadelphia mayor, Pennsylvania governor and Speaker of the State House of Representatives been victimized by brazen "house thieves" ?

Not really, but they each got a taste of what it was like to be a "deed theft" victim when an NBC10 investigative reporter and the NBC10 Investigators recorded phony deeds on their homes, according to this 2005 video report on Philadelphia's Channel 10 website at

The investigative report was intended to highlight the "deed theft" by forgery problem in Philadelphia, where reportedly sixty Philadelphians a year "lose" their homes through forgery.

For a report on this story on what appears might be an NBC10 blog post, click here.

Go here for other deed theft posts. deed theft zorro

Monday, December 25, 2006

Arizona AG Alleges Deception, Settles With Foreclosure Rescue Operator

An Arizona foreclosure rescue operator has agreed to change its business practices and pay restitution to customers who took part in their "HomeSavers" program, according to this Press Release issued by the Arizona Attorney General's Office.

The company has also agreed to pay the Attorney General’s Office $200,000 for the cost of the investigation.

The irony in this matter is that, according to this media report, the foreclosure rescue operator in this case had been named as a finalist for the Tucson Better Business Bureau annual ethics awards earlier this year in spite of the fact that it had been sued eight times by unhappy customers in the past 10 years. See Ethics finalist was sued 8 times .

Sunday, December 24, 2006

New York Passes Home Equity Theft Prevention Act

Legislation regulating the industry that is referred to as either the "foreclosure rescue", “foreclosure assistance”, or "foreclsoure bailout loan" industry – companies that target financially strapped people in foreclosure and promise to rescue them from losing their homes, was passed in New York this summer, according to this article and summary of the new law written by attorney Kirsten Keefe of the Empire Justice Center, a statewide, non-profit law firm in New York represnting poor and low income people on a wide variety of issues.

The legislation was signed into law on July 26, 2006 and will go into effect on February 1, 2007.

For a copy of the New York's Home Equity Theft Prevention Act, click here. (Then, click link for "Laws of New York," then scroll down and click link for "RPP" - Real Property, then click link for "Article 8" - Conveyances and Mortgages, then scroll down and click link for "265-A" - Home equity theft prevention.).

For two examples of the types of cases that led to the passage of the New York law, click here or here.

See 1-12-07 Post For Updated Information On This New Law.

revised 1-12-07