Bryan Cohen Dec. 18, 2013, 7:21pm

BALTIMORE (Legal Newsline) - Maryland Attorney General Douglas Gansler announced a $231,216 settlement Tuesday with a mortgage assistance relief company and its principals to resolve allegations of Consumer Protection Act violations.

Direct Financial Association Inc., doing business as Direct Financial Services, Cecilia Anh Minh Nguyen, the company's owner, and Michael Barnett, Nguyen's husband, allegedly violated the Maryland Consumer Protection Act by exaggerating their ability to provide loan modification and foreclosure prevention services to consumers in financial trouble.

"Direct Financial Services and its owners preyed upon and gave false hope to vulnerable consumers who were trying to save their homes," Gansler said. "I'm very pleased that these consumers will be reimbursed the hundreds or even thousands of dollars that was improperly collected from them."

Direct Financial Services allegedly collected illegal advance fees, exaggerated its size and number of employees, created fictitious names and titles for its agents, misrepresented its connections with mortgage services and lenders, failed to disclose a prior order against Barnett entered by the California real estate commissioner and falsely touted its success in helping consumers facing foreclosure.

Under the terms of the settlement, the defendants will pay at least $231,216 to refund 44 Maryland victims in addition to consumers from other states and will comply with state law going forward if they offer the same services in the future.

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