Wasden bars mortgage rescue business from Idaho

Chris Rizo Mar. 31, 2008, 7:17am


BOISE -- Idaho Attorney General Lawrence Wasden is the latest state attorney general to bar from his state a Florida company that claimed to be able to rescue struggling homebuyers from foreclosure.

Mortgage Assistance Solutions LLC has agreed to cease advertising or engaging in any transaction involving an Idaho consumer or property in Idaho, the attorney general's office said.

Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan in September sued the company and its operator, Michael Thomas Stoller, an attorney in Beverly Hills, Calif., as did Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott a month later, and North Carolina Attorney General Roy Cooper in February.

Florida Attorney General Bill McCollum, meanwhile, is investigating the Dunedin, Fla.-based company for deceptive advertising, according to his office.

On its Web site, Mortgage Assistance Solutions promises homebuyers who have fallen behind on their mortgage with "innovative and creative ways to assist each unique situation."

In Idaho, residents complained about direct-mail advertisements that the company sent to their homes. The advertisements said in bold red letters: "FORECLOSURE COMPLAINT NOTICE."

The ads also told residents that their homes were "scheduled to be sold at auction." To avoid foreclosure, consumers were instructed to call Mortgage Assistance Solutions.

For $1,200 the company said it could discuss options with homebuyers who have fallen behind on their mortgage payments, including negotiating with the homebuyers' lenders to reduce their monthly mortgage payments or save their homes from foreclosure, the attorney general's office said.

Residents who received the company's mailers and complained to the attorney general's office said their homes were not in foreclosure.

"Taking advantage of consumers' fear of losing their homes is an unconscionable business practice," Wasden said in a statement.

Homebuyers facing possible foreclosure should contact a HUD-approved counseling agency to obtain free information on avoiding foreclosure, he said.

Under a settlement agreement, if Mortgage Assistance Solutions is found doing business in Idaho, it is subject to a $10,000 civil penalty. The company did not admit any liability under the settlement agreement reached last week.

The company reimbursed the Idaho attorney general $1,700 in attorney fees and costs.

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