Tag Archives: litigation

discovery to mers

19 Dec

PROPOUND TO MORTGAGE ELECTRONIC (2)

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How to Use MERS on Deed of Trust or Mortgage

19 Dec

It is time to use the presence of MERS on the originating loan paperwork as an OFFENSIVE TACTIC. Most states have some version of the statute below. It is simply common sense. A creditor is not a creditor unless they are owed something. A beneficiary is not a beneficiary unless they are a creditor. In the case of a mortgage note, a beneficiary is not a creditor unless it is the obligee on the note (i.e., the one to whom the note directs payment). There is no escaping this logic.

The point is that designating MERS as beneficiary or mortgagee is the same as designating nobody at all. The range of options for the Judge include several possibilities. But the one I think we should concentrate on is that an ambiguity has been raised on the face of every Deed of Trust or Mortgage Deed naming MERS as the beneficiary or mortgagee. That being the case, it MUST BE JUDICIALLY DETERMINED by a trier of fact (Judge or Jury)in judicial foreclosure states.

In California there is legislation being proposed that would require mandatory mediation before a foreclosure can be initiated. The provisions the California Foreclosure prevention act of 2008 are just not working. Judges don’t uphold what the law says civil code 2023.6 and 2923.6 when the attorneys for the publicly funded Banks (our tax dollars 17.1 Trillion before it all over) oppose individual debtors and claim federal preemption. Our legal system is a rigged game favoring the capital of a capitalist system. In California a nonjudicial state a foreclosure can occur on the mere word of a lender without the original note or assignment of the original deed of trust. A then former homeowner can then be evicted by giving notice to vacate constructively (without notice) have a summons “Posted and Mailed” (again no actual notice) a default judgment taken (no trial) and a writ issued and the Sheriff’s instruction to evict issued and enforced.

In Non Judicial an action should be filed for declaratory relief that the foreclosure is invalid and void this is the problem in the non Judicial states. See state bar president article No Lawyer No Law Without having a beneficiary or mortgagee identified, there obviously can be no enforcement. The power off sale is contained in Civil 2932 and in California there must be a valid assignment civil code 2932.5 to have the power to foreclose.

So the strategy here would be to force the would-be forecloser (pretender lender) to file a lawsuit establishing the note and mortgage (or deed of trust) by identifying the beneficiary or mortgagee. It would also enable you, in the face of a reluctant judge, to press for expedited discovery for information that the would-be foreclosing trustee or attorney should have had before they started. And this leads to a request for an evidentiary hearing — the kiss of death for pretender lenders unless you don’t know your rules of evidence

California Mortgage and Deed of Trust Practice § 1.39 (3d ed Cal CEB 2008)

§ 1.39 (1) Must Be Obligee

The beneficiary must be an obligee of the secured obligation (usually the payee of a note), because otherwise the deed of trust in its favor is meaningless. Watkins v Bryant (1891) 91 C 492, 27 P 775; Nagle v Macy (1858) 9 C 426. See §§ 1.8-1.19 on the need for an obligation. The deed of trust is merely an incident of the obligation and has no existence apart from it. Goodfellow v Goodfellow (1933) 219 C 548, 27 P2d 898; Adler v Sargent (1895) 109 C 42, 41
P 799; Turner v Gosden (1932) 121 CA 20, 8 P2d 505. The holder of the note, however, can enforce the deed of trust
whether or not named as beneficiary or mortgagee. CC § 2936;

No lawyer, no law

8 Dec

Pro bono publico
Redeeming the touch of justice that brought each of us to the Bar

By Howard B. Miller
President, State Bar of California

Miller
Unfortunately the colloquial meaning of pro bono has become legal services for free, at no cost. But the proper meaning and importance of the words is in the full Latin quote: for the public good.

Several almost simultaneous developments have brought us to a tipping point in the commitment of the legal profession to pro bono work, and in our understanding that it is for the public good.

No lawyer, no law

We were all caught unawares in the past year not only by the scope of the loan foreclosure crisis, but by the cracks and failures that it showed in our legal system. We know of too many cases where homeowners would have had legal defenses to foreclosure, but without lawyers in our California system of non-judicial foreclosure the result was a loss of homes. For over a century our legislature and courts have constructed an elaborate series of technicalities and protections for homeowners faced with foreclosure. But the existence of those protections made no difference to those who had no legal representation. It is as though all those laws did not exist, as though because there was no representation all the work and thought that went into those laws and protections had never been done.

And so we learned again, with a vengeance: No lawyer, no law.

