Company, its owners must return $475,000 to harmed homeowners
SAN ANTONIO – Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott has shut down a fraudulent “foreclosure rescue” firm that preyed on hundreds of struggling Texas homeowners.
An order by the Bexar County District Court requires Foreclosure Assistance Solutions Inc. of Florida, and its principal operators, Herb Zerden and Adolfo Quintero, to return $370,000 to 338 Texas homeowners. Additional defendants J.W.W. Services Inc. of California and owner John Woodruff are also included in the judgment. Another $105,000 will be held in escrow to assist remaining homeowners who can demonstrate they were victimized by this scheme.
“At a time when regulators, policy makers and stakeholders are working to help struggling families, unscrupulous operators are scheming to profiteer at homeowners’ expense,” Attorney General Abbott said. “These defendants charged large fees and failed to deliver on their false promises. This legal action shuts down an unlawful scheme to defraud Texas homeowners.”
According to a 2007 enforcement action filed by the Attorney General’s Office, the defendants’ unlawful foreclosure rescue scams targeted struggling Texas homeowners who fell behind on their mortgage payments. Documents filed with the court indicate the defendants’ fraudulent advertising promised they could save homeowners from imminent foreclosures. Unfortunately for many struggling homeowners, the guarantee turned out to be false.
On Sept. 14, the Attorney General obtained a temporary restraining order and asset freeze that preserved the companies’ assets during the state’s investigation. The court expanded that order on Sept. 27, adding tough injunctive terms that severely restrained the defendants’ business practices.
The defendants mailed cards and letters to homeowners whose mortgage payments were delinquent and therefore approaching foreclosure. In correspondence with homeowners, the defendants claimed to have solid relationships with mortgage companies and banks nationwide. As a result, they promised, Foreclosure Assistance Solutions could stop the foreclosure process. Homeowners who contacted Foreclosure Assistance Solutions were urged to pay the defendants $1,200 immediately.
Under the contract Foreclosure Assistance Solutions provided its customers, homeowners were prohibited from contacting their mortgage lenders. Yet once homeowners paid the $1,200 fee, they were largely ignored. Many homeowners who repeatedly called the company heard nothing in return. As a result, many homeowners lost their homes to foreclosure.
Wednesday’s settlement requires the defendants to pay $100,000 in civil penalties and $175,000 in attorneys’ fees. The judgment also prohibits the defendants from conducting Texas-based mortgage foreclosure mitigation in the future.
Consumers who encounter this or similar practices that may violate the law may call the Attorney General’s toll-free complaint hotline at (800) 252-8011 or file a complaint online at www.texasatttorneygeneral.gov.