Brown sues over mortgage foreclosure scam
Jerry Brown (D)
LOS ANGELES (Legal Newsline) - Two thousand California homeowners were allegedly conned by a foreclosure consultant and an attorney who are now being sued by the state's attorney general.
Paul Noe, Jr., and his company, United First, and lawyer Mitchell Roth allegedly convinced homeowners to pay exorbitant fees for "phony lawsuits" that would forestall foreclosure proceedings. The lawsuits were filed and then abandoned.
The homeowners were charged $1,800 in upfront fees and $1,200 per month as well as contingency fees of up to 80 percent of the value of their homes.
In cases that were settled, homeowners were required to pay 50 percent of the cash value of the settlement. In cases where homeowner's debt was completely eliminated, the homeowner would pay United First 80 percent of the value of the home.
"Noe and Roth ripped off homeowners desperate for help by charging unconscionable fees for phony lawsuits," Attorney General Jerry Brown said Monday. "Instead of aggressively pursuing the lawsuits, Noe and Roth strung them along so they could continue to rake in fees."
Noe has previously been convicted of wire fraud in 1989 and in 2004 was the subject of a California Department of Insurance Cease and Desist Order. The State Bar closed Roth's law firm shortly before he resigned from the California State Bar in late May.
Noe has promised homeowners since mid-2008 that he could help them lower or eliminate mortgage debt if they were facing default or foreclosure. Over 2,000 homeowners signed "joint venture" agreements with Noe's company, United First, and Roth was hired to file suits that claimed the borrower's loan was invalid because the owner of the mortgages could not be demonstrated, owing to the mortgages being sold many times on Wall Street.
Roth, after filing the lawsuits, did not advance the cases, in many cases failing to make required court filings, respond to legal motions, comply with court deadlines or appear at court hearings. Roth's firm did, however, attempt to extend the lawsuits for as long as possible so as to collect additional monthly fees.
The attorney general's lawsuit contends that Noe, Roth and United First violated California's credit counseling and foreclosure consultant laws, inserted unconscionable terms in contracts, engaged in improper running and capping and violated the California Business and Professions Code.
The attorney general is seeking $2 million in civil penalties, full restitution for victims and a permanent injunction to keep the defendants and United First from offering foreclosure consultant services.