Arizona Department of Real Estate - Informational Alert\ 2012
Commissioner Judy Lowe would like to share the announcement below that was received today from Attorney General Horne.
Announcement from Attorney General Horne:
AG Horne Files Two Lawsuits Against Mortgage Modification Assistance Companies Operating In Both Phoenix and Tucson
PHOENIX (Wednesday, August 15, 2012) -- Attorney General Horne announced today two lawsuits have been filed against Arizona companies selling mortgage modification services to distressed homeowners.
"There is still a significant amount of fallout from the mortgage crisis, and consumers need to remain vigilant when approached about mortgage modification services," Horne said. "The legal actions that have been filed serve as a reminder that people need to be very careful about dealing only with reputable servicers."
The lawsuits are against Phoenix based Making All Homes Affordable, LLC ("MAHA") and its owner Albert Figueroa and Tucson based La Paz Source, LLC, its owners, Defendant Maria Beltran and her husband, Defendant Francisco Ramos and their new operation La Placita Multi Services, LLC owned and operated by Beltran and an individual named Arturo Gomez Leon.
The lawsuit against MAHA alleges that MAHA and Defendant Figueroa violated the Consumer Fraud Act by misrepresenting the nature and value of the MAHA program, which MAHA advertises exclusively in Spanish language media and sells in face-to-face meetings in MAHA' office and at several "retail outlets" in Phoenix and Tucson, including at the office of La Placita. The lawsuit alleges that MAHA salespersons tell potential clients that MAHA can help them obtain specific, favorable mortgage modifications, including lower interest rates and principal reductions. After homeowners pay MAHA nearly $1,900, homeowners discover that the MAHA program is nothing more than a do-it-yourself program, allowing them access to various standardized forms and information on MAHA's website; forms and information that are available for free on government websites, such as www.makinghomeaffordable.gov. The lawsuit also alleges that MAHA uses dozens of fake consumer testimonials on its website and that MAHA charges its clients a fake sales tax of 9.3%.
The lawsuit against La Paz Source and La Placita alleges that La Paz Source, LLC was an Arizona LLC who advertised as providing foreclosure consultant services. Consumers have reported that La Paz Source, LLC promised to stop the foreclosure process, obtain loan modifications for its consumers and communicate with lenders/servicers on behalf of its clients. As La Paz Source, LLC, the Defendants allegedly claimed they were authorized to conduct such business in Arizona when they were not duly licensed to conduct their business here. Oftentimes, La Paz Source charged very large upfront fees, which were prohibited by state and federal law, and then failed to provide the mortgage loan modification services required to earn those fees. In some cases, the clients lost their homes in the process.
In November of 2011, Defendants Beltran and Ramos dissolved La Paz Source, LLC. The same day that the Defendants dissolved La Paz, Beltran and Arturo Gomez Leon started La Placita which also held itself out as being a provider of mortgage loan modification services to Arizona consumers.
The Defendants deceptively and willfully target the Spanish-speaking community in Arizona to obtain a benefit through the exploitation of the consumers' Spanish/English language barrier. The Defendants provide contracts written only in English. Many times, the Defendants verbally explain terms of the agreement to consumers, in Spanish, that are in direct contradiction to the written provisions of the contract provided in English.
The La Paz and La Placita Defendants now claim to have changed their business model to that of a retail outlet for MAHA. The complaint further alleges: the Defendants continue falsely to guarantee consumers that the Defendants' services will result in foreclosure prevention and a favorable loan modification; the Defendants hold themselves out to the community as experts in mortgage loan modifications and use deceptive means to lure distressed homeowners into parting with hundreds or thousands of dollars, then the Defendants take their money without providing the efficacy, nature, or kind of services for which the consumer bargained; and that the Defendants charge consumers a fee they call a "sales tax," but those monies are not remitted to the Arizona Department of Revenue. Furthermore, the Defendants represent that they are compliant with state and federal laws when they routinely violate the FTC M.A.R.S rule banning upfront fees for mortgage assistance relief services.
These cases are being handled by Assistant Attorneys General Cherie Howe and Jeremy Shorbe. The cases are State of Arizona v. Making All Homes Affordable, et al., Maricopa County Superior Court case number CV2012-011000 and State of Arizona v. La Paz Source, LLC et al., Pima County Superior Court number C20124738.
If you believe you've been a victim of any type of consumer fraud, please contact the Arizona Attorney General's Office Consumer Information & Complaints Unit at (602) 542-5763 / (520) 628-6504 / (800) 352-8431.
You can also file a consumer complaint online at: http://www.azag.gov/consumer/complaintform.html
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