As part of the Federal Trade Commission’s intensified efforts to protect consumers from mortgage foreclosure rescue scams, the agency has filed two lawsuits charging six individuals and their businesses with falsely claiming that they will stop foreclosure. The FTC will seek to bar them from further violations and make them forfeit their ill-gotten gains.
“Consumers who are at risk of losing their homes are in a vulnerable position,” said Lydia B. Parnes, Director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection. “Companies that take money from these consumers with false promises to save their homes from foreclosure will face swift action from the FTC and its law enforcement partners.”
In the first case, Florida-based Mortgage Foreclosure Solutions, Inc., Debra Behrens, and Michael Siani are charged with falsely representing that they will stop foreclosure in all or virtually all instances, in violation of the FTC Act, which prohibits unfair and deceptive acts or practices. They allegedly claim that they can stop foreclosure regardless of consumers’ hardships or payment histories, stating in one such claim, “We are so confident of our abilities to provide you with a solution in stopping your foreclosure that we guarantee our services in writing to you.” Their promotions have appeared on Internet Web sites and blogs, including www.mortgageforeclosuresolutions.biz, www.mortgageforeclosuresolutions.com, www.mortgageforeclosuresolutions.info, www.mortgageforeclosuresolutions.net, www.mortgageforeclosuresolutions.org, and www.mortgageforeclosuresolutions.us.
According to the FTC’s complaint, consumers who call a toll-free number are asked questions to determine if they qualify for a workout with their lender, and regardless of their answers are told that they qualify for a workout plan. The defendants allegedly charge a $950 advance fee and a $250 processing setup charge, and, after receiving consumers’ money they fail to provide updates about the foreclosure proceedings or return consumers’ telephone calls. Consumers who do reach the defendants allegedly are told that the defendants are working on a solution or that no solution can be found. Many consumers ultimately lose their homes to foreclosure, and others avoid foreclosure only through their own efforts.
In the second case, the defendants, all based in Texas, are National Financial Solutions, LLC, National Hometeam Solutions, LLC, United Financial Solutions, LLC, Nationwide Foreclosure Services, LLC, Evalan Services, LLC, Elant, LLC, Elias H. Taylor aka Eli Taylor, Everard Taylor aka Everardo Taylor, Emanuel Taylor, and Edwin P. Taylor, Sr. aka Ed Taylor. They are charged with violating the FTC Act by falsely representing that they would stop foreclosure in all or virtually all instances, and that they would refund most or all fees if foreclosure could not be stopped.
According to the FTC’s complaint, the defendants used a variety of company names on Internet Web sites (www.istoptheforeclosure.com, www.mynationwideservice.com, and www.stopforeclosureprofessionals.com) and in direct mail to make such claims as, “We can stop any foreclosure regardless of how much is owed . . . ,” “We have stopped foreclosures all over the country,” and “Special relations we have with many mortgage banks expedite case approvals within 24 hours.” In phone calls with consumers, they also claimed that, for an up-front fee ranging from $500 to $1,200, they could stop foreclosures on specific homes and would provide options other than filing for bankruptcy.
The complaint alleges that the defendants often did not prevent foreclosure for their clients, failing to take promised actions or taking only minimal steps not calculated to prevent foreclosure, and often increased the likelihood of foreclosure by encouraging clients to wait passively for weeks rather than contact the lender themselves and explore possible options. The defendants also allegedly did not honor their promise to refund most or all of their fees in instances where they could not stop foreclosure, resulting in consumers losing both the fees and their homes.
The Commission vote to authorize staff to file the Mortgage Financial Solutions complaint was 5-0. The complaint was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Florida, Tampa Division. The Commission vote to authorize staff to file the National Financial Solutions complaint was 5-0. The complaint was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Texas, Sherman Division.
Consumer information about mortgage foreclosure rescue scams can be found with this press release in “Related Documents.”
NOTE: The Commission files a complaint when it has “reason to believe” that the law has been or is being violated, and it appears to the Commission that a proceeding is in the public interest. The complaint is not a finding or ruling that the defendant has actually violated the law. The case will be decided by the court.
Copies of the complaints are available from the FTC’s Web site at http://www.ftc.gov and
the FTC’s Consumer Response Center, Room 130, 600 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W.,Washington, D.C. 20580. The FTC works for the consumer to prevent fraudulent, deceptive, and unfair business practices and to provide information to help spot, stop, and avoid them. To file a complaint in English or Spanish, click http://www.ftc.gov/ftc/complaint.shtm or call 1-877-382-4357. The FTC enters Internet, telemarketing, identity theft, and other fraud-related complaints into Consumer Sentinel, a secure, online database available to more than 1,600 civil and criminal law enforcement agencies in the U.S. and abroad. For free information on a variety of consumer topics, click http://ftc.gov/bcp/consumer.shtm.