Litigating against your lender

8 Dec

“The Fed’s study found that only 3 percent of seriously delinquent borrowers – those more than 60 days behind – had their loans modified to lower monthly payments . . . The servicers are making assumptions that are much too anti-modification, The servicers have the authority’’ to help borrowers, “they just don’t want to use it.’’ www.thestopforeclosureplan.com
The Boston Globe “Lenders Avoid Redoing Loans, Fed Concludes” July 7, 2009.
LITIGATING AGAINST YOUR LENDER
The state and federal government may structure a mortgage modification program as voluntary on the part of the lender, but may provide incentives for the lender to participate. A mandatory mortgage modification program requires the lender to modify mortgages meeting the criteria with respect to the borrower, the property, and the loan payment history.
www.thestopforeclosureplan.com

1.If you feel you were taken advantage of or not told the whole truth when you received your loan and want to consider legal action against your lender, call us.
1.Did you know that in some cases the lender is forced to eliminate your debt completely and give you back the title to your home?
2.If you received your loan based on any of the following you may have possible claims against your lender:
1.Stated Income
2.Inflated Appraisal
3.If you were sold on taking cash out of your home
4.If you were sold on using your home’s equity to pay off your credit cards or auto loans
5.If you refinanced more than one time in the course of a 3 year period
6.If you were charged high fees
7.If you were sold on getting a negative amortization loan, or adjustable rate loan
8.If your loan had a prepayment penalty
9.If you feel your interest rate is higher than it should be
10.If your initial closing costs looked different at signing than you were lead to believe
11.If you know more than one person in your same position that closed a loan with the same lender or mortgage broker
12.If you feel you were given an inferior loan because of your race
13.If you feel that your lender is over aggressive in their collections actions
14.If there is more than 3 people in your neighborhood that are facing foreclosure
15.If you only speak Spanish and all your disclosures were given to you in English

Predatory lending is a term used to describe unfair, deceptive, or fraudulent practices of some lenders during the loan origination process. There are no legal definitions in the United States for predatory lending, though there are laws against many of the specific practices commonly identified as predatory, and various federal agencies use the term as a catch-all term for many specific illegal activities in the loan industry. Predatory lending is not to be confused with predatory mortgage servicing (predatory servicing) which is used to describe the unfair, deceptive, or fraudulent practices of lenders and servicing agents during the loan or mortgage servicing process, post origination.

One less contentious definition of the term is the practice of a lender deceptively convincing borrowers to agree to unfair and abusive loan terms, or systematically violating those terms in ways that make it difficult for the borrower to defend against. Other types of lending sometimes also referred to as predatory include payday loans, credit cards or other forms of consumer debt, and overdraft loans, when the interest rates are considered unreasonably high. Although predatory lenders are most likely to target the less educated, racial minorities and the elderly, victims of predatory lending are represented across all demographics.

Predatory lending typically occurs on loans backed by some kind of collateral, such as a car or house, so that if the borrower defaults on the loan, the lender can repossess or foreclose and profit by selling the repossessed or foreclosed property. Lenders may be accused of tricking a borrower into believing that an interest rate is lower than it actually is, or that the borrower’s ability to pay is greater than it actually is. The lender, or others as agents of the lender, may well profit from repossession or foreclosure upon the collateral.

Abusive or unfair lending practices www.thestopforeclosureplan.com
There are many lending practices which have been called abusive and labeled with the term “predatory lending.” There is a great deal of dispute between lenders and consumer groups as to what exactly constitutes “unfair” or “predatory” practices, but the following are sometimes cited.

