9 year fraud battle has a happy ending.

Over the years I’ve written a lot about real estate fraud. Real estate fraud had only just come to our region in a big way back in 2005/2005 and Realtors® were trying to grapple with this new issue. Problem was, nobody else thought it was an issue. Banks didn’t care, law enforcement wasn’t interested, our DA, the Dept. of Real Estate, FBI – you name it, nobody cared.

And over the years I’ve written a lot about the Stonewood Case – a house kiting scheme with some investment undertones. By the time the law finally got on the case, the perp’s were indicted for $143 MILLION dollars. Yeah, not exactly chump change. It really jump started our foreclosure market back in 2006-2007 as these places started to dump back onto the market in ever increasing numbers.

It’s been a 9 year effort led by local Realtors®, some tenacious reporters, our board attorney and a bunch of victims who weren’t afraid to stand up.

Yesterday the last two perp’s were found guilty. Hendrix Montecastro and his mother Helen Padrino. There were 9 people indicted, the others were so guilty they all plead guilty. These two decided to test it in court and act as their own counsel. Yeah, that worked well. So instead of the few or tens of years their cohorts were dealt, Padrino is up for 30+ and Hendrix is down for 100.

All I can say is, he looks a lot better in his orange jumpsuit than he did in the 3 piece Armani’s he used to sport when he’d come into the office to try to intimidate us. Sentencing comes in a couple weeks.

You can read some of the history and testimony here:

http://www.pe.com/business/business-headlines/20130325-fraud-trial-guilty-verdicts-in-multimillion-dollar-ponzi-case.ece


CA Attorney General files suit in massive 17 state mortgage fraud scheme.

CA State Attorney General Kamala Harris sued Philip Kramer, the Law Offices of Kramer & Kaslow, two other law firms, three other lawyers, and 14 other defendants who are accused of working together to defraud homeowners across the country through the deceptive marketing of “mass joinder” lawsuits. Prominent foreclosure attorneys Phillip Kramer and Mitchell Stein and at least 17 others have been accused of luring desperate homeowners into the scheme using deceptive advertising and telemarketing schemes aimed at millions of people in California and 16 other states.

The scheme claimed that courts have found that most mortgage lenders engaged in predatory lending practices or approved inappropriate loans (well, that part is certainly true), and that the homeowners bank was one of the guilty. As alleged in the lawsuit, defendants preyed on desperate homeowners facing foreclosure by selling them participation as plaintiffs in mass joinder lawsuits against mortgage lenders. Defendants deceptively led homeowners to believe that by joining these lawsuits, they would stop pending foreclosures, reduce their loan balances or interest rates, obtain money damages, and even receive title to their homes free and clear of their existing mortgage. Defendants charged homeowners retainer fees of up to $10,000 to join as plaintiffs to a mass joinder lawsuit against their lender or loan servicer.

It probably comes as no surprise that theses same ‘prominent foreclosure attorneys’ had previously been ‘prominent loan modification specialists’ but it is alleged that Kramer sent an email to another fellow defendant last year stating “Only morons would prefer to ‘sell’ mods from this day forward”.
Homeowners who have paid to be added to one of the lawsuits should contact the State Bar if they feel they may be victims of this scam. They can also contact a HUD-certified housing counselor for general mortgage related assistance. If you have sent money to any of the following seized entities, you should contact the CA Attorney Generals Office at http://oag.ca.gov/.

The Department of Justice has seized the practices of the following non-attorney defendants: Attorneys Processing Center, LLC; Data Management, LLC; Gary DiGirolamo; Bill Stephenson; Mitigation Professionals, LLC; Glen Reneau; Pate Marier & Associates, Inc.; James Pate; Ryan Marier; Home Retention Division; Michael Tapia; Lewis Marketing Corp.; Clarence Butt; and Thomas Phanco as well as seizing the practices and accounts of attorney defendants:The Law Offices of Kramer & Kaslow; Philip Kramer, Esq; Mitchell J. Stein & Associates; Mitchell Stein, Esq.; Christopher Van Son, Esq.; Mesa Law Group Corp.; and Paul Petersen, Esq.

