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Laura Hess Allegedly At It Again. It Never Ends. Attorneys Sucked Into Mortgage Relief Scheme.

By on November 17, 2016

The Office of the Florida Attorney General filed suit against Joseph Bilotti Jr, Laura Hess, Ralph Consiglio, Gary Robillard, Rahim West, Timothy Healy, Stayhome, William Berger & Associates, Home Defense Law Firm, Home Defense Team, Nationwide Foreclosure Defense, Southeast Billing, Zohar Billings, and Tax Rescue Firm.

The lawsuit begins with a reintroduction to Laura Hess from the debt settlement company, Hess Kennedy. Oh what a tortured history that mess had.

Of course, the case has to run its course before anyone is found guilty. At this point these are charges and allegations.

The Suit

1. In January 2009, Defendant LAURA LYNN HESS was disbarred by the Florida Bar for her role in a massive credit card debt reduction scheme that defrauded consumers and generated millions of dollars in illicit proceeds, much of which was never accounted for or recovered for the benefit of the victims. Later that year, disbarred attorney HESS teamed up with Defendant JOSEPH JAMES BILOTTI, JR. (the owner of a pizza chain), Defendant RALPH CONSIGLIO (an unlicensed telemarketer) and Charles William Berger (a now deceased attorney who had been disbarred in both South Carolina and Florida) for the purpose of forming a fake law firm to collect millions in illegal, up-front fees from consumers seeking loan modifications or foreclosure rescue services.

2. Since about 2013, Defendants BILOTTI, HESS and CONSIGLIO have also utilized several other Florida attorneys (including Defendants GARY ROBILLARD, RAHIM JAMAL WEST, and TIMOTHY J. HEALY) to act as “front men” for their non-lawyer operation. BILOTTI, HESS and CONSIGLIO have also utilized fake retainer agreements, some with falsified signatures, to induce consumers to pay the illegal, up-front fees; and they have employed numerous non-attorneys to interface with the clients, draft legal pleadings and supposedly perform other back-end services. In numerous instances, THE DEFENDANTS’ unlawful enterprise has not only failed to accomplish the results promised to consumers, but often digs the consumer into even deeper financial holes.

General Allegations

3. Since at least in or about March 2009, THE DEFENDANTS have knowingly, willfully and actively participated in a common enterprise for the purpose of unfairly and deceptively marketing and selling to consumers mortgage assistance relief services, as defined in the Mortgage Assistance Relief Services Rule, 12 C.F.R. Part 1015 (2012) (“The MARS Rule” or “Regulation O”), and/or foreclosure-related rescue services, as defined in Section 501.1377(2)(c), Fla. Stat. (hereinafter collectively referred to as “Mortgage Relief and/or Foreclosure Rescue Services”).

4. THE DEFENDANTS have operated under this common enterprise using several different names, including, “Home Defense Law Firm,” “Home Defense Team,” “Home Defense Law, LLC” and “Nationwide Foreclosure Defense” (referred to herein as “the HOME DEFENSE Enterprise” or “the Enterprise”). The Enterprise has been run by Defendants BILOTTI and CONSIGLIO (both non-attorneys), along with disbarred attorney, Defendant HESS, from offices in Boca Raton, Florida

5. Essentially, THE DEFENDANTS have used various marketing methods to attract financially distressed homeowners to the HOME DEFENSE Enterprise, and they deceptively promise to provide services to: (1) obtain a reduction of the homeowner’s mortgage rate and/or indebtedness, eliminate delinquency fees, and restore their damaged credit rating; and/or (2) stop, avoid, or delay foreclosure proceedings concerning the homeowners’ residential real property, and/or assist the homeowners with modifying the terms, or curing a default or failure to timely pay with respect to a residential mortgage loan obligation.

6. THE DEFENDANTS offered to provide their Mortgage Relief and/or Foreclosure Rescue Services to the homeowners in exchange for the payment of up-front fees, which they have received and accepted before actually providing the promised services. These up-front fees are illegal under Florida and federal law. Thereafter, THE DEFENDANTS use these illicit proceeds to operate the Enterprise, acquire various assets and otherwise unjustly enrich the Individual Defendants named herein.