•Unjustified risk-based pricing. This is the practice of charging more (in the form of higher interest rates and fees) for extending credit to borrowers identified by the lender as posing a greater credit risk. The lending industry argues that risk-based pricing is a legitimate practice; since a greater percentage of loans made to less creditworthy borrowers can be expected to go into default, higher prices are necessary to obtain the same yield on the portfolio as a whole. Some consumer groups argue that higher prices paid by more vulnerable consumers cannot always be justified by increased credit risk.
•Single-premium credit insurance. This is the purchase of insurance which will pay off the loan in case the homebuyer dies. It is more expensive than other forms of insurance because it does not involve any medical checkups, but customers almost always are not shown their choices, because usually the lender is not licensed to sell other forms of insurance. In addition, this insurance is usually financed into the loan which causes the loan to be more expensive, but at the same time encourages people to buy the insurance because they do not have to pay up front.
•Failure to present the loan price as negotiable. Many lenders will negotiate the price structure of the loan with borrowers. In some situations, borrowers can even negotiate an outright reduction in the interest rate or other charges on the loan. Consumer advocates argue that borrowers, especially unsophisticated borrowers, are not aware of their ability to negotiate and might even be under the mistaken impression that the lender is placing the borrower’s interests above its own. Thus, many borrowers do not take advantage of their ability to negotiate.
•Failure to clearly and accurately disclose terms and conditions, particularly in cases where an unsophisticated borrower is involved. Mortgage loans are complex transactions involving multiple parties and dozens of pages of legal documents. In the most egregious of predatory cases, lenders or brokers have been known to not only mislead borrowers, but actually alter documents after they have been signed.
•Short-term loans with disproportionally high fees, such as payday loans, credit card late fees, checking account overdraft fees, and Tax Refund Anticipation Loans, where the fee paid for advancing the money for a short period of time works out to an annual interest rate significantly in excess of the market rate for high-risk loans. The originators of such loans dispute that the fees are interest.
•Servicing agent and securitization abuses. The mortgage servicing agent is the entity that receives the mortgage payment, maintains the payment records, provides borrowers with account statements, imposes late charges when the payment is late, and pursues delinquent borrowers. A securitization is a financial transaction in which assets, especially debt instruments, are pooled and securities representing interests in the pool are issued. Most loans are subject to being bundled and sold, and the rights to act as servicing agent sold, without the consent of the borrower. A federal statute requires notice to the borrower of a change in servicing agent, but does not protect the borrower from being held delinquent on the note for payments made to the servicing agent who fails to forward the payments to the owner of the note, especially if that servicing agent goes bankrupt, and borrowers who have made all payments on time can find themselves being foreclosed on and becoming unsecured creditors of the servicing agent. Foreclosures can sometimes be conducted without proper notice to the borrower. In some states (see Texas Rule of Civil Procedure 746), there is no defense against eviction, forcing the borrower to move and incur the expense of hiring a lawyer and finding another place to live while litigating the claim of the “new owner” to own the house, especially after it is resold one or more times. When the debtor demands that the current claimed note owner produce the original note with his signature on it, the note owner typically is unable or unwilling to do so, and tries to establish his claim with an affidavit that it is the owner, without proving it is the “holder in due course”, the traditional standard for a debt claim, and the courts often allow them to do that. In the meantime, the note continues to be traded, its physical whereabouts difficult to discover.
Consumers believe that they are protected by consumer protection laws, when their lender is really operating wholly outside the laws. Refer to 16 U.S.C. 1601 and 12 C.F.R. 226.

Underlying issues
There are many underlying issues in the predatory lending debate:

•Judicial practices: Some argue that much of the problem arises from a tendency of the courts to favor lenders, and to shift the burden of proof of compliance with the terms of the debt instrument to the debtor. According to this argument, it should not be the duty of the borrower to make sure his payments are getting to the current note-owner, but to make evidence that all payments were made to the last known agent for collection sufficient to block or reverse repossession or foreclosure, and eviction, and to cancel the debt if the current note owner cannot prove he is the “holder in due course” by producing the actual original debt instrument in court.
http://www.thestopforeclosureplan.com•Risk-based pricing: The basic idea is that borrowers who are thought of as more likely to default on their loans should pay higher interest rates and finance charges to compensate lenders for the increased risk. In essence, high returns motivate lenders to lend to a group they might not otherwise lend to — “subprime” or risky borrowers. Advocates of this system believe that it would be unfair — or a poor business strategy — to raise interest rates globally to accommodate risky borrowers, thus penalizing low-risk borrowers who are unlikely to default. Opponents argue that the practice tends to disproportionately create capital gains for the affluent while oppressing working-class borrowers with modest financial resources. Some people consider risk-based pricing to be unfair in principle. Lenders contend that interest rates are generally set fairly considering the risk that the lender assumes, and that competition between lenders will ensure availability of appropriately-priced loans to high-risk customers. Still others feel that while the rates themselves may be justifiable with respect to the risks, it is irresponsible for lenders to encourage or allow borrowers with credit problems to take out high-priced loans. For all of its pros and cons, risk-based pricing remains a universal practice in bond markets and the insurance industry, and it is implied in the stock market and in many other open-market venues; it is only controversial in the case of consumer loans.
•Competition: Some believe that risk-based pricing is fair but feel that many loans charge prices far above the risk, using the risk as an excuse to overcharge. These criticisms are not levied on all products, but only on those specifically deemed predatory. Proponents counter that competition among lenders should prevent or reduce overcharging.
•Financial education: Many observers feel that competition in the markets served by what critics describe as “predatory lenders” is not affected by price because the targeted consumers are completely uneducated about the time value of money and the concept of Annual percentage rate, a different measure of price than what many are used to.
•Caveat emptor: There is an underlying debate about whether a lender should be allowed to charge whatever it wants for a service, even if it seems to make no attempts at deceiving the consumer about the price. At issue here is the belief that lending is a commodity and that the lending community has an almost fiduciary duty to advise the borrower that funds can be obtained more cheaply. Also at issue are certain financial products which appear to be profitable only due to adverse selection or a lack of knowledge on the part of the customers relative to the lenders. For example, some people allege that credit insurance would not be profitable to lending companies if only those customers who had the right “fit” for the product actually bought it (i.e., only those customers who were not able to get the generally cheaper term life insurance).
•Discrimination: Some organizations feel that many financial institutions continue to engage in racial discrimination. Most do not allege that the loan underwriters themselves discriminate, but rather that there is systemic discrimination. Situations in which a loan broker or other salesman may negotiate the interest rate are likely more ripe for discrimination. Discrimination may occur if, when dealing with racial minorities, loan brokers tend to claim that a person’s credit score is lower than it is, justifying a higher interest rate charged, on the hope that the customer assumes the lender to be correct. This may be based on an internalized bias that a minority group has a lower economic profile. It is also possible that a broker or loan salesman with some control over the interest rate might attempt to charge a higher rate to persons of race which he personally dislikes. For this reason some call for laws requiring interest rates to be set entirely by objective measures.
OCC Advisory Letter AL 2003-2 describes predatory lending as including the following:

