Benjamin R. Horton is banned from the debt relief business under a settlement with the Federal Trade Commission for his role in a mortgage relief scheme that falsely promised financially distressed homeowners foreclosure prevention and more affordable mortgage payments.
According to the FTC, the operation typically charged consumers $3,900 in unlawful advance fees and touted a 98-100 percent success rate. The defendants, typically operating as Preferred Law PLLC, Consumer Defense LLC, or American Home Loans, allegedly used doctored government logos, falsely suggesting they were affiliated with or endorsed by the federal government’s Making Home Affordable loan modification program.
The defendants claimed to have special relationships with particular lenders and unlawfully told consumers not to make mortgage payments to, or communicate with, their lenders. Many people incurred substantial interest charges and other penalties for paying the defendants instead of their lenders, and some lost their homes to foreclosure.
In addition to banning Horton from the debt relief business, the settlement order prohibits him from misrepresenting financial or any other products and services, and from making unsubstantiated claims about any financial product or service. It also bars him from profiting from consumers’ personal information collected as part of the challenged practices.
The order imposes a judgment of more than $15.5 million that will be suspended due to Horton’s inability to pay. The full judgment will become due immediately if he is found to have misrepresented his financial condition.
Litigation continues against the remaining defendants.
Other names you might recognize that were part of the original FTC complain included Consumer Defense, Consumer Link, American Home Loan Counselors, American Home Loans, Consumer Defense Group, Modification Review Board, Brown Legal, AM Property Management, FMG Partners, and Zinly.