FTC Action: Scammers Banned from Mortgage Relief Business, Telemarketing

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Four mortgage modification scammers, Brian Pacios, Chad Caldaronello, Justin Moreira and Derek Nelson will be banned from selling debt relief products and services under settlements resolving Federal Trade Commission charges that they deceived homeowners facing foreclosure.

The settlements stem from a complaint the FTC filed against Pacios, Caldaronello, Moreira, Nelson, Denny Lake, and relief defendant Cortney Gonsalves in 2015, alleging that, doing business as HOPE Services and HAMP Services, they promised consumers help getting their mortgages modified, but instead stole their mortgage payments, leading some to foreclosure and bankruptcy. Pacios’s settlement also resolves an FTC contempt action against him for violating a 2013 court order that prohibited him from mortgage relief activities.

“These rip-off artists took struggling homeowners’ last dollars, but we’ve shut down their destructive and illegal schemes,” said Jessica Rich, Director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection. “Now, in addition to financial judgments, the court has permanently banned them from the industries and practices they exploited.”

Under stipulated court orders announced today, Pacios, Caldaronello, Moreira and Nelson are also prohibited from misrepresenting any product or service, profiting from customers’ personal information, and failing to properly dispose of it. Pacios, Caldaronello, and Moreira are banned from telemarketing, and Pacios and Caldaronello are also banned from selling credit-related financial products and services and barred from using aliases. Moreira and Nelson are also prohibited from using material misrepresentations and unsubstantiated claims to sell financial products and services, and Nelson is barred from telemarketing without maintaining records stipulated in the order.

The orders against Pacios and Caldaronello impose a judgment of more than $2.7 million, which represents the total amount consumers paid. The order against Moreira imposes the same judgment, which will be suspended upon the surrender of certain assets. The full judgment against Moreira will become due immediately if he is found to have misrepresented his financial condition. The order against Nelson imposes a judgment of $859,839, which will be suspended upon the surrender of certain assets, but due immediately if he is found to have misrepresented his financial condition.

The order against Gonsalves, a relief defendant who profited from the scheme, imposes a judgment of $218,768, which represents the amount Gonsalves received from the scam. Litigation against Lake continues.

The Commission vote authorizing the staff to file the stipulated final orders was 4-0. The orders against Pacios, Caldaronello and Moreira were entered by the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California on November 3, 2015. The orders against Nelson and Gonsalves were entered on December 4, 2015.

To learn more, read Facing Foreclosure?

NOTE: Stipulated final orders have the force of law when approved and signed by the District Court 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 2,000 civil and criminal law enforcement agencies in the U.S. and abroad. The FTC’s website provides free information on a variety of consumer topics. Like the FTC on Facebook, follow us on Twitter, and subscribe to press releases for the latest FTC news and resources.

Contact Information

MEDIA CONTACT:
Frank Dorman
Office of Public Affairs
202-326-2674

STAFF CONTACT:
Miriam Lederer
Bureau of Consumer Protection
202-326-2975