NEWARK, N.J. (Legal Newsline) - New Jersey Attorney General Paula Dow announced on Thursday that a Camden County businessman has been found to have committed multiple violations of the state's Consumer Fraud Act for misleading homeowners in foreclosure.

Samuel Goodwin III allegedly misled homeowners into believing that they needed his help to obtain surplus funds that they were legally entitled to. Surplus funds are monies the remain after a foreclosure sale takes plan and all mortgage, tax and other legal obligations are paid.

The State Division of Consumer Affairs filed its lawsuit in August 2007. At that time, homeowners in foreclosure could claim surplus funds by filing a simple form available from the Superior Court Trust Fund Unit and after paying fees totaling less than $100.

Since then, the process for obtaining surplus funds has changed. The current process provides for a motion for release of surplus funds to be filed by the party named in the judgment of foreclosure with the Office of Foreclosure.

Goodwin allegedly charged homeowners as much as 65 percent of the total surplus funds remaining after the completion of the foreclosure process.

The state filed a motion for summary judgment in June 2010, which was granted in part by the court. The court found that Goodwin violated the Consumer Fraud Act by misrepresenting to consumers that surplus funds could be lost to the state.

In March, the state renewed its motion for summary judgment.

"Goodwin took advantage of homeowners going through foreclosure, and attempted to enrich himself, by misleading consumers in order to charge outrageous fees," Dow said. "We remain vigilant, and are ready to take action, against anyone who attempts to take advantage of homeowners facing foreclosure."

In the court's final judgment and order, the state's renewed motion for summary judgment was granted. The court found that Goodwin had engaged in unconscionable commercial practices in violation of the Consumer Fraud Act by imposing fees ranging from $5,300 to $56,540 for applying for surplus funds on behalf of consumers.

Goodwin is permanently enjoined from advertising or otherwise soliciting consumers to submit surplus fund applications and from retaining an attorney to file surplus fund applications on behalf of consumers. In addition, Goodwin is permanently enjoined from receiving any monetary payment derived from any application for release of surplus funds.

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