This article was written back in August of 2011. Since that time Kristin Crone, Esq. of UFAN has taken a number of steps to address issues I was critical of and worried about. Personally I have found her to be a person of action that does try to help people. I think you will find the UFAN of today to have evolved long past the moment when I wrote the review. If you think they might be able to help you, my advice is to give them a chance.
More people are reaching out to me about a company called UFAN or United Foreclosure Attorney Network. I first covered this in my story Lloyd Ward & Associates – UFAN – New Player in Deceptive Form 1012-R Mailer.
I thought that story fairly well covered the issue but today a reader sent me in an email exchange with an attached document from a representative of ufanlaw.com and it frankly made my blood boil. Yep, it pissed me off. You’ll see why.
On the surface the UFAN movement looks a lot like that of Kramer & Kramer who had a number of different websites and marketers all over-representing the benefits of joining a mass joinder, mass litigation or tort litigation lawsuit against their mortgage companies. Just one issue with that approach. A couple of weeks ago the office of Kramer and another attorney selling this stuff were raided by California law enforcement.
For a website of a major movement that consumers are enticed to pay $5,000 or more to work with, the site is lacking some critical information.
While the website says “Welcome to THEUFAN.com, The fastest growing network of knowledge!” apparently they don’t even know their own address. – Source
For a network of proud consumer advocates they sure make it hard to tell who is part of the “network” of attorneys.
Not only are they secretive which attorneys are part of this network, their online directory doesn’t work. I even plugged in the information of the attorney that filed a suit under the UFAN Legal Group name and nobody came up. I’ll have to assume the directory function works as well as the address function.
But after a bunch of digging I did find this page on the site,
Apparently the network of attorneys consists of Kristin Crone, Terry Thomas, and Chad T.W. Pratt. Lloyd Ward, who I documented before as doing mailers under the UFAN name is not found.
The UFAN site describes them as:
United Foreclosure Attorney Network (UFAN) is full service law firm and attorney network focused on the practice of helping distressed homeowners and consumers who are overly burdened with debt. The recent recession has left thousands with lowered income and unmanageable debt. To add insult to injury, this unfortunate financial situation opened the door to predatory practices of those purporting to help distressed consumers.
UFAN assists both consumers and those making real efforts to help consumers in this crisis. Outside of its function as a law firm, UFAN has developed a resource for other attorneys and professionals trying to make a difference.
UFAN covers multiple areas of debt related law including mortgage lending, bankruptcy, and taxation. UFAN’s strives to be a firm where the focus would is on personal relationships and not merely on profits.
The attorneys within the UFAN network focus their practice on representing clients against the deceptive and unsavory practices of big banks, misleading mortgage lenders, mortgage servicers, and trustee companies. The attorneys are further able to assist with tax debts and other debt issues related to change of circumstance.
UFAN’s core belief is that there is no substitute for personal service and uncompromised integrity. – Source
But the website says something else of interest as well.
UFAN- Untied Foreclosure Attorney Network. This website constitutes attorney advertisement. [Kudos to them for mentioning that.] The information on this website and all information accessed through the UFAN website are for general information purposes only. Nothing on this website or accessed through this website should be taken as legal advice. Prior litigation successes are no guarantee of future results. The outcome of litigation and transactions can never be assured. This website is not intended to create, and receipt or viewing of this website does not constitute, an attorney-client relationship. Certain UFAN lawyers are “of counsel” to UFAN and may represent certain clients independent of UFAN. Except to avoid conflicts, UFAN does not monitor or supervise these independent practices and is not responsible for the performance of its “of counsel” lawyers when they are rendering services independent of UFAN.
So if you happen upon a UFAN lawyer that sells you into a lawsuit against your lender and collects, say, $5,000 from you, then UFAN is or is not responsible for the actions of the attorney?
According to public records ufanlaw.com is owned by:
United Foreclosure Attorney Network, PC
1490 Stone Point Dr.
Roseville, California 95661
It was registered on April 26, 2011, but only for one year. Some claim this minimum registration is a sign they may not plan to stick around.
In contrast, the domain name used by the attorney that filed the suit against lenders is theufan.com and is owned by:
1490 Stone Point Dr Ste 100
Roseville, California 95661
The domain was registered on March 9, 2009 for a period of three years.
What’s interesting is that theufan.com was originally registered by:
1410 rocky ridge
Roseville, California 95661
Domain Name: THEUFAN.COM
Hintz, Brandon firstname.lastname@example.org
410 rocky ridge
Roseville, California 95661
He is also the administrative contact for ufanlaw.com under the email of email@example.com.
rmsimple.com is owned by Hintz and it appears to be a relationship management software company.
Now none of that would typically seem relevant but then there is this document at rms.rmsimple.com/ufan/files/UFAN%20Representative%20Instruction%20Letter.pdf which certainly makes it appear that there is a closer relationship between Hintz and UFAN.
The document appears to be an agreement between independent representatives that will market UFAN services and UFAN.
The letter says:
To assist you, UFAN Legal Group has produced approved materials which may be used to inform clients about UFAN services including a website specifically for UFAN (www.UFANLaw.com); a PowerPoint presentation; frequently asked questions (FAQ) and interviews with attorney Kristin Crone as well as other of Counsel litigation attorneys. You are specifically prohibited from using outside materials that have not been approved by UFAN Legal Group in your interactions with potential clients. – Source
This “must be approved” statement will become important later in this article.
And here is the closed loop on the Hintz-UFAN relationship.