7. THE DEFENDANTS also established and utilized various corporate entities, including Defendants STAYHOME INC., WILLIAM BERGER & ASSOCIATES PA, HOME DEFENSE LAW FIRM, P.A., HOME DEFENSE TEAM P.A., NATIONWIDE FORECLOSURE DEFENSE, P.A., SOUTHEAST BILLING, INC., ZOHAR BILLINGS INC, and TAX RESCUE FIRM INC., to assist the Enterprise in conducting and concealing its deceptive scheme.

8. In numerous instances, the Enterprise provided their homeowner/consumer “clients” with falsified, unsigned or otherwise unauthorized “retainer agreements,” which made it appear that a licensed attorney or law firm was actually representing the homeowner/consumer in connection with the Mortgage Relief and/or Foreclosure Rescue Services offered by the Enterprise. In fact, however, the supposed attorney or law firm involved was not actually providing Mortgage Relief and/or Foreclosure Rescue Services for the client.

9. Often, no attorney from the Enterprise ever even shows up for the scheduled trial or other hearings related to the clients’ foreclose proceeding; in other instances, the homeowner/consumer was instructed to file “pro se” pleadings with the court, which had been drafted by non-lawyers working for the Enterprise. When consumers discover that the HOME DEFENSE Enterprise has not contacted their lenders or appeared at scheduled hearings on their behalf, many find themselves in default and some have lost their properties through foreclosure.

10. The Attorney General brings this action to halt the HOME DEFENSE Enterprise’s unlawful acts and practices, to hold THE DEFENDANTS accountable, and to provide redress for the injuries to consumers that the Enterprise has caused. More specifically, the Plaintiff brings this action under: (1) the Florida Deceptive and Unfair Trade Practices Act, Chapter 501, Part II, Florida Statutes (hereinafter referred to as “FDUTPA”); (2) Sections 1054 and 1055 of the Consumer Financial Protection Act of 2010 (“CFPA”), 12 U.S.C. §§ 5564, and 5565; (3) Section 626 of the Omnibus Appropriations Act, 2009 (as amended by Section 1097 of the CFPA), 12 U.S.C. § 5538, and its implementing regulation (the MARS Rule or Regulation O); and (4) the Florida Civil Theft statute, Section 812.014(1), Fla. Stat.

The Defendants

JOSEPH JAMES BILOTTI, JR.,
25. Defendant JOSEPH JAMES BILOTTI, JR. (“BILOTTI”) is an adult, natural person and a non-attorney. BILOTTI is the most senior manager of the HOME DEFENSE Enterprise, which he operates from offices located at 4755 Technology Way, Suites 101-102, Boca Raton, Florida 33431. Defendant BILOTTI has been, and is presently, registered with the Florida Department of State, Division of Corporations (“FDOC”), as an officer, director, owner and/or manager of numerous entities that are affiliated with the HOME DEFENSE Enterprise, including, but not limited to Defendants STAYHOME INC., SOUTHEAST BILLING, INC., ZOHAR BILLINGS INC, and TAX RESCUE FIRM INC.

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26. Among other things, BILOTTI controls and/or has the ability to control the HOME DEFENSE Enterprise; participates in the hiring and firing of Enterprise employees; and he has been a signatory on numerous bank accounts utilized by the HOME DEFENSE Enterprise to receive and disburse illicit proceeds from the homeowner/consumers. BILOTTI, directly and indirectly, manages and oversees the daily operations of the Enterprise, and has often communicated with Enterprise affiliates, including co-defendants HESS and CONSIGLIO, using the email address firstjet1@aol.com.

LAURA LYNN HESS
27. Defendant LAURA LYNN HESS (“HESS”) is an adult, natural person who, in or about January 2009, was disbarred by order of the Florida Supreme Court from practicing law in the State of Florida in connection with her role in a massive debt reduction scheme. See Florida Bar v. Laura L. Hess, Case Nos. SC08-252, 509, and 1785 (January 15, 2009); and Office of Atty. Gen. v. Laura L. Hess, et al., Case No. 08-007686 (Fla. 17th Cir. Ct. Feb. 21, 2008). Notwithstanding her disbarment, HESS supervises the employees at the HOME DEFENSE Enterprise’s offices located at 4755 Technology Way, Suites 101-102, Boca Raton, Florida.

