California authorities sued multiple lawyers and others last week for allegedly taking millions of dollars from homeowners in states including Washington who were promised mortgage relief.
The defendants are accused of deceptively pushing "mass joinder" lawsuits, like those All Consuming warned readers about in April.
The California State Bar has seized the practices and attorney accounts of: The Law Offices of Kramer & Kaslow; Philip Kramer, Esq; Mitchell J. Stein & Associates; Mitchell Stein, Esq.; Christopher Van Son, Esq.; Mesa Law Group Corp.; and Paul Petersen, Esq.
The California Department of Justice seized the practices of these entities, as well: Attorneys Processing Center, LLC; Data Management, LLC; Gary DiGirolamo; Bill Stephenson; Mitigation Professionals, LLC; Glen Reneau; Pate Marier & Associates, Inc.; James Pate; Ryan Marier; Home Retention Division; Michael Tapia; Lewis Marketing Corp.; Clarence Butt; and Thomas Phanco.
Nineteen DOJ special agents participated as the firms were taken over Wednesday, Aug. 17, along with 42 agents and other personnel from HUD's Office of Inspector General, the California State Bar, and the Office of Receiver Thomas McNamara at 14 locations in Los Angeles and Orange Counties. Sixteen bank accounts were seized.
"The defendants in this case fraudulently promised to win prompt mortgage relief for millions of vulnerable homeowners across the country," said California Attorney General Kamala Harris, whose office is suing. "Innocent people, already battered by the housing crisis, were targeted for fraud in their moment of distress."
The lawsuit alleges the defendants mailed at least 2 million marketing materials to victims in at least 17 states. Defendants led homeowners to believe that by joining lawsuits agianst their lenders, they would stop pending foreclosures, reduce their loan balances or interest rates, obtain money and even receive title to their homes free and clear of their existing mortgage. Defendants charged homeowners retainer fees of up to $10,000 to join as plaintiffs.
Some consumers lost their homes shortly after paying the retainer fees demanded by defendants.
If you are facing foreclosure or having trouble paying your mortgage, free help is available. See www.atg.wa.gov/foreclosure.aspx.
Related All Consuming post: Don't pay to join lawsuits promising mortgage relief