WILMINGTON, Del. (Legal Newsline) - Delaware Attorney General Beau Biden filed a lawsuit on Wednesday against a California-based company alleging it illegally collected upfront fees from Delaware consumers through a mortgage rescue and loan assistance scam.

Consumer Relief Program Inc., doing business as Consumer Advocacy Assistance, and the company's owner, Marinus Pieter Van Sweeden, allegedly violated Delaware's Mortgage Loan Modification Services Act, Deceptive Trade Practices Act and Consumer Fraud Act by collecting upfront fees from struggling homeowners with a promise to negotiate lower mortgage payments with the homeowners' lenders. Five Delaware homeowners allegedly paid Consumer Relief Program more than $8,000, but none of the homeowners received the promised services.

"Mortgage rescue scammers target vulnerable homeowners, taking thousands of dollars from struggling families who ultimately receive no meaningful services, lose valuable time, and are instead left at greater risk of foreclosure," Biden said. "We are protecting Delaware homeowners from these deceptive and harmful schemes. Our Office of Foreclosure Prevention, Delaware's certified housing counselors, and other agencies provide free foreclosure and mortgage modification help to homeowners - Delawareans should never pay a dime to anyone for assistance in seeking a loan modification or other services."

Mortgage modification businesses must register with Biden's Consumer Protection Unit under Delaware law. The businesses are prohibited from soliciting, collecting or attempting to collect and fees or other compensation before an offer for a modification of the loan terms is received by the lender or servicer. Consumer Relief Program allegedly failed to register as a loan modification services provider.

Biden's lawsuit seeks restitution for the homeowners, a court order requiring the company to halt its allegedly illegal activities and the payment of civil penalties. The lawsuit was part of a nationwide effort by 17 states, the Federal Trade Commission and the Consumer Financial Protection to bring down scam operations that target struggling homeowners.

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