PROVIDENCE, R.I. (Legal Newsline) - Rhode Island Attorney General Peter Kilmartin announced Thursday that his office shut down two mortgage modification consultants and secured $5,500 in restitution for three consumers.
"These unscrupulous individuals prey on homeowners who are in jeopardy of losing their homes and desperate to do anything to save it from falling into foreclosure. It is despicable for anyone to take advantage of these hard-working homeowners," he said in a statement.
After receiving numerous consumer complaints last year, Kilmartin's office conducted an investigation into two individuals who claimed to represent mortgage modification and foreclosure servicers Mortgage Modification Center, IMOD Corporation and Latin Service International.
The investigation discovered that David Conti and Lucy Ruiz were advertising and soliciting consumers in violation of several laws, including the Deceptive Trade Practices Act and the Mortgage Foreclosure Consultant Regulation Act.
Kilmartin's office said that since at least April 2009, Conti and Ruiz advertised, marketed and sold purported mortgage loan modification and foreclosure rescue services, with a focus on targeting the Hispanic community.
Conti and Ruiz engaged in a scheme to swindle distressed homeowners by enticing them with promises of negotiating loan modifications with lenders and saying they could secure lower, fixed interest rates, principal reductions and lower monthly payments, according to the Attorney General's Office.
Kilmartin said Conti and Ruiz also required homeowners to pay a fee, ranging from $1,000 to $3,000, in advance of providing services.
After not performing the services for which they were contracted, Conti and Ruiz then refused to refund the homeowners' money, the attorney general said.
According to the settlement agreement with the Attorney General's Office, Conti and Ruiz were enjoined from doing business as mortgage foreclosure consultants and agreed to cease and desist from doing business as mortgage modification specialists.
Conti and Ruiz also agreed to pay restitution to the three consumers who initiated the complaints and investigation.
"Rhode Islanders should never pay upfront fees for help avoiding foreclosure," Kilmartin said, noting that under the Mortgage Foreclosure Consultant Registration Act, it is illegal for companies to charge any fees for foreclosure assistance until they receive all the services for which they paid.
"There are legitimate, free services available for homeowners that don't require thousands of dollars in charges and fees," he said.
The Attorney General's Office said it continues to investigate Conti and Ruiz's professional relationship and the companies they claimed to represent.
From Legal Newsline: Reach Jessica Karmasek by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.