Eight marketers are banned from selling mortgage modification or foreclosure relief services under settlements with the Federal Trade Commission. The FTC alleged that the marketers charged homeowners up-front fees and falsely claimed they could get their mortgage loans modified or prevent foreclosure on their homes. The settlements in three separate actions are part of the FTC’s ongoing efforts against scams that target financially distressed consumers.
The FTC settled with the following defendants:
Federal Loan Modification Law Center. Steven Oscherowitz settled FTC charges that he and others advertised and sold a so-called “Federal Loan Modification program.” They charged up to $3,000, much of which they required up-front, but Federal Loan Modification often failed to live up to the promised results, according to the FTC’s complaint. (4/6/2009 release http://www.ftc.gov/opa/2009/04/hud.shtm). The settlement order against Oscherowitz permanently bans him from selling mortgage relief services and from telemarketing any good or service. Under the order, Oscherowitz also is prohibited from misrepresenting any good or service, selling or otherwise benefitting from customers’ personal information, and failing to dispose of customer information properly. The order imposes an $11.5 million judgment against Oscherowitz, which represents the amount consumers paid to the defendants while he was involved in the alleged scheme. Any money collected to satisfy the judgment will be paid to injured consumers if practicable, or to the U.S. Treasury as disgorgement of ill-gotten gains. Two individual and three corporate defendants already have settled charges against them in this case, and the FTC continues to pursue its case against five other defendants.
Loss Mitigation Services. Dean Shafer, Marion Anthony “Tony” Perry, and Bernadette Perry, also known as Bernadette Carr and Bernadette Carr-Perry, settled allegations that they falsely promised that a loan modification was assured or virtually assured if consumers paid an advance fee of up to $5,500. Shafer and the Perrys, who were principals of Loss Mitigation Services, Inc. (LMS) and Synergy Financial Management Corporation, doing business as Direct Lender or DirectLender.com (Direct Lender), also allegedly misrepresented that the companies were a department of, or affiliated with, the consumer’s lender or mortgage servicer. In addition, Shafer and the Perrys falsely claimed that consumers would receive refunds if LMS or Direct Lender failed to secure a loan modification. In many cases, the defendants failed to obtain loan modifications for consumers, and some consumers lost their homes while waiting for the promised results. (7/15/2009 release http://www.ftc.gov/opa/2009/07/loanlies.shtm.) Under the settlement orders, Shafer and the Perrys are banned from selling mortgage relief services. The orders also impose a $6.2 million judgment that is suspended due to their inability to pay. In addition to the orders against Shafer and the Perrys, the FTC obtained a default order against LMS and Direct Lender, banning them from selling mortgage relief services and ordering them to pay $6.2 million.
Hope Now Modifications. Brothers Salvatore and Nicholas Puglia, Hope Now Modifications LLC, and Hope Now Financial Services Corporation settled FTC charges that they falsely claimed that they could obtain mortgage loan modifications in all or virtually all cases and would refund consumers’ money if they failed, and that they were affiliated with, or part of, the HOPE NOW Alliance, a free federal homeowner assistance program. (3/24/2009 release http://www.ftc.gov/opa/2009/03/newhope.shtm). In addition to banning the defendants from selling mortgage relief services, the settlement order against them permanently bars them from misrepresenting any good or service, violating the Telemarketing Sales Rule, selling or otherwise benefitting from their customers’ personal information, and failing to dispose of their customer information properly. The order also imposes a judgment of almost $5.3 million, which will be suspended when the defendants surrender all of the funds in their bank accounts, which were frozen by the court.
The Commission votes to authorize staff to file the stipulated final orders in Federal Loan Modification Law Center and Loss Mitigation Services were 5-0. The orders were entered by the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California on July 12, 2010, and July 14, 2010, respectively. The Commission vote to authorize staff to file the stipulated final order in Hope Now Modifications was 5-0. The order was entered by the U.S. District Court for the District of New Jersey on July 12, 2010.
NOTE: Stipulated court orders are for settlement purposes only and do not necessarily constitute an admission by the defendants of a law violation. Stipulated orders have the full force of law when signed by the judge.
The Federal Trade Commission works for consumers 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, visit the FTC’s online Complaint Assistant or call 1-877-FTC-HELP (1-877-382-4357). The FTC enters complaints into Consumer Sentinel, a secure, online database available to more than 1,800 civil and criminal law enforcement agencies in the U.S. and abroad. The FTC’s Web site provides free information on a variety of consumer topics.