The State Bar of California has filed disciplinary charges against a Garden Grove attorney accused of taking illegal advanced fees from distressed homeowners and partnering with non-lawyers in a large-scale loan modification scheme.
Stephen Lyster Siringoringo [Bar # 264161] has been charged with 25 counts of misconduct including collecting advance fees for loan modification services, forming a partnership with a non-lawyer, sharing fees with a non-lawyer, moral turpitude and aiding in the unauthorized practice of law.
Siringoringo is said to have willfully violated Rules of Professional Conduct, rule 1-310, by forming a partnership with a person who is not a lawyer where at least one of the activities of that partnership consisted of the practice of law, as follows:
In or about December 2009, Respondent met with Alfred Clausen and Josh Cobb, the owners and operators of Clausen & Cobb Management, Inc. (collectively “CCMI”) to discuss the services that CCMI offered to attorneys.
Prior to meeting with Alfred Clausen and Josh Cobb, Siringoringo was aware that Alfred Clausen and Josh Cobb had in the past formed partnerships with other attorneys who agreed and authorized Alfred Clausen and Josh Cobb to operate and manage their law office in violation of the Rules of Professional Conduct and California law.
In or about December 2009, after their meeting, Siringoringo and CCMI entered into an agreement regarding loan modification services (” Loan Modification Partnership” ). Under the Loan Modification Partnership, CCMI agreed to open a new location for Siringoringo’s law office on 9th Street in Upland, California (” Upland Office” ), staff the location with CCMI employees who, independently and without supervision by Siringoringo, would personally meet with clients in the Upland Office to sell Siringoringo’s loan modification services, pay all expenses associated with the operation of the Upland Office, including but not limited to payroll, utilities and rent and pay for advertising that would promote the loan modification services offered by Siringoringo’s law office. In exchange, under the Loan Modification Partnership, Siringoringo would pay over to CCMI a specified percentage of the legal fee revenues generated through the Upland Office with CCMI.
Thereafter, as the number of clients retained through the Loan Modification Partnership grew, Siringoringo and CCMI agreed to open additional locations in the City of Rancho Cucamonga, California (“Rancho Cucamonga Office”) to perform processing of loan modification applications and another location in the City of Glendale, California (“Glendale Office”) which operated in the same manner as the Upland Office. Both the Rancho Cucamonga Office and the Glendale Office were managed and operated by CCMI, under the same or similar terms as used in the Loan Modification Partnership for the Upland Office.
By entering into an agreement with CCMI to provide new and additional office locations, by entering into an agreement with CCMI to provide staffing for each office to meet with clients independently and without supervision by Siringoringo, by entering into an agreement with CCMI where CCMI would pay for all expenses associated with each office location and by entering into an agreement with CCMI where CCMI would pay for advertising that would promote the loan modification services offered by Siringoringo’s law office, all in exchange for Siringoringo’s agreement to pay over to CCMI a specified percentage of the legal fee revenues generated from Siringoringo’s law office locations opened by CCMI, Siringoringo formed a partnership with a non-attorney in willful violation of Rules of Professional Conduct, rule 1-310. – Source
Siringoringo heavily advertised his services in southern California, even though the state Legislature has prohibited the acceptance of advance fees for loan modification work.
“Mr. Siringoringo’s acceptance of advanced fees in disregard of California law is a stark reminder that almost three years after the passage of SB 94, loan modification abuses and fraud are alive and well and that some of the most financially distressed and vulnerable members of the public are still being victimized and exploited for financial gain,” said Ashod Mooradian, deputy trial counsel at the State Bar.
According to the notice of disciplinary charges against him, Siringoringo, 31, first met his non-lawyer partners Alfred Clausen and Josh Cobb, the owners and operators of Clausen & Cobb Management, Inc. (CCMI), in December 2009.
Filed Oct. 10, the disciplinary notice lists at least 23 victims of the loan modification scam, some of them couples. It also accuses Siringoringo of “habitually” disregarding his loan modification practice and misleading his clients into believing he was actually in charge of their cases “when in truth and fact CCMI was in charge and operated the loan modification law practice known as Siringoringo Law Office or the Law Offices of Stephen L. Siringoringo.” The State Bar has placed a consumer alert on his online attorney profile page.
Siringoringo’s case represents the latest in the State Bar’s ongoing efforts to combat loan modification fraud. Since February 2009, the State Bar’s Office of Chief Trial Counsel has received thousands of complaints against attorneys regarding loan modification fraud. More than 100 attorneys have been disciplined so far, including 22 who have been disbarred.