28. Defendant HESS has actively controlled and/or has had the ability to control the HOME DEFENSE Enterprise, including but not limited to, managing the employees of the Enterprise and the attorneys within the Enterprise’s unlawful referral network.1

29. Among other things, Defendant HESS drafted and/or reviewed various court pleadings that were being prepared and filed on behalf of Enterprise clients by other non-lawyers employed by the Enterprise. She also often held herself out to Enterprise clients as being a licensed attorney. To conceal her disbarment and unlicensed practice of law, HESS often communicated with Enterprise clients using only her first or middle name (i.e., “Laura” or “Lynn”), or by using another Enterprise employee name, rather than disclosing her own last or full legal name. Upon information and belief, HESS often communicated with Enterprise employees, clients, affiliates and other third parties using the addresses lynn@billbergerlaw.com or laura@bbergerlaw.com, or legal@homedefenselaw.com, or laura@jfortganglaw.com.

RALPH CONSIGLIO
30. Defendant RALPH CONSIGLIO (“CONSIGLIO”) is an adult, natural person and a non-attorney, who managed and supervised the Enterprise’s telemarketing activities, primarily through Defendant SOUTHEAST BILLING. CONSIGLIO often communicated with Enterprise employees, clients and affiliates using the email address rconsiglio@homedefenseteam.com. CONSIGLIO controlled several accounts used by the Enterprise to receive and disburse unlawful, up-front fees charged to the homeowner/consumers, and he also participated in assigning these “law clients” to various non-lawyers (“processors) working at the HOME DEFENSE Enterprise. CONSIGLIO was also an officer, director and/or manager of several other entities that operated from the Enterprise’s offices located at 4755 Technology Way, Suites 101-102, Boca Raton, Florida; CONSIGLIO is also the president and Registered Agent for Relief Defendant RJC HOLDINGS, INC.

GARY ROBILLARD
31. Defendant GARY ROBILLARD (“ROBILLARD”) is an adult, natural person who has been licensed to practice law in Florida since on or about August 25, 2012. Defendant ROBILLAR essentially replaced BERGER as the “front man” for the HOME DEFENSE Enterprise in about September 2013. At that time, Defendant ROBILLARD registered with the FDOC as the director/owner of Defendant HOME DEFENSE LAW FIRM, P.A. (“HDLF”). Defendant ROBILLARD was also registered as the sole officer (President) and Registered Agent of Defendant HOME DEFENSE TEAM P.A. (“HDT”) from about October 2013 to about September 2015.

32. Defendant ROBILLARD operated HDLF and HDT from the Enterprises’ offices located at 4755 Technology Way, Suite 101, Boca Raton, Florida. Defendant ROBILLARD also maintained a website at www.HomeDefenseLaw.com and www.HomeDefenseTeam.com, through which the Enterprise marketed its Mortgage Relief and/or Foreclosure Rescue Services. Defendant ROBILLARD also maintained several bank accounts that were used to receive unlawful “up-front fees” from homeowner/consumers, which were then funneled to other Enterprise accounts that controlled by (non-lawyers) BILOTTI, HESS and/or CONSIGLIO.

RAHIM JAMAL WEST
33. Defendant RAHIM JAMAL WEST (“WEST”) is an adult, natural person who has been licensed to practice law in Florida since on or about March 23, 2010. Defendant WEST joined the Enterprise in or about May 2014, when he filed articles with the FDOC to incorporate Defendant NATIONWIDE FORECLOSURE DEFENSE, P.A. (“NATIONWIDE”), located at 4755 Technology Way, Suite 101, Boca Raton, Florida. Defendant WEST was registered with the FDOC as the initial officer (president) and director of NATIONWIDE, and remained as its president until on or about August 18, 2014, when he was replaced by Defendant HEALY.

34. Among other things, Defendant WEST participated in recruiting clients for the HOME DEFENSE Enterprise and maintained a website at www.NationwideForeclosureDefense.com through which the Enterprise marketed its mortgage assistance relief and/or foreclosure-related rescue services. Defendant WEST, directly and indirectly, funneled Enterprise clients’ monies through law office accounts he controlled to other accounts that were being controlled by (non-lawyers) BILOTTI, HESS and/or CONSIGLIO.