Attorney General Harris is challenging the defendants’ alleged misconduct in marketing their mass joinder lawsuits; her office takes no position as to the legal merits of any claims asserted in the mass joinder lawsuits filed by defendants.

Victims in the following states are known to have received these mailers, or signed on to join the case. This is a preliminary list that may be updated:

Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Hawaii, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Missouri, Nevada, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Texas, Washington.

For more information please go to: http://oag.ca.gov/news/press_release?id=2552


Update: CA State Bar v. Michael T. Pines. SHARK ATTACK!

Last October I wrote about a local attorney by the name of Michael T. Pines who was making quite a name for himself in local real estate circles. (Another Real Estate Scam to beware of.) Counselor Pines was making the evening news by advising clients who had been foreclosed on and evicted to break back into their former homes under the theory that since the debt had been satisfied through foreclosure, they could now own their former home free and clear.

To say this hadn’t worked would be an understatement. Clients who actually followed his advice were summarily re-evicted if they were lucky and arrested if they were not. After all, the homes were now the property of the bank and in some cases had already been resold so charges of breaking and entering and other minor misdeeds were alleged.

Turns out Mr. Pines himself was in foreclosure on some homes he owned and lost his own law office building to foreclosure (he didn’t try to break into his own building). At that time a judge had also slapped him with a $16,000 fine for filing frivolous lawsuits and for wasting his time and not acting in the best interest of his clients.  He also had a couple restraining orders against him for civil harassment after a trial and had been cited for contempt at least once.

law

Today attorneys for the State Bar of California asked a judge to suspend the law license of Mr. Pines. According to the state bar, Pines behavior had become ‘so
egregious’ that it filed to have his license suspended on an interim basis while it seeks a permanent removal. Jeez, that’s like watching sharks attack another shark – gruesome yet exciting, and as rare in legal circles as it is in nature.

Chief Trial Counsel James Towery was quoted in a written statement as saying “To remove a lawyer from active practice before formal charges are filed is a drastic remedy. In this case, that remedy is justified by the established misconduct of Michael T. Pines, who has shown complete disrespect for the law, the courts and especially the best interest of his clients.” Duh.

Never to be outdone, Pines has filed his own lawsuit against the state bar. “I’m sure the charges are going to be thrown out,” says Pines. “They’re going to be really embarrassed when they find out the truth.”

Hmm, attorneys vs. attorney. I’m guessing the truth might be a rare commodity in this v enue. Of course that’s just my opinion, I could be wrong.

Meanwhile people who have already suffered through a legal foreclosure in Southern California will not have the opportunity to be further victimized by this predator – at least until he teaches the state bar a lesson and gets his dorsal fin back.

fin

gad blog ar eml fb swcahomes rltr
The opinions in this commentary are strictly Gene Wunderlich’s personal opinions. While any reasonable and/or rational indivdual should agree wholeheartedly, the opinons reflected herein may not necessarily be those of the Southwest Riverside County AOR, or any local or state government or other mental institution.

Murrieta men agree to prison in fraud case

The headline was exciting yesterday when news of our long-time resident scam artists started to trickle out. The authors of a $142 million dollar ponzi scheme & investment fraud have been in jail awaiting this moment for the past 1 1/2 years and now start to look forward to doing the rest of their time.

Long-time readers will be familiar with the Stonewood case, wherein these perpetrators enticed hundreds of people to invest in real estate. But not just invest – they were talked into buying homes for $100,000 or more over asking price with that overage going to the third party – Stonewood. People who could barely qualify for a car loan were talked into buying multiple properties, most i the $500,000 and over range, with the promise that the deficit between rental payments and the mortgage payment would come out of an investment fund seeded by that ‘overage amount’.