•Loan “flipping” – frequent refinancings that result in little or no economic benefit to the borrower and are undertaken with the primary or sole objective of generating additional loan fees, prepayment penalties, and fees from the financing of credit-related products;
•Refinancings of special subsidized mortgages that result in the loss of beneficial loan terms;
•”Packing” of excessive and sometimes “hidden” fees in the amount financed;
•Using loan terms or structures – such as negative amortization – to make it more difficult or impossible for borrowers to reduce or repay their indebtedness;
•Using balloon payments to conceal the true burden of the financing and to force borrowers into costly refinancing transactions or foreclosures;
•Targeting inappropriate or excessively expensive credit products to older borrowers, to persons who are not financially sophisticated or who may be otherwise vulnerable to abusive practices, and to persons who could qualify for mainstream credit products and terms;
•Inadequate disclosure of the true costs, risks and, where necessary, appropriateness to the borrower of loan transactions;
•The offering of single premium credit life insurance; and
•The use of mandatory arbitration clauses.
It should be noted that mortgage applications are usually completed by mortgage brokers, rather than by borrowers themselves, making it difficult to pin down the source of any misrepresentations.

A stated income loan application is where no proof of income is needed. When the broker files the loan, they have to go by whatever income is stated. This opened the doors for borrowers to be approved for loans that they otherwise would not qualify for, or afford.

Although the target for most scammers, lending institutions were often complicit in what amounted to multiparty mortgage fraud. The Oregonian obtained a JP Morgan Chase memo, titled “Zippy Cheats & Tricks.” Zippy was Chase’s in-house automated loan underwriting system, and the memo was a primer on how to get risky mortgage loans approved.

United States legislation combating predatory lending
Many laws at both the Federal and state government level are aimed at preventing predatory lending. Although not specifically anti-predatory in nature, the Federal Truth in Lending Act requires certain disclosures of APR and loan terms. Also, in 1994 section 32 of the Truth in Lending Act, entitled the Home Ownership and Equity Protection Act of 1994, was created. This law is devoted to identifying certain high-cost, potentially predatory mortgage loans and reining in their terms.www.thestopforeclosureplan.com

Twenty-five states have passed anti-predatory lending laws. Arkansas, Georgia, Illinois, Maine, Massachusetts, North Carolina, New York, New Jersey, New Mexico and South Carolina are among those states considered to have the strongest laws. Other states with predatory lending laws include: California, Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Kentucky, Maine, Maryland, Nevada, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Texas, Utah, Wisconsin, and West Virginia. These laws usually describe one or more classes of “high-cost” or “covered” loans, which are defined by the fees charged to the borrower at origination or the APR. While lenders are not prohibited from making “high-cost” or “covered” loans, a number of additional restrictions are placed on these loans, and the penalties for noncompliance can be substantial.
http://www.thestopforeclosureplan.com

The lawyer is not competend to testify

5 Oct

If the lawyer is not a competent witness with personal knowledge, then he should shut up and sit down.

So you sent a QWR and you know the loan is securitized. The orignating lender says talk to the servicer and the servicer declines to answer all the questions because they didn’t originate the loan. Or you are in court and the lawyer is trying to finesse his way past basic rules of evidence and due process by making representations to the Judge as an officer of the court.

He’s lying of course and if you let it go unchallenged, you will lose the case. Basically opposing counsel is saying “trust me Judge I wouldn’t say it if it wasn’t so.” And your answer is that the lawyer is not a witness, that you don’t trust the lawyer or what he has to say, that if he is a witness he should be sworn in and subject to cross examaintion and if he is not a witness you are entitled to be confronted with a real witness with real testimony based upon real knowledge.

