Bondi Obtains Judgment Against Mortgage Relief Scammers
By Space Coast Daily // May 30, 2015
TALLAHASSEE, FLORIDA — Attorney General Pam Bondi and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau yesterday were granted a final judgment against the Hoffman Law Group and corporate affiliates accused of using deceptive marketing practices and scamming distressed homeowners into paying illegal advance fees.
Working together, five companies conned consumers into paying millions of dollars in illegal upfront fees to join frivolous lawsuits that the companies falsely claimed would pressure banks to modify their loans or provide foreclosure relief. The court found the corporate defendants liable for more than $11.7 million—the full amount of illegal fees paid by consumers—and ordered them to pay a $10 million civil penalty to CFPB and more than $6 million in penalties to Florida.
“Scamming homeowners worried about losing their homes is not only illegal, it is despicable, and thanks to the great work of my consumer protection division and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, these defendants will pay for preying on Florida homeowners facing foreclosure,” said Florida Attorney General Bondi. “Foreclosure rescue scammers cannot evade the law by hiding behind a law firm. It is discouraging that there are attorneys out there that will allow their licenses to be used by shady companies to target people facing foreclosure.”
“These companies preyed on vulnerable consumers who were trying to save their homes from foreclosure,” said CFPB Director Richard Cordray. “The false promises made by these companies lured struggling homeowners into scams that led to greater financial hardship. We are working to protect consumers from illegal predatory practices by holding bad actors accountable for their actions.”
The lawsuit named Hoffman Law Group, formerly Residential Litigation Group, its operators, Michael Harper, Benn Willcox, and attorney Marc Hoffman, and its affiliated companies, Nationwide Management Solutions, Legal Intake Solutions, File Intake Solutions, and BM Marketing Group, all based in North Palm Beach, Fla. The Hoffman Law Group was a law firm set up to give the appearance that consumers in financial distress needing to modify their mortgage loans or save their homes from foreclosure would get specialized help from attorneys.
The related companies, which were run by Harper and Willcox, existed to market and support the scheme. The only defendant who was actually a lawyer, Marc Hoffman, has surrendered his bar license. The defendants were charged with violating the Mortgage Assistance Relief Services rule, and certain Florida state laws that prohibit charging advance fees for mortgage loan modification and related services, making misrepresentations about loan modification services, and requiring that consumers be given certain disclosures.
To view the complaint, click here.