In some cases deficit payments were made for a month or so but quickly vanished as the perpetrators lived large, driving fancy cars, boats and living in multi-million dollar homes themselves. Ultimately over 200 homes went onto foreclosure, many starting in 2006 – well before the foreclosure crisis started. This wave of dead lawns jump-started our local foreclosure fiasco as the 200 homes were dumped onto the market along with dozens more from people who had bought in neighborhoods where the fraudulent purchases has driven up the comps.

Our local real estate association started noticing these transactions in late 2004 and by mid-2005 had compiled an extensive dossier on the scheme. At that time it involved about 60 homes and maybe $30 – $40 million dollars. We tried in vain to get local law enforcement, our District Attorney, our Dept. of Real Estate, the FBI – ANYBODY – to take an interest. To no avail.

Finally in late 2007 the SEC got involved not from the real estate side but from the investment fraud angle. This prompted the DRE to yank the brokers license from the principles but by then the damage had largely been done. Finally in 2008, the Justice Department, FBI and our DA got involved and brought the scanm to a screeching halt. Of course by then it had ballooned from 60 homes and $30 million to over 200 homes and $140+ million. Our DA was all puffed up taking credit for this great bust when, for years we had not even been able to get a meeting with him to discuss it. He was the first incumbent DA in our county to be voted out of office in over a century when voters rejected him this past November.

Two local reporters, Leslie Berkman of the Press Enterprise, and Chris Bagley or the Californian, were instrumental in keeping this in the public eye. Dozens of the victims banded together in a class action lawsuit. That helped. Our own Real estate Fraud Task Force was born out of this scandal and remains active and vigilant to this day.

So while many of the victims say a 18 year prison sentence is not nearly long enough for the ringleader, it’s at least a start. No punishment can ever rebuild the damage done to our community and no jury award will ever compensate for the retirement savings lost and the lives ruined by these people.

Maybe the lesson to be learned is – if the deal sounds too good to be true…

Of course as we all know, there’s a sucker born every minute and two grifters to fleece him out of his cash.

For the full story, please click below:

Murrieta Men Agree to Prison Time
Victims of Duncan’s Scheme Speak Out


Long overdue – Stonewood scam goes to trial

At long last the trial has begun for the perpetrators of the so-called Stonewood Scam in Southwest Riverside County. Long time readers are acquainted with the basics of this story from my years-long chronicle of events. Our local association tried to bring this to the attention of law enforcement beginning in late 2004 but were unsuccessful in catching anybody’s ear until the scam had nearly run its course and started to collapse under its own weight.

The real estate part of it consisted of representatives from Stonewood Financial buying homes at significant premiums over asking price. As this was at a time our housing market was appreciating 20% – 30% a year, the fact that someone would pay a 25% or 30% premium on a home purchase was not enough to warrant investigation by the authorities. Homes listed at $500,000 were routinely selling for $600,000 or more. Targeting specific neighborhoods, after the first two or three sales were obtained with fraudulent appraisals, it became a self-feeding scheme since subsequent appraisals were now based on actual sales, albeit fraudulent. Turns out many of the buyers were either made of straw, or people talked into buying multiple properties they couldn’t begin to afford. Naturally other buyers into those neighborhoods also became victims since selling prices became predicated on fraudulently inflated values. In addition to the 200+ documented cases, many more innocent victims lost their homes when prices tumbled by more than 2/3 in some cases.

How did they do it? Well, partially through affinity fraud – many of the buyers were either members of the same ethnicity as the perpetrators or were nurses at the same facility where one of the perpetrators worked. They were also promised that the properties could be rented, that any shortage between the rental income and the mortgage payment would be paid for them, and that the $100,000+ overage collected by Stonewood or a related entity, would be paid to an investment account with the promise of even greater dividends to come.