First Questions: When did you first learn of this case? What personal knowledge do you have concerning the payments received from the homeowner or third parties? What personal knowledge do you have as to who providing the actual cash from which the subject loan was funded?

Only when pressed relentlessly by the homeowner, the servicer comes up with a more and more restrictive answer as to what role they play. But they always start with don’t worry about a thing we control everything. Not true. Then later after you thought you worked out a modification they tell the deal is off because the investor declined. The investor is and always was the lender. That is the bottom line and any representation to the contrary is a lie and a fraud upon the court.

So whoever you sent the QWR to, always disclaims your right to ask, or tells you the name of the investor (i.e., your lender) is confidential, or that they have authority (but they won’t show it to you). That doesn’t seem to be a lender, does it? In fact they disclaim even knowing enough to answer your questions.

So AFTER THEY SERVE YOU with something file a motion to compel an immediate full answer to your QWR since under TILA service on the servicer is the same as service on the lender. You argue that everyone seems to be claiming rights to be paid under the original obligation, everyone seems to be claiming the right to enforce the note and mortgage, but nobody is willing to state unequivocally that they are the lender.

You are stuck in the position of being unable to seek modification under federal and State rules, unable to sell the property because you don’t know who can sign a satisfaction of mortgage or a release and reconveyance, unable to do a short-sale, and unable to refinance — all because they won’t give a simple answer to a simple question: who is the lender and what is the balance claimed by the real lender on the obligation? At this point you don’t even know that any of the real lenders wish to make a claim.

This is probably because they received TARP funds and insurance proceeds on defaults of pools that they had purchased multiple insurance policies (credit default swaps). But whether they are paid by someone who acquired rights of subrogation or they were not paid, you have a right to a FULL accounting and to know who they are and whether they received any third party money. If they were paid in part or otherwise sold their interest, then you have multiple additional unknown parties.

The reason is simple. They are not the lender and they know it. The lender is a group of investors who funded the transaction with Petitioner/Homeowner and others who purchased similar financial products from the same group of participants in the securitization chain relating to the subject loan.

The people currently in court do not include all the real parties in interest for you to make claims against the lender. Cite to the Massachusetts case where Wells Fargo and its lawyer were subject to an $850,000 sanction for misrepresenting its status to the court.

It is not enough for them to bluff their way by saying that they have already answered the interrogatories. When they lost and it came time to allocate damages and attorneys fees, Wells suddenly said they were NOT the lender, beneficiary or current holder and that therefore the damages and attorneys fees should be assessed against the real lender — who was not a party to the pending litigation and whom they refused to disclose along with their misrepresentation that they were the true lender.

It is not enough that the lawyer makes a representation to the court as an officer of the court. That is not how evidence works. If the lawyer wants to represent facts, then he/she should be sworn in and be subject to (1) voir dire to establish that he/she is opposing counsel that it came from some company.

The witness must be a competent witness who takes an oath, has personal knowledge regarding the content of the document, states that personal knowledge and whose testimony conforms to what is on the document.

There is no such thing as foundation without a witness. There is no such thing as foundation without a competent witness. So if the lawyer tries to finesse the subject by making blanket representations to the court(e.g. the property is “underwater” by $xxx,xxx and we need a lift of stay…yet, there is no certified appraisal entered into evidence with a certified appraiser that can be cross examined…just a statement from opposing counsel) point to Wells, or even point to other inconsistencies between what counsel has represented and what now appears to be the truth, and demand an evidentiary hearing. If the lawyer is not a competent witness with personal knowledge, then he should shut up and sit down.

File a motion to extend time to file adversary proceeding(in BK situation), answer, affirmative defenses and counterclaim UNTIL YOU GET A FULL AND COMPLETE ANSWER TO YOUR QWR so you can determine the real parties in interest and serve them with process. Otherwise, we will have a partial result wherein the real owner of the loan can and will claim damages and injunctive relief probably against all the current parties to this action including the Homeowner.

In short, the opposing counsel cannot just make statements of “fact” and have them accepted by the court as “fact” if they don’t pass the sniff test of real evidence corroborated by a competent witness. …and with every pleading ask for an evidentiary hearing and attorneys fees. Follow rule 11 procedure in Federal Court or the state law counterpart so you can get them later.

Countrywide San Diego district attorney v. Countrywide

26 Jul

san deigovscountrywide

Brown Sues 21 Individuals and 14 Companies Who Ripped Off Homeowners Desperate for Mortgage Relief

17 Jul

News Release
July 15, 2009
For Immediate Release
Contact: (916) 324-5500
Print Version
Attachments

Los Angeles – As part of a massive federal-state crackdown on loan modification scams, Attorney General Edmund G. Brown Jr. at a press conference today announced the filing of legal action against 21 individuals and 14 companies who ripped off thousands of homeowners desperately seeking mortgage relief.

