Court Bars False Claims of Affiliation with United States Homeowner Relief Programs

For Your Information

A U.S. district court has ordered newly named defendants to stop making deceptive claims that they are affiliated with free federal government programs, such as Making Home Affordable.

On May 14, 2009, the FTC charged that Internet search ads were diverting homeowners from free counseling available through government-endorsed www.makinghomeaffordable.gov to Web sites that marketed loan modification services for a fee. The defendants’ identities were then unknown, and the district court on May 15, 2009, entered a temporary restraining order that barred the deceptive practices and authorized the FTC to identify the unknown defendants.

The Commission has now identified several of the previously unknown parties in this case, and amended the complaint accordingly. The amended complaint names the following advertisers that placed deceptive online ads for the Making Home Affordable program: 1) Jeffrey Altmire, 2) Sean Cantkier, 3) Michael Haller; 4) Lisa Roye, 5) Scot Lady, 6) Alan LeStourgeon, 7) Kean Lee Lim, 8) Greg Rivera, and 9) Neil Sperry. At the FTC’s request, following a preliminary injunction hearing on June 25, 2009, the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia entered orders barring eight of the defendants – four of whom agreed to the orders – from engaging in the allegedly illegal conduct.

The Commission vote authorizing the staff to file the amended complaint was 4-0. (FTC File No. X090049, Civ. No. 1:09-cv-00894-CKK; the staff contact is Lawrence Hodapp, Bureau of Consumer Protection, 202-326-3105; see press releases dated April 6, 2009, at http://www.ftc.gov/opa/2009/04/hud.shtm and May 18, 2009, at http://www.ftc.gov/opa/2009/05/mortgageads.shtm.)

Copies of the documents mentioned in this release are available from the FTC’s Web site at http://www.ftc.gov and from the FTC’s Consumer Response Center, Room 130, 600 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W., Washington, DC 20580. Call toll-free: 1-877-FTC-HELP.

(FYI 32.2009.wpd)

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