Naturally there was no investment account to produce income, after a month or two the promised rental offset payments dried up and houses started going into foreclosure by tens, then by hundreds. When we became aware that something smelled bad here, we documented about 60 homes and about $40 million dollars in potential scams. By the time authorities finally acted on it the result was over 200 homes with the perpetrators indicated for over $120 million dollars. Our local District Attorney did not see fit to take action until the SEC, FBI and US Attorneys Office had finally acted, then he stood up on the podium all puffed up taking the credit. I like to hope in some small way it was part of the reason he was soundly defeated in his recent re-election campaign by a relative unknown.

Anyway, in addition to our local real estate fraud task force, reporters Chris Bagley from the Californian and Leslie Berkman from the Press Enterprise payed significant roles in shining the spotlight on these nefarious activities and our own attorney John Giardinelli and an attorney for some of the plaintiffs Richard Ackerman were pivotal in keeping the focus on.

It took too damn long and cost too many people – not to mention the damage done to entire neighborhoods and our cities – but as they say – sometimes the wheels of justice grind slowly. Let’s hope in this case they also grind exceedingly fine.

You can read the whole story and related elements here.

Press Enterprise – Fraud Trail Begins

gad blog ar eml fb swcahomes rltr
The opinions in this commentary are strictly Gene Wunderlich’s personal opinions. While any reasonable and/or rational indivdual should agree wholeheartedly, the opinons reflected herein may not necessarily be those of the Southwest Riverside County AOR,  or any local or state government or other mental institution.

Another Real Estate Scam to beware of.

raspberry

Last week our local paper bestowed their ‘Raspberry’ award to a SoCal based attorney by the name of Michael T. Pines. Pines qualified for this award by virtue of the fact that his business model apparently involves advising clients who have been through foreclosure and been evicted from a home to break back into the home and set up residency. Of the four families he has recently convinced that his advice is sound, he has accompanied them to the house with attendant locksmith and whatever press he can scrounge up.

He garnered a couple headlines.

But most figured it for just what it appears to be – a scam based on the old ‘produce the original document’ scheme combined with his theory that since the bank has foreclosed and the underlying lien has been satisfied by the insurance company, the home has therefore been paid in full and the previous homeowner should be able
to reclaim it and occupy it. Yeah, I know. But he’s preying on unsophisticated and desperate people.

So a couple days ago a judge called him out for filing frivolous lawsuits and slapped him with a $16,000 judgment that he owes one of his clients for wasting their time and money. Today the 2nd family in Escondido who broke into their home to great fanfare a couple weeks ago, was unceremoniously dumped back out by the new owner of the house. According to Emiliano Bolanos, “The people that bought the house, they want to take it again.” DUH

Now here’s something that will surprise you – they haven’t been able to get in touch with Mr. Pines! Yeah, go figure. Mr. Bolanos said he talked to Pines last week and was promised some paper from a judge saying they could stay but the attorney never called back. Another Pines client up in Simi Valley was evicted on Tuesday and was told by the attorney he would be there along with some private security to stop the eviction. He never showed there either. Perhaps it was because Pines had been arrested for vandalism and trespassing a few days before trying the scheme yet again in Newport Beach. (WSJ 10/15/10)

Turns out, according to The Californian, Mr. Pines himself is in bankruptcy. He also has seven of his own properties in foreclosure and lost his own battles to keep his own home by litigating against his lender. Oddly enough, he apparently hasn’t broken back into his own homes – which include properties in Utah, Arkansas and his home and law building in CA. He also has two restraining orders against him in San Diego County for ‘civil harassment after a hearing’. Sounds like a fun guy.

Pines, who has had a law practice for over 30 years, switched to real estate law and investing in 2000. When the market headed south, and with his own personal business apparently tanking, Pines started doing seminars on strategic default, how to use Chapter 11 to your benefit and so forth. It is interesting to note that of the 70 or so cases he claims to represent, he hasn’t won one, including his own. Most real estate attorneys scoff at this sham practice and frown on yet another
‘professional’ victimizing people who have already been cracked once.