Brown is demanding millions in civil penalties, restitution for victims and permanent injunctions to keep the companies and defendants from offering mortgage-relief services.

“The loan modification industry is teeming with confidence men and charlatans, who rip off desperate homeowners facing foreclosure,” Brown said. “Despite firm promises and money-back guarantees, these scam artists pocketed thousands of dollars from each victim and didn’t provide an ounce of relief.”

Brown filed five lawsuits as part of “Operation Loan Lies,” a nationwide sweep of sham loan modification consultants, which he conducted with the Federal Trade Commission, the U.S. Attorney’s office and 22 other federal and state agencies. In total, 189 suits and orders to stop doing business were filed across the country.

Following the housing collapse, hundreds of loan modification and foreclosure-prevention companies have cropped up, charging thousands of dollars in upfront fees and claiming that they can reduce mortgage payments. Yet, loan modifications are rarely, if ever, obtained. Less than 1 percent of homeowners nationwide have received principal reductions of any kind.

Brown has been leading the fight against fraudulent loan modification companies. He has sought court orders to shut down several companies including First Gov and Foreclosure Freedom and has brought criminal charges and obtained lengthy prison sentences for deceptive loan modification consultants.

Brown’s office filed the following lawsuits in Orange County and U.S. District Court for the Central District (Los Angeles):

– U.S. Homeowners Assistance, based in Irvine;
– U.S. Foreclosure Relief Corp and its legal affiliate Adrian Pomery, based in the City of Orange;
– Home Relief Services, LLC, with offices in Irvine, Newport Beach and Anaheim, and its legal affiliate, the Diener Law Firm;
– RMR Group Loss Mitigation, LLC and its legal affiliates Shippey & Associates and Arthur Aldridge. RMR Group has offices in Newport Beach, City of Orange, Huntington Beach, Corona, and Fresno;
– and
– United First, Inc, and its lawyer affiliate Mitchell Roth, based in Los Angeles.

U.S. Homeowners Assistance
Brown on Monday sued U.S. Homeowners Assistance, and its executives — Hakimullah “Sean” Sarpas and Zulmai Nazarzai — for bilking dozens of homeowners out of thousands of dollars each.

U.S. Homeowners Assistance claimed to be a government agency with a 98 percent success rate in aiding homeowners. In reality, the company was not a government agency and was never certified as an approved housing counselor by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. None of U.S. Homeowners Assistance’s known victims received loan modifications despite paying upfront fees ranging from $1,200 to $3,500.

For example, in January 2008, one victim received a letter from her lender indicating that her monthly mortgage payment would increase from $2,300 to $3,500. Days later, she received an unsolicited phone call from U.S. Homeowners Assistance promising a 40 percent reduction in principal and a $2,000 reduction in her monthly payment. She paid $3500 upfront for U.S. Homeowners Assistance’s services.

At the end of April 2008, her lender informed her that her loan modification request had been denied and sent her the documents that U.S. Homeowners Assistance had filed on her behalf. After reviewing those documents, she discovered that U.S. Homeowners Assistance had forged her signature and falsified her financial information – including fabricating a lease agreement with a fictitious tenant.

When she confronted U.S. Homeowners Assistance, she was immediately disconnected and has not been able to reach the company.

Brown’s suit contends that U.S. Homeowners Assistance violated:
– California Business and Professions Code section 17500 by falsely stating they were a government agency and misleading homeowners by claiming a 98 percent success rate in obtaining loan modifications;

– California Business and Professions Code section 17200 by failing to perform services made in exchange for upfront fees;

– California Civil Code section 2945.4 for unlawfully collecting upfront fees for loan modification services;

– California Civil Code section 2945.45 for failing to register with the California Attorney General’s Office as foreclosure consultants; and

– California Penal Code section 487 for grand theft.

Brown is seeking $7.5 million in civil penalties, full restitution for victims, and a permanent injunction to keep the company and the defendants from offering foreclosure consultant services.

US Homeowners Assistance also did business as Statewide Financial Group, Inc., We Beat All Rates, and US Homeowners Preservation Center.

US Foreclosure Relief Corporation
Brown last week sued US Foreclosure Relief Corporation, H.E. Service Company, their executives — George Escalante and Cesar Lopez — as well as their legal affiliate Adrian Pomery for running a scam promising homeowners reductions in their principal and interest rates as low as 4 percent. Brown was joined in this suit by the Federal Trade Commission and the State of Missouri.