TIMOTHY J. HEALY
35. Defendant TIMOTHY J. HEALY (“HEALY”) is an adult, natural person who upon information and belief graduated law school in 1973 and became licensed to practice law in Florida in September 2004. Defendant HEALY joined the HOME DEFENSE Enterprise in or about August 2014, when he replaced Defendant WEST as the president of Defendant NATIONWIDE FORECLOSURE DEFENSE, P.A. (“NATIONWIDE”). On or about February 27, 2015, Defendant HEALY incorporated The Healy Law Firm, P.A., as a Florida for profit corporation, listing the Enterprise’s offices (4755 Technology Way, Boca Raton, Florida) as the law firm’s principal and mailing address. Upon information and belief, Defendant HEALY resides in Maitland, Florida.

36. Defendant HEALY participates in recruiting clients for the HOME DEFENSE Enterprise by maintaining a website at www.NationwideForeclosureDefense.com through which the Enterprise has marketed its Mortgage Relief and/or Foreclosure Rescue Services. Defendant HEALY also assists the Enterprise in collecting unlawful “up-front” fees from consumers for these purported services, and in funneling those proceeds to other Enterprise accounts controlled by (non-lawyers) BILOTTI, HESS and CONSIGLIO.

STAYHOME INC.
37. Defendant STAYHOME INC. (“STAYHOME”) is a voluntarily dissolved Florida, for-profit corporation that was formed by BILOTTI on or about June 1, 2011. Defendant BILOTTI was the president and registered agent for Defendant STAYHOME, until filing articles to voluntarily dissolve the company on April 30, 2013. During at least 2012 and 2013, BILOTTI and another (non-lawyer) co-conspirator routinely used STAYHOME’s bank accounts to collect unlawful, “up-front” fees for Mortgage Relief and/or Foreclosure Rescue Services from homeowners who were “clients” of the Enterprise. Thereafter, BILOTTI and his co-conspirators used these illicit proceeds to fund the Enterprise’s continued operations and to unjustly enrich themselves by, among other things, funneling the proceeds through numerous affiliates, including several of the Relief Defendants named herein.

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WILLIAM BERGER & ASSOCIATES PA
38. Defendant WILLIAM BERGER & ASSOCIATES PA (“WBA”) is an administratively dissolved, Florida for-profit corporation that was formed on or October 29, 2012. WBA was part of the HOME DEFENSE Enterprise, and operated from the Enterprise’s offices located at 4755 Technology Way, Suite 101, Boca Raton, Florida. WBA was formed shortly after several bar investigations were initiated against BERGER in the Fall 2012. At that time, THE DEFENDANTS caused WBA to open several bank accounts (including an operating account and an attorney trust account), giving the appearance that BERGER was operating a normal law practice.

39. THE DEFENDANTS continued to use WBA as a means to offer Mortgage Relief and/or Foreclosure Rescue Services to struggling homeowner/consumers until at least in or about July 2013, when BERGER filed his Petition for Revocation of his bar license in Florida. During that period, THE DEFENDANTS used WBA’s bank accounts to collect unlawful, “up-front” fees from the homeowners, and to funnel those proceeds to other Enterprise accounts controlled by (non-lawyers) BILOTTI, HESS and CONSIGLIO.

HOME DEFENSE LAW FIRM, P.A.
40. Defendant HOME DEFENSE LAW FIRM, P.A. (“HDLF”) is an administratively dissolved Florida for-profit corporation that was formed on or about August 5, 2013. HDLF was part of the HOME DEFENSE Enterprise, and operated from the Enterprise’s offices located at 4755 Technology Way, Suite 101, Boca Raton, Florida. Defendant ROBILLARD was registered with the FDOC as the director of Defendant HDLF (and president) from in or about September 2013 until it was administratively dissolved on September 25, 2015. Defendant HDLF offered and sold Mortgage Relief and/or Foreclosure Rescue Services to homeowners/consumers in Florida and elsewhere.