Funny thing is – nobody, including Mr. Pines, denies that his clients are deserving of foreclosure. There was no problem with the bank, they either bought way over their head, got caught in some other investment scheme that backfired, or simply ATM’s every nickel out of their home at peak value. Oh, Pines believes that the basic banking model is unsound and fraudulent – but doesn’t deny his clients were all waaaaay behind, several on homes worth a million or more.

Meanwhile, Mr. Bolanos, remember him?. The Bolanos family is now living with the Rochas family, another victim of Pines who referred Pines to Bolanos. Bolanos says “They haven’t called me yet. I’m waiting for their call.” Good luck on that Emiliano. If I were you and he actually does call, I probably wouldn’t take it. Way less trouble for you and your family – although you might get a friendly judge to force Pines to cough up a few more grand for your troubles.

Folks, I know you’re desperate out there but if the deal sounds too good to be true… if it sounds flaky and shaky and full of crap, go with your gut. Chances are you’ll thank yourself later. Unless you’re a professional victim and enjoy it, USE YOUR DAMN HEADS PEOPLE. After all, there’s a sucker born every minute and two grifters to fleece him.

Of course that’s just my opinion, I could be wrong .

gad blogar fb swcahomes rltr
The opinions in this commentary are strictly Gene Wunderlich’s personal opinions. While any reasonable and/or rational indivdual should agree wholeheartedly, the opinons reflected herein may not necessarily be those of the Southwest Riverside County AOR, or any local or state government or other mental institution.


A Raspberry to Michael T. Pines & Others

raspberry

The Californian today bestowed a raspberry entitled:

The “Uncommon Law’ award.

A raspberry to attorney Michael T. Pines, who has been advising his clients to break into their foreclosed homes.

Pines claims the actions are justified because lenders committed loan fraud and violated the Truth in Lending Act of 1968. A bankruptcy judge called his ideas frivolous and ordered him to pay $16,.430 in legal fees to the defendants in one case for wasting their time. Other local real estate lawyers are skeptical about his interpretation of the law.

While not every homeowner facing foreclosure is a victim, many are. They really don’t need one more expert giving them questionable advice that may further complicate their lives. They’ve gotten enough of that already.

To the Californian I say – AMEN. Folks, if it sounds too good to be true – you know the rest. And the same goes for those agents and attorneys advising their clients about short sale gimmicks through a series of trusts as well as those advising their clients they enable you to live in their homes indefinitely without paying. Our profession doesn’t need you, the market doesn’t need you and neither do people who have already been victimized once too often.


Shades of Stonewood – another scam artist goes down.

Sounds a lot like Stonewood. A member brought this to our attention a couple years back. The wheels of justice grind slowly but sometimes exceedingly fine. Thanks to Chris Plante for this update.

Irvine attorney indicted in mortgage fraud scheme

An Irvine attorney has been accused of profiting from a mortgage fraud scheme in which 15 mostly foreclosed homes in Orange County were purchased at inflated prices.

Gerald L. Wolfe, 41, a lawyer who was formerly a registered real estate broker, was indicted by a federal grand jury Wednesday on one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud.

Wolfe, who lives in Corona del Mar, and other unidentified co-conspirators fraudulently purchased 30 residential properties in Orange and Riverside counties between the summer of 2005 and January 2006, the indictment says.

The alleged conspirators would recruit “straw buyers” and use their names and credit profiles to purchase the properties, according to the indictment.

The loan applications for the properties’ mortgages were a sham because they contained fake personal information about straw buyers, misled lenders into believing that Wolfe or straw buyers would reside in those properties, and sought mortgages for inflated sale prices with agreements that sellers would return the inflated portion of the sale price to the conspirators, said U.S. Attorney’s Office spokesman Thom Mrozek said.

Most of the 30 homes involved in the scheme went into foreclosure, Assistant U.S. Attorney Shashi Kewalramani said. The scheme resulted in more than a $2 million loss to the banks, he added.