Using aggressive telemarketing tactics, the defendants solicited desperate homeowners and charged an upfront fee ranging from $1,800 to $2,800 for loan modification services. During one nine-month period alone, consumers paid defendants in excess of $4.4 million. Yet, in most instances, defendants failed to provide the mortgage-relief services. Once consumers paid the fee, the defendants avoided responding to consumers’ inquiries.

In response to a large number of consumer complaints, several government agencies directed the defendants to stop their illegal practices. Instead, they changed their business name and continued their operations – using six different business aliases in the past eight months alone.

Brown’s lawsuit alleges the companies and individuals violated:
– The National Do Not Call Registry, 16 C.F.R. section 310.4 and California Business and Professions Code section 17200 by telemarketing their services to persons on the registry;

– The National Do Not Call Registry, 16 C.F.R. section 310.8 and California Business and Professions Code section 17200 by telemarketing their services without paying the mandatory annual fee for access to telephone numbers within the area codes included in the registry;

– California Civil Code section 2945 et seq. and California Business and Professions Code section 17200 by demanding and collecting up-front fees prior to performing any services, failing to include statutory notices in their contracts, and failing to comply with other requirements imposed on mortgage foreclosure consultants;

– California Business and Professions Code sections 17200 and 17500 by representing that they would obtain home loan modifications for consumers but failing to do so in most instances; by representing that consumers must make further payments even though they had not performed any of the promised services; by representing that they have a high success rate and that they can obtain loan modification within no more than 60 days when in fact these representations were false; and by directing consumers to avoid contact with their lenders and to stop making loan payments causing some lenders to initiate foreclosure proceedings and causing damage to consumers’ credit records.

Victims of this scam include a father of four battling cancer, a small business owner, an elderly disabled couple, a sheriff whose income dropped due to city budget cuts and an Iraq-war veteran. None of these victims received the loan modification promised.

Brown is seeking unspecified civil penalties, full restitution for victims, and a permanent injunction to keep the company and the defendants from offering foreclosure consultant services.

The defendants also did business under other names including Lighthouse Services and California Foreclosure Specialists.

Home Relief Services, LLC
Brown Monday sued Home Relief Services, LLC., its executives Terence Green Sr. and Stefano Marrero, the Diener Law Firm and its principal attorney Christopher L. Diener for bilking thousands of homeowners out of thousands of dollars each.

Home Relief Services charged homeowners over $4,000 in upfront fees, promised to lower interest rates to 4 percent, convert adjustable-rate mortgages to low fixed-rate loans and reduce principal up to 50 percent within 30 to 60 days. None of the known victims received a modification with the assistance of the defendants.

In some cases, these companies also sought to be the lenders’ agent in the short-sale of their clients’ homes. In doing so, the defendants attempted to use their customers’ personal financial information for their own benefit.

Home Relief Services and the Diener Law Firm directed homeowners to stop contacting their lender because the defendants would act as their sole agent and negotiator.

Brown’s lawsuit contends that the defendants violated:
– California Business and Professions Code section 17500 by claiming a 95 percent success rate and promising consumers significant reductions in the principal balance of their mortgages;

– California Business and Professions Code section 17200 by failing to perform on promises made in exchange for upfront fees;

– California Civil Code section 2945.4 for unlawfully collecting upfront fees for loan modification services;

– California Business and Professions Code section 2945.3 by failing to include cancellation notices in their contracts;

– California Civil Code section 2945.45 by not registering with the Attorney General’s office as foreclosure consultants; and

– California Penal Code section 487 for grand theft.

Brown is seeking $10 million in civil penalties, full restitution for victims, and a permanent injunction to keep the company and the defendants from offering foreclosure consultant services.

Two other companies with the same management were also involved in the effort to deceive homeowners: Payment Relief Services, Inc. and Golden State Funding, Inc.

RMR Group Loss Mitigation Group
Brown Monday sued RMR Group Loss Mitigation and its executives Michael Scott Armendariz of Huntington Beach, Ruben Curiel of Lancaster, and Ricardo Haag of Corona; Living Water Lending, Inc.; and attorney Arthur Steven Aldridge of Westlake Village as well as the law firm of Shippey & Associates and its principal attorney Karla C. Shippey of Yorba Linda – for bilking over 500 victims out of nearly $1 million.

The company solicited homeowners through telephone calls and in-person home visits. Employees claimed a 98 percent success rate and a money-back guarantee. None of the known victims received any refunds or modifications with the assistance of defendants.

For example, in July 2008, a 71-year old victim learned his monthly mortgage payments would increase from $2,470 to $3,295. He paid $2,995, yet received no loan modification and no refund.

Additionally, RMR insisted that homeowners refrain from contacting their lenders because the defendants would act as their agents.