HOME DEFENSE TEAM P.A.
41. Defendant HOME DEFENSE TEAM P.A. (“HDT”) is an administratively dissolved Florida for-profit corporation that was formed by Defendant ROBILLARD on or about October 22, 2013. HDT was part of the HOME DEFENSE Enterprise, and operated from the Enterprise’s offices located at 4755 Technology Way, Suite 101, Boca Raton, Florida. Defendant ROBILLARD was registered with the FDOC as the sole officer (president) and registered agent of Defendant HDT until it was administratively dissolved on or about September 25, 2015. Defendant HDT offered and sold Mortgage Relief and/or Foreclosure Rescue Services to homeowners/consumers in Florida and elsewhere.

NATIONWIDE FORECLOSURE DEFENSE, P.A.
42. Defendant NATIONWIDE FORECLOSURE DEFENSE, P.A. (“NATIONWIDE”) is an active Florida for-profit corporation that was formed by Defendant WEST on or about May 5, 2014. NATIONWIDE is part of the HOME DEFENSE Enterprise, and operates from the Enterprise’s offices located at 4755 Technology Way, Suite 101, Boca Raton, Florida. Defendant HEALY has been registered with the FDOC as the president of Defendant NATIONWIDE since on or about August 25, 2014. NATIONWIDE purportedly provides Mortgage Relief and/or Foreclosure Rescue Services to homeowners/consumers in Florida and elsewhere.

SOUTHEAST BILLING, INC.
43. Defendant SOUTHEAST BILLING, INC., d/b/a Home Defense Team (“SOUTHEAST BILLING”), is an active Florida for-profit corporation, formed by Defendant BILOTTI on or about March 17, 2009. SOUTHEAST BILLING is part of the HOME DEFENSE Enterprise, and listed the Enterprise’s address (4755 Technology Way, Suite 101-102, Boca Raton, Florida) as its principal and mailing address in filings with the FDOC.

44. Defendants BILOTTI and CONSIGLIO served together as officers and/or directors of SOUTHEAST BILLING from its inception until on or about December 14, 2015, when CONSIGLIO resigned as an officer (but thereafter continued to receive distributions as an owner). SOUTHEAST BILLING has operated the telemarketing side of the HOME DEFENSE Enterprise from separate offices within South Florida, including an office located at 5301 N. Federal Hwy, Suite 275, Boca Raton, Florida. SOUTHEAST BILLING has been used by the HOME DEFENSE Enterprise to collect and distribute unlawful, up-front fees for Mortgage Relief and/or Foreclosure Rescue Services from homeowner/consumers in Florida and elsewhere.

ZOHAR BILLINGS INC
45. Defendant ZOHAR BILLINGS INC (“ZOHAR BILLINGS”), is a voluntarily dissolved Florida, for-profit corporation formed by Defendant BILOTTI on or about May 13, 2010. ZOHAR BILLINGS was part of the HOME DEFENSE Enterprise and operated from the Enterprise offices located at 4755 Technology Way, Suite 102, Boca Raton, Florida. Defendants BILOTTI and CONSIGLIO served as the only officers and/or directors of Defendant ZOHAR BILLINGS from its inception in 2010, until it was voluntarily dissolved on or about March 17, 2014. Defendant ZOHAR BILLINGS was used by the Enterprise to collect unlawful, up-front fees for Mortgage Relief and/or Foreclosure Rescue Services from homeowner/consumers in Florida and elsewhere, and to disburse those illicit proceeds, directly and indirectly, to THE DEFENDANTS.

TAX RESCUE FIRM INC.
46. Defendant TAX RESCUE FIRM INC. (“TAX RESCUE”) is a voluntarily dissolved Florida, for-profit corporation formed by Defendant BILOTTI on or about June 18, 2010. TAX RESCUE was part of the HOME DEFENSE Enterprise and operated from the Enterprise offices located at 4755 Technology Way, Suite 102, Boca Raton, Florida. Defendant BILOTTI was the only officer of TAX RESCUE from its inception until it was voluntarily dissolved on or about February 18, 2015. Defendant TAX RESCUE was used by the Enterprise to collect unlawful, up-front fees for Mortgage Relief and/or Foreclosure Rescue Services from homeowner/consumers in Florida and elsewhere, and to disburse those illicit proceeds, directly and indirectly, to THE DEFENDANTS.

Read the Full Suit

The full 47 pages of the lawsuit can be found here.


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