Attorney General Pam Bondi today filed a court action to stop a group of non-lawyers operating an illegitimate foreclosure defense and loan modification law firm. Adam Forman, Joseph Hilton, aka Joseph Starr, Victor Spagnuolo and others, all of whom are not lawyers, operate the Asset Protection Law Firm, Heritage Law Group, Liberty Law Group, Consumer Legal Resources, Consumer Legal Advocates, Legal Referral Services, Galler Lehman Law and Selective Housing Solutions. According to the filing, the defendants, through these law firms, unlawfully deceived homeowners into paying hefty up-front and monthly fees for legal services not supervised or approved by licensed attorneys.
“Florida homeowners facing the stress of foreclosure should not have to worry about scammers posing as lawyers and making false promises of relief to get what little money the homeowners may have. Thanks to the great work and dedication of my Consumer Protection Division, we will continue to fight foreclosure rescue fraud and protect homeowners,” said Attorney General Bondi.
The Attorney General’s Office filed the action in cooperation with the Coral Springs Police Department, Boca Raton Police Department, the Broward County State Attorney’s Office and the United States Secret Service, which are separately investigating possible criminal charges for the unlicensed practice of law.
The Attorney General’s Office received 37 complaints from consumers about the defendants’ deceptive and unfair practices, including allegations that the defendants made misleading representations regarding the law firms’ expert legal services, charged unlawful up-front fees prior to the services being completed, failed to protect the consumers’ homes from foreclosure and failed to obtain loan modifications as promised.
The complaint states, “This case involves a network of non-lawyers who pose as lawyers and law firms providing legal foreclosure defense and loan modification services, for the purpose of deceiving desperate homeowners into paying the fake lawyers instead of their mortgages. Using a web of fictitious entity names, these non-lawyers have created one fake law firm after another, leaving behind a string of victims who have lost or are about to lose their homes as a result of the Defendants’ actions.
The non-lawyers have also jeopardized the future careers of several licensed attorneys who were unknowingly and unwittingly utilized as the “front men” for the fake law firms. The homeowner clients believed these licensed attorneys were representing them when, in fact, the attorneys had absolutely no idea the clients even existed.”
The complaint seeks an injunction barring the defendants from engaging in future loan modification, foreclosure defense and legal services, and also seeks full restitution for consumers harmed by the defendants’ activities.
To view the complaint, click here.
Homeowners can follow these tips to safeguard against deceptive and unfair trade practices in the mortgage and foreclosure process:
Never pay any up-front fees and avoid any high-pressure sales tactics. Fees may only be collected after services are completed;
Try talking to lenders or a lawyer before contracting with any third-party company for rescue or modification services; and
Call the Florida Attorney General’s fraud hotline at 1(866) 9-NO-SCAM or file a complaint online at MyFloridaLegal.com, if a homeowner believes to be taken advantage of by a disreputable company.
The complaint named Adam Forman, Joseph Hilton, Joseph Starr, Joseph Yurkin, Victor Spagnulo, Wendy Hart, Wendy Anne hart, Wendy Hart Reid, Barbara Rudolph, Wayne Lucus, Asset Protection Law Firm, The Asset Protection Law Group, Consumer Legal Resources of Florida, Fresh Start Legal Referral Service, New Horizons Cust Funding, Consumer Legal Advocates, Heritage Law Group, Heritage Law Processing, Legal Referral Services of FL, Legal Referral Services of Florida, Liberty Law Group, Galler Lehman Law, Tanis Galler Law, Business Administration Growth, Heritage Title Agency, DHS Investments, Liberty Legal, Selective Housing Solutions, Selective Mortgage Corporation