Brown’s suit contends that the defendants violated:

– California Business and Professions Code section 17500 by claiming a 98 percent success rate and promising consumers significant reductions in the principal balance of their mortgages;

– California Business and Professions Code section 17200 by failing to perform on promises made in exchange for upfront fees;

– California Civil Code section 2945.4 for unlawfully collecting upfront fees for loan modification services;

– California Business and Professions Code section 2945.3 by failing to include cancellation notices in their contracts;

– California Civil Code section 2945.45 by not registering with the Attorney General’s office as foreclosure consultants; and

– California Penal Code section 487 for grand theft.

Brown is seeking $7.5 million in civil penalties, full restitution for victims, and a permanent injunction to keep the company and the defendants from offering foreclosure consultant services.

United First, Inc.
On July 6, 2009, Brown sued a foreclosure consultant and an attorney — Paul Noe Jr. and Mitchell Roth – who conned 2,000 desperate homeowners into paying exorbitant fees for “phony lawsuits” to forestall foreclosure proceedings.

These lawsuits were filed and abandoned, even though homeowners were charged $1,800 in upfront fees, at least $1,200 per month and contingency fees of up to 80 percent of their home’s value.

Noe convinced more than 2,000 homeowners to sign “joint venture” agreements with his company, United First, and hire Roth to file suits claiming that the borrower’s loan was invalid because the mortgages had been sold so many times on Wall Street that the lender could not demonstrate who owned it. Similar suits in other states have never resulted in the elimination of the borrower’s mortgage debt.

After filing the lawsuits, Roth did virtually nothing to advance the cases. He often failed to make required court filings, respond to legal motions, comply with court deadlines, or appear at court hearings. Instead, Roth’s firm simply tried to extend the lawsuits as long as possible in order to collect additional monthly fees.

United First charged homeowners approximately $1,800 in upfront fees, plus at least $1,200 per month. If the case was settled, homeowners were required to pay 50 percent of the cash value of the settlement. For example, if United First won a $100,000 reduction of the mortgage debt, the homeowner would have to pay United First a fee of $50,000. If United First completely eliminated the homeowner’s debt, the homeowner would be required to pay the company 80 percent of the value of the home.

Brown’s lawsuit contends that Noe, Roth and United First:

– Violated California’s credit counseling and foreclosure consultant laws, Civil Code sections 1789 and 2945

– Inserted unconscionable terms in contracts;

– Engaged in improper running and capping, meaning that Roth improperly partnered with United First, Inc. and Noe, who were not lawyers, to generate business for his law firm violating California Business and Professions Code 6150; and

– Violated 17500 of the California Business and Professions Code.

Brown’s office is seeking $2 million in civil penalties, full restitution for victims, and a permanent injunction to keep the company and the defendants from offering foreclosure consultant services.

Tips for Homeowners
Brown’s office issued these tips for homeowners to avoid becoming a victim:

DON’T pay money to people who promise to work with your lender to modify your loan. It is unlawful for foreclosure consultants to collect money before (1) they give you a written contract describing the services they promise to provide and (2) they actually perform all the services described in the contract, such as negotiating new monthly payments or a new mortgage loan. However, an advance fee may be charged by an attorney, or by a real estate broker who has submitted the advance fee agreement to the Department of Real Estate, for review.

DO call your lender yourself. Your lender wants to hear from you, and will likely be much more willing to work directly with you than with a foreclosure consultant.

DON’T ignore letters from your lender. Consider contacting your lender yourself, many lenders are willing to work with homeowners who are behind on their payments.

DON’T transfer title or sell your house to a “foreclosure rescuer.” Fraudulent foreclosure consultants often promise that if homeowners transfer title, they may stay in the home as renters and buy their home back later. The foreclosure consultants claim that transfer is necessary so that someone with a better credit rating can obtain a new loan to prevent foreclosure. BEWARE! This is a common scheme so-called “rescuers” use to evict homeowners and steal all or most of the home’s equity.

DON’T pay your mortgage payments to someone other than your lender or loan servicer, even if he or she promises to pass the payment on. Fraudulent foreclosure consultants often keep the money for themselves.

DON’T sign any documents without reading them first. Many homeowners think that they are signing documents for a new loan to pay off the mortgage they are behind on. Later, they discover that they actually transferred ownership to the “rescuer.”

DO contact housing counselors approved by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), who may be able to help you for free. For a referral to a housing counselor near you, contact HUD at 1-800-569-4287 (TTY: 1-800-877-8339) or http://www.hud.gov.

If you believe you have been the victim of a mortgage-relief scam in California, please contact the Attorney General’s Public Inquiry Unit at http://ag.ca.gov/consumers/general.php.
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