A Kannapolis, North Carolina foreclosure rescue operation is barred from collecting any money from consumers for foreclosure assistance or loan modifications, Attorney General Roy Cooper announced Friday.[As you read this remember that US Consumer Solutions and The Lamb Group are tied together. Look for the bolded section below.]
“Scammers entice struggling homeowners with false promises of lower mortgage payments, then do little or nothing to help them,” Cooper said. “We’ve made it illegal to take money upfront for foreclosure or loan modification help, and we’re cracking down on violators.”
On Wednesday, Wake County Superior Court Judge Donald Stephens agreed with Cooper’s request to temporarily bar Geoffrey Lamb of Cabarrus County from offering foreclosure and loan modification services. The Attorney General filed suit last week against Lamb, who did business as The Lamb Group and US Consumer Solutions. Cooper is seeking to shut down Lamb’s foreclosure rescue business permanently and win consumer refunds and civil penalties.
As alleged in the complaint, Lamb stated on his website that his firm was a “non-profit foreclosure relief organization” with a “success rate of 97%.” However, Lamb charged homeowners an up-front fee of as much as $1,500, told them not to contact their mortgage lenders, and then did little or nothing to help save their homes.
Under North Carolina law, it’s illegal to charge an advance fee for foreclosure assistance or loan modifications.
Cooper contends that Lamb promised a full refund if a consumer’s lender did not offer to rework their loan. The complaint alleges that Lamb failed to get loans modified but still refused to give consumers their money back.
Affidavits from consumers filed with the complaint illustrate how Lamb operated:
A 73-year-old cancer survivor and his wife struggled to make mortgage payments on their Forsyth County home. The Lamb Group assured the homeowner that it could cut his monthly payments by $300 in exchange for an up-front payment of more than $1,200. After waiting months with no results, the homeowner asked for his money back. So far, The Lamb Group has refused. A few days after requesting a refund, the homeowner got an email from Lamb’s other firm, US Consumer Solutions, offering to modify his mortgage for $495.
A Caswell County woman couldn’t make ends meet on her monthly workers’ compensation check. Her mortgage lender turned down her request for a loan modification, so she searched the Internet for help and found The Lamb Group. A company representative told her that The Lamb Group had “200 procedures” to get lenders to modify loans and she agreed to pay $800 for the firm’s services. The Lamb Group did not negotiate a lower mortgage payment for the homeowner. The Lamb Group refused to offer the homeowner a refund and instead convinced her to sell her home. The home ended up in foreclosure, and the homeowner was forced to file for bankruptcy.
An Iredell County man agreed to pay US Consumer Solutions/The Lamb Group $500 after the company promised to lower his mortgage payment, his interest rate and his loan principal. The company told him not to contact his lender and to stop making his mortgage payments. After three months with no results, the homeowner contacted his lender and learned that US Consumer Solutions/The Lamb Group had never contacted the lender about modifying his loan. The homeowner has since worked directly with his lender to negotiate lower mortgage payments, without any help from Lamb’s companies.
A total of six consumers have filed complaints about Lamb with the Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Division. Nine consumers complained to the Better Business Bureau of the Southern Piedmont, which assisted in the investigation.
The case against Lamb is part of a national crackdown on foreclosure rescue and loan modification scams brought by 26 federal and state agencies. Also included in the 118 case sweep was another case brought by Cooper last week against Campbell Law Firm and Rudolph C. Campbell of Florida. That case is pending in Wake County Superior Court.
In 2005, Cooper helped win the state law that makes it illegal to charge an upfront fee for foreclosure assistance. The lawsuit filed against Lamb is the eleventh brought by Cooper’s office to enforce the law since January of 2008. So far, those cases have resulted in judgments worth close to $1 million against scammers and more than $100,000 in refunds for consumers.
“Never, ever pay money upfront to anyone who claims they’ll help you with foreclosure,” Cooper said. “Real help is available for free from qualified non-profit counselors.”