Cordray sues Calif. law firm

Nick Rees Feb. 3, 2010, 4:34pm

COLUMBUS, Ohio (Legal Newsline) - Ohio Attorney General Richard Cordray has named a California law firm in a lawsuit that alleges the firm swindled Ohio homeowners facing foreclosure out of thousands of dollars.

United Law Group Inc. founded by California attorney Sean Alan Rutledge, is alleged to have promised foreclosure rescue and legal services that would save homes. The firm allegedly collected upfront fees and then failed to deliver on its promises. At least one consumer was forced into a foreclosure as a result, Cordray said.

ULG's attorneys are not licensed to practice law in Ohio and never filed court documents or provided legal representation on behalf of their clients, Cordray said.

In Cordray's lawsuit, filed in Franklin County Common Pleas Court, he alleges that ULG solicited Ohioans over the phone using high-pressure sales tactics to get consumers to agree to foreclosure rescue services.

After getting consumers to agree to ULG's services, consumers signed a Special Power of Attorney and Attorney-Client Fee Contract for representation on mortgages, loan modifications and foreclosures, Cordray said.

ULG then allegedly asked for access to consumers' bank accounts to secure payment of the $1,500 to $4,000 upfront fee, withdrawing the money from the accounts without regard to scheduled payment dates.

The lawsuit also alleges that ULG would often cut off all contact with consumers after debiting the final fees.

"The egregious practices of this group are nothing less than predatory. This lawsuit demonstrates the scary sophistication of some rescue scam operations," Cordray said.

"They can be savvy, with highly educated employees and target individuals who are in a very vulnerable position. The practices are absolutely unconscionable and unfortunately illustrate the need for Ohioans to be vigilant and do their homework. I strongly suggest deep research into any company requiring an upfront fee."

The State Bar Court of California ruled in November that Rutledge would be involuntarily enrolled as an inactive member of the State Bar of California for his conduct, which the court found to pose "a substantial threat of harm to his clients or the public."

Cordray also filed a separate lawsuit against the California-based Guardian Services Group for promising foreclosure rescue services to Ohioans and accepting upfront fees but failing to deliver. The company is accused of charging consumers thousands of dollars and refusing to provide refunds for services that were not provided.

In both cases, Cordray is seeking a permanent injunction, restitution to consumers and civil penalties of $25,000 for each violation of Ohio's Consumer Sales Practices Act.

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