Charged $600-$1,400 in illegal fees for services not qualified to provide
SEATTLE — Attorney General Bob Ferguson today filed a consumer protection lawsuit against a former Whatcom County loan officer, accusing her of offering home loan modification and bankruptcy services, neither of which she is qualified for under state law, then charging hefty and illegal up-front fees, while providing little or no help.
The AG accused Miriam Lozano and her business, Primera Services, of violating the Washington Consumer Protection Act in a complaint filed today in King County Superior Court.
Lozano targeted the Latino community via word-of-mouth promotion and Spanish-language business cards promising a variety of services, including: “Prevención de embargo Bancario”; “Negociación de deudas”; “Detención de incautación de bienes”; and “Preparación de impuestos pasados.”
“Preying on people facing foreclosure and bankruptcy is not only illegal — it’s immoral,” Ferguson said. “I won’t tolerate deceptive practices against Washington consumers.”
Lozano, also known as Miriam Shaffer, pleaded guilty to first-degree theft in Whatcom County Superior Court in 2006 after being caught using another person’s identity to purchase two homes without that person’s knowledge in order to receive a commission.
In 2007, the state Department of Financial Institutions banned Lozano from working with any licensed mortgage broker for 10 years.
Despite the order, Lozano offered mortgage loan modification services. She also provided bankruptcy counseling, although she is not a lawyer or qualified to provide legal advice.
Lozano told one King County homeowner that she had a high success rate with loan modifications and that she “looks out for the Spanish-speaking community.”
Homeowners paid Lozano $1,400 up front for help with mortgage loan modifications, only to later find out that after taking their money, Lozano provided little or no help. Some homeowners paying for Lozano’s services were foreclosed upon, while others had to sell their homes to avoid foreclosure.
The complaint alleges that Lozano engaged in unlicensed activity as a mortgage broker, charged illegal advance fees for third-party loan modification services, and made deceptive solicitations, violating the state Consumer Protection Act and the Mortgage Broker Practices Act.
The Attorney General asked the court to order Lozano to stop engaging in deceptive practices, pay back all her victims, pay civil penalties of $2,000 per violation of the state Consumer Protection Act, and pay reasonable costs and fees.
Lozano will have twenty days from the date she is served to respond to the state’s complaint.
Individuals who believe they were victims of Lozano and Primera Services are encouraged to contact the Attorney General’s Office at (800) 551-4636 or www.atg.wa.gov/file-complaint.
Assistant Attorney General Benjamin Roesch is handling the case.
Victim of a scam? Contact the Attorney General’s Office
If you believe you are a victim of a scam, file a consumer complaint with the Attorney General’s Office at www.atg.wa.gov/file-complaint.
Foreclosure help, legal assistance available
Up-front fees are generally illegal and often a sign of a scam.
If you’re considering a service provider to help with a loan modification or if you are behind on your mortgage payments, help is available. Call the Washington Homeownership Resource Center at 1-877-894-HOME (4663) or visit their website, www.homeownership-wa.org, to talk to a housing counselor for free. Counselors are trained to help homeowners understand their home retentions options and determine the best course of action.
Low and moderate-income homeowners can also contact the statewide civil legal aid program at 1-800-606-4819 or visit www.nwjustice.org/get-legal-help.
Resources are also available in Spanish.
Learn more about foreclosure and mortgage assistance, common scams, or file a complaint, at atg.wa.gov/foreclosure-and-mortgage-assistance or the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) website at www.consumerfinance.gov/mortgagehelp.
The Office of the Attorney General is the chief legal office for the state of Washington with attorneys and staff in 27 divisions across the state providing legal services to roughly 200 state agencies, boards and commissions. Visit www.atg.wa.gov to learn more.
Peter Lavallee, Communications Director, (360) 586-0725; PeterL@atg.wa.gov