Wolfe has agreed to surrender to authorities and will appear in federal court on Tuesday. His lawyer, Thomas Bienert Jr., could not be reached for comment Thursday.

Two co-conspirators, Andrew and William Bohuslavizki, also have pleaded guilty conspiracy to commit wire fraud and will be sentenced in January, Kewalramani said.

The statutory maximum penalty for a conspiracy to commit wire fraud charge is 20 years in prison.

Read the full article in The Orange County Register


Attorney General Announces Charges Against Two Con Artists Who Took Money From Struggling East Bay Homeowners

FREMONT — Attorney General Edmund G. Brown Jr. announced charges today against two “callous con artists” who took thousands of dollars from dozens of struggling Northern California homeowners for foreclosure services never delivered.

“The housing crisis has been devastating for many Californians, and their pain has been sharpened by callous con artists like these,” Brown said. “Their arraignment today serves as a warning to people trying to save their homes from foreclosure that there are fraudulent operators out there who will take their money but do nothing to help.”

Angeline Lisa Lizarrago, 68, of Fremont and Michael Douglas Young, 67, of Los Gatos were scheduled to be arraigned today in Department 502 of the Hayward Hall of Justice on a 23 count complaint for felony fraud and theft they committed at their business, Avemos Financial Group, of Fremont.

If convicted, Lizarrago could face more than 15 years in prison. Young, a licensed real estate broker, faces up to 12 years.

The case was investigated and prosecuted jointly by the Attorney General and the Alameda County District Attorney.

From June 2008 to October 2009, Lizarrago and Young targeted Spanish-speaking homeowners as well as Southeast Asian immigrants, all desperate to save their homes.

People stood in line for hours to get into Avemos’s waiting room, which was decorated with shrines to the Virgin Mary. Clients seeking help typically paid $1,500 initially. Lizarrago, the owner of Avenos, and Young, Avemos’s general manager, promised they would take steps to stop banks from immediately foreclosing on their homes and renegotiate clients’ loans to reflect their homes’ current market value. Lizarrago and Young guaranteed a refund if they were unsuccessful. Many lost their homes in foreclosure and did not receive a refund.

Lizarrago also took advantage of the foreclosure crisis in another way. She told an 89-year-old man and his wife, who wanted to move away from Stockton, that she owned 51 properties, many of which had been foreclosed upon, and she could find them a home in Fremont. She asked for an up-front fee, which she promised to return with interest once the purchase was made. In a series of payments, the couple gave Lizarrago $25,000. She never found them a home, nor returned their money.

The criminal charges against Lizarrago and Young are based on 11 cases of fraud and theft, and prosecutors believe there are 50 more victims who haven’t been identified yet. Anyone with information about the Avemos Financial Group or the defendants should call the Alameda County District Attorney’s Office at 1-877-288-2882.

Lizarrago was moved to Alameda County jail from Chowchilla State Prison, where she was serving a two-year sentence for a prior real estate scam. Young was arrested September 30.

The California Department of Real Estate and the Fremont Police Department assisted in the investigation.

The Attorney General has fought to stop scammers and con artists from taking advantage of people during the housing crisis. He has sought court orders to shut down more than 30 fraudulent foreclosure-relief companies and has brought criminal charges and obtained lengthy prison sentences for dozens of other deceptive loan-modification consultants. For more information on the Attorney General’s action against loan-modification fraud visit: http://ag.ca.gov/loanmod


Brown Files $60 Million Lawsuit Against Fraudulent Forensic Audit Loan Modification Scam

SACRAMENTO — Attorney General Edmund G. Brown Jr. today filed a $60 million lawsuit against a pair of Sacramento companies that lured desperate homeowners with a deceptive marketing scheme that promised to obtain mortgage modifications through the use of computer-generated “forensic loan audits.”