UFAN Legal Group uses RM Simple, a customer relations management program as the primary management tool for potential clients seeking to retain UFAN for services. RM Simple is a robust and detailed tool which allows us to observe and manage each stage of the new client intake process. Although you may wish to use your own proprietary CRM to manage your internal marketing activities; you will be required to enter certain client information in RM Simple early in the client intake process.
The document says it is from Kristin Crone, attorney. Crone is also the attorney of record on the lawsuit filed by UFAN on August 17, 2011.
I did manage to locate another company that lists the same address as UFAN. – Source. Zoograbadvantage says it is located at the same office space as UFAN and take a guess who owns the domain zoograbadvantage.com. If you guessed Brandon Hintz then you deserve a pat on the back.
To make things even more interesting, a peek at the other domains hosted on the server that is managed by Hintz and/or RM Simple found k2lawnorth.com.
This site is owned by Kramer & Kaslow and managed by Brandon Hintz. Kramer & Kaslow is one of the law firms raided and seized by the Attorney General of California for mass litigation marketing.
Kristan Crone, Esq.
Kristan Crone is an attorney in California who is licensed to practice. The California Bar lists the following information.
Current Status: Active
This member is active and may practice law in California.
The following information is from the official records of The State Bar of California.
Bar Number: 269679
UFAN Legal Group, PC
1490 Stone Point Dr Ste 100
Roseville, CA 95661
Phone Number: (916) 794-0944
Fax Number: (916) 669-9698
Baylor Univ; Waco TX
Indiana Univ Bloomington SOL; IN
District: District 1
Effective Date Status Change
6/1/2010 Admitted to The State Bar of California
She lists her practice area as bankruptcy. – Source
Kristan Crone is the lead attorney on the mass joinder case filed by UFAN Legal Group. You can read the case copy that was sent to the consumer as an attachment, here.
According to Crone’s public profile, two years ago she was the student administrator of the Indiana Legal Services Low Income Taxpayer Clinic. – Source
UFAN Legal Group, PC
According to State of California records, UFAN Legal Group, P.C. is a recently registered california professional corporation.
Entity Name: UFAN LEGAL GROUP, P.C.
Entity Number: C3352621
Date Filed: 02/22/2011
Entity Address: 1801 TRIBUTE RD
Entity City, State, Zip: SACRAMENTO CA 95815
Agent for Service of Process: KRISTIN CRONE
Agent Address: 980 9TH ST 16TH FL
Agent City, State, Zip: SACRAMENTO CA 95814
You’ll notice that’s a much different address than they give now, when they give it.
Let’s Finally Get to the Point That Pissed Me Off
Gary Kovner, a Senior Intake Analyst with ufanlaw.com sent the consumer a document that appears to be a sales qualification document. It says on the cover, “The answers to the following questionnaire will help your UFAN Representative better determine your eligibility as a plaintiff in one of our Multi-Party Lender lawsuits.”
So keep in mind, this is a document that is sent to a consumer by a representative of UFAN Law Group and there is a page actually titled, “Mental Assessment of the Prospect.” The Prospect! Are you kidding me? And this document was carefully approved by UFAN lawyers?
So clearly the consumer in need of legal help is a prospect. Sounds like a sales effort to me when people are labeled prospects. And that pissed me off.
While debt relief companies may recognize consumers as sales, there is no need to label the consumer as a prospect to their face.
I did notice that the same document makes some interesting statements:
Based on the information provided in this questionnaire and any other relevant information conveyed to the attorney during your consultation, you will be advised regarding the best possible legal action for you.
So does that mean they would refer the consumer to a different attorney or different service that is “best” for the consumers?
Settlement before a ruling on the merits:
Most cases settle before trial. It is possible the banks do not want to risk a ruling that their contracts with homeowners were null and void. If so, it is possible that they will settle with us in order to avoid a judgment on the merits.
Are they saying to the average consumer that most cases will settle before a trial? But what track record does UFAN have of actually settling these cases before a trial? I’m going with none.
It also appears that the UFAN document makes some similar promises that were part of the actions against other attorneys.
The document says:
We are here to fight for the following client goals:
- Keep clients in the home throughout the litigation.
- We will fight for a settlement tailored to each client’s needs.
- Adjustment of loan principal amount to reflect market value of property.
- Reduced interest rate to reflect current market rates.
- Get lender/bank to waive deficiency lawsuit after short sale.
- Clean the credit of the client via settlement agreement.
While they have softened the claims made they certainly sound similar to the claims the Attorney General of California targeted in their suit against other attorneys.
You can read the entire UFAN Case Eligibility Questionnaire, here.
My Take On All of This
My impression from what I’ve seen is that it appears Kristin Crone is a new attorney that got mixed up with some marketers who have encouraged her to get involved in the mass joinder movement and lay her license on the line.
It appears the UFAN operation is designed like other similar efforts where the marketers are probably contracted by the firm to deliver services to the “prospects” they sell into the suit, with the attorney approval. After all, the UFAN representative agreement does say that representatives of UFAN, “…should provide an invoice to UFAN Legal Group each Wednesday morning, before 12pm MST, detailing the contract services performed during the preceding week.”
So based on that I would urge any consumer who is considering participation with this or any other mass suit against their lender to do the smart and logical thing, get a second opinion first.
It’s just wise and prudent for people to spend a couple of hundred dollars to meet with a local real estate attorney licensed in their state and get a second opinion about participating in this action before they invest thousands.
Krista, a commenter, provided a link to the UFAN retainer agreement
After a quick glance I noticed that it says to make payment to United Foreclosure Attorney Network, PC but there is no California corporation by that name.