A reader just sent me information on a case that was filed on August 18, 2016 by the State of Florida Office of Attorney General. The defendant list reads like a who’s who of people I’ve written about in the past. The named parties in the suit include Adam Forman, Joseph Hilton, Joseph Starr, Joseph Yurkin, Victor Spagnuolo, Wendy Anne Hart, Went Hart Reid, Barbara Rudolph, Wayne Lucas, Asset Protection Law Firm, The Asset Protection Law Group, Consumer Legal Resources of Florida, Fresh Start Legal Referral Services, New Horizons Cust Funding, Consumer Legal Advocates, The Asset Protection Law Firm, Consumer Legal Advocates, Heritage Law Group, Heritage Law Processing, Legal Referral Services of FL, Legal Referral Services of Florida, Liberty Law Group, Florida Asset Protection Group, Galler Herman Law, Liberty Law, Tanis Geller Law, Business Administration Growth, Lehman Law Group, Heritage Title Agency, DHS Investments, Gall Lehman PA, Liberty Legal PA, Selective Housing Solutions, and Selective Mortgage Corporation.
The Office of the Attorney General describes the suit by saying, “This case involves a network of non-lawyers who pose as lawyers and law firms providing legal foreclosure defense and loan modification services, for the purpose of deceiving desperate homeowners into paying the fake lawyers instead of their mortgages. Using a web of fictitious entity names, these non-lawyers have created one fake law firm after another, leaving behind a string of victims who have lost or are about to lose their homes as a result of the Defendants’ actions.
The non-lawyers have also jeopardized the future careers of several licensed attorneys who were unknowingly and unwittingly utilized as the “front men” for the fake law firms. The homeowner clients believed these licensed attorneys were representing them when, in fact, the attorneys had absolutely no idea the clients even existed.”
The suit goes on at length to describe the purported roles each person had. You can read the suit below or click here.
The Attorney General Office alleges this enterprise operated in the following fashion.
“The Defendants, collectively by and through the various entities identified herein (legal and fictitious), have operated and functioned as a common enterprise while engaging in the deceptive acts and practices and other violations of law alleged in this Complaint (hereinafter, the “Enterprise”). They have conducted the business practices described herein through an interrelated network of persons and entities that have common and/or overlapping ownership, control, officers, directors, members, managers, employees and independent contractors.
The Enterprise has shared and continues to share receptionists, “paralegals,” telemarketing operations, websites, office space and call centers in Boca Raton and Coral Springs, Florida.
The Enterprise uses the same forms under different names including fake retainer agreements, letterhead, legal pleading templates and bank authorization drafts.
Further, the Enterprise cross-utilizes entity names, law firm names and lawyers for the purpose of deceiving consumers into believing they are represented by a legitimate law firm with multiple attorneys and resources.
For example, consumer N.F. signed a retainer agreement with the Lehman Law Group. Her credit card payments went to “Business Administration Growth LLC DBA Lehman Law Group,” and she was asked to write checks to Galler Lehman Law. She was then asked to do a short-sale buyback arrangement with Selective Housing Solutions.
Consumer N.M. signed a retainer agreement with “Galler Lehman Law, P.A., Tanis Galler Law, P.A.” Emails were sent to her by Defendant Spagnuolo as Managing Director of Galler Lehman Law PA and Florida Legal Referral Services LLC. Other emails were sent to her by a “legal assistant” for Liberty Law Group, P.A., all using the same physical address in the signature block.
Consumer W.S. signed a retainer agreement with “Lehman Law PA, Tanis-Lehman P.A.” Emails were sent to her by a “legal assistant” for Liberty Law Group, P.A., with copy to Joseph Starr. Fake pleadings were filed for her under Galler Lehman Law P.A., and her payments went to Lehman Law PA. Her personal interaction with the Enterprise was with Joseph Starr, whose business card identified his company as Legal Referral Services.
More recent consumers have signed retainer agreements with Liberty Law Group, P.A. and the Asset Protection Law Firm, P.A., while making payments to Consumer Legal Resources of Fla. and receiving newsletters from both Florida Asset Protection Law Firm and Treusch Law Group, PA.
In one electronic payment authorization, the consumer agreed to pay “Liberty Law Processing” but was also required to authorize “Lehman Law PA, its successors and assigns, Oracle Marketing Company, and Consumer Legal Resources payment processors (collectively, ‘Lehman Law’) to initiate recurring EFTs.”
The Individual Defendants in the Enterprise also change their titles and associations depending on which entity signed up a particular consumer.
For example, in some emails and business cards, Joseph Starr identifies himself as the C.E.O./President of Legal Referral Services. In others, he is the Director of Operations, “Liberty Law Group, PA/Legal Referral of FL, LLC.” And in others, he is the Managing Partner, Liberty Law Group- Treusch Law, PA, “Florida Bar Compliant Law Services.”
Similarly, Adam Forman has identified himself as the Managing Director of Galler Lehman Law, PA. At other times, he is the Director of Operations, Florida Legal Referral Services, LLC.
In order to keep up the charade when calling consumers, the Paralegal Employees simply state they are calling with the “Law Firm.”
The Defendants have wholly commingled their identities, operations, procedures and practices in marketing, soliciting, advertising and providing fake legal services to consumers.”
The Enterprise exists for one purpose: to collect illegal up-front and monthly fees from desperate homeowners by pretending to be a successful law firm with experienced lawyers, who will rescue the homeowners from foreclosure or negotiate loan modifications.
However, like the emperor with no clothes, the Enterprise is a law firm with no lawyers. The Enterprise has deceived many consumers into believing that non-lawyer defendants Starr, Forman and Spagnuolo are their lawyers, and other consumers into believing that they are represented by another lawyer within “the Firm.”
Any member of the public that has any information to share may want to contact the following attorneys with the Office of the Attorney General of the State of Florida. [email protected], [email protected], or [email protected]
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