“These defendants dangled the term ‘forensic loan audit’ as a sure-fire remedy for the mortgage problems of homeowners in distress,” Brown said. “In fact, it was no remedy at all, and hundreds of desperate California homeowners took the bait and lost their money — and sometimes their homes.”

Brown filed the $60 million lawsuit against US Loan Auditors, My US Legal Services, and five individuals, including two attorneys, who operate a fraudulent mortgage audit scheme that preys on desperate homeowners anxious to save their homes. The suit demands civil penalties, restitution for victims, and permanent injunctions to keep the companies and other defendants from fraudulently marketing forensic loan audits and legal services of little value.

The companies, based in Rancho Cordova, work together to market and sell “forensic loan audits” to homeowners, who pay thousands of dollars in up-front fees for a dubious computer-generated review of their mortgages. The audits purport to show violations of law by lenders, which sales agents cite to convince homeowners they have a strong legal case. Sales agents use these findings to encourage homeowners to stop making their mortgage payments and instead pay additional fees to bring “predatory lending” lawsuits against their lenders.

Both companies deceive homeowners by assuring them that filing these lawsuits will give them “legal leverage” to obtain a loan modification and prevent lenders from foreclosing or collecting monthly mortgage payments. Homeowners who filed these lawsuits have lost thousands of dollars and placed themselves in greater danger of losing their homes.

My US Legal Services bilks clients for months, filing cookie-cutter complaints with little or no merit, billing unjustified monthly fees, and then dodging clients’ phone calls or stringing them along with false assurances that a settlement is in progress.

Hundreds of California homeowners, many of them facing possible loss of their homes, have been duped into paying thousands of dollars to the two companies — one homeowner paid more than $55,000 — but received little or no relief.

Meanwhile, the litigation mill run by My US Legal Services has littered courts with hundreds of lawsuits that have scant chance of success. Two federal judges have expressed concern about the legitimacy of these lawsuits and have several times sanctioned attorneys involved.

In addition to the companies, Brown is suing the three owners: attorney and real estate broker James Sandison, Jeffrey Pulvino, and Shane Barker, as well as two California attorneys, Sharon L. Lapin and Jonathan G. Stein.

The State Bar filed disciplinary charges yesterday against Sandison for alleged misappropriation of clients’ funds and aiding the unauthorized practice of law.

The Attorney General’s investigation, assisted by the State Bar and the Department of Real Estate, located victims throughout California cities hit hard by the foreclosure crisis: Corning, Fresno, Hayward, Irvine, Manteca, Richmond, Sacramento, Salinas, Sanger, Santa Ana, Stockton, Tracy, Vacaville and West Sacramento.

In February, Brown, along with the Bar and the Department of Real Estate, issued an alert ( http://ag.ca.gov/newsalerts/release.php?id=1862&) warning consumers to be wary of forensic loan audits that require homeowners to pay up-front fees. There is no evidence or statistical data to support claims that forensic loan audits of a lenders’ mortgage practices – even if performed by a licensed mortgage professional or a lawyer — help homeowners obtain loan modifications or any other foreclosure relief.

Brown has led the fight against fraudulent mortgage rescue and loan modification companies. He has obtained court orders to shut down several companies and has brought criminal charges against deceptive loan modification consultants. For more information on Brown’s actions against loan-modification fraud, see: http://ag.ca.gov/loanmod.

If you are a homeowner who has been scammed, you can file a complaint online with the Attorney General’s office at: www.ag.ca.gov/consumers/general.php. You can learn more about avoiding scams and obtain a complaint form by visiting the Department of Real Estate’s website at: www.dre.ca.gov.

If you have a complaint against Sandison, Lapin, Stein or any other lawyer involved in a loan modification or foreclosure relief service, contact the State Bar Complaint Hotline at 1-800-843-9053. Complaint forms and an explanation of the attorney discipline system are available online at: www.calbar.ca.gov.

Attached are a copy of the complaint and a sample of the fraudulent advertising mailers sent by the companies.

# # #