Zoeller targets foreclosure consultants for ripping off local homeowners | News
Two foreclosure consultant companies face state lawsuits after taking more than $2,600 from local homeowners and not providing services or refunds. One of the cases involves Spencer County residents.
Nevada-based Blue Chip Group, Inc. and California-based Certified Legal Processing and Legal Preparation Services were illegally operating in Indiana when each company entered into contracts with homeowners.
“The tough economy paired with already struggling homeowners has meant big business for scammers who aim to prey on their victims’ desperation to stay in their homes,” Zoeller said. “Too good to be true offers backed by phony guaranteed refunds can leave homeowners in worse financial shape including the loss of their homes. Our office continues to investigate and prosecute those who take advantage of Hoosiers and send the message that these types of illegitimate businesses are not welcome in our state.”
Blue Chip Group and its owner William Damiter contracted with two residents – from Lake County and Spencer County – and charged up-front fees for foreclosure consultant services ranging from $495 to $730. Zoeller filed the lawsuit today at the Lake County courthouse.
Certified Processing and Legal Preparation Services and its owner Shaun Lambert are accused of collecting $1,400 in up-front fees from a Porter County resident for similar services.
Both defendants are accused of taking the money and not rendering the promised services or providing refunds. The companies did not obtain certificates of authority from the Secretary of State’s Office to conduct business in Indiana and did not register $25,000 surety bonds with the Attorney General’s Office. These bonds are required before services can be performed, including collecting money up front.
According to the lawsuits, both businesses violated the Credit Services Organization Act, the Mortgage Rescue Protection Act, the Home Loan Practices Act and Indiana’s Deceptive Consumer Sales Act. Zoeller is seeking injunctions against the companies, restitution for the victims, civil penalties and attorneys' fees.
Zoeller noted that distressed homeowners at risk of foreclosure need not pay a large fee to a for-profit company, when advice on avoiding foreclosure is available for free from the Indiana Foreclosure Prevention Network at 1.877.GET.HOPE. Hoosiers who believe they have been a victim of a foreclosure consultant scam can file a complaint with the Attorney General's Consumer Protection Division at www.indianaconsumer.com or by calling 1.866.382.5516.
To help struggling homeowners and renters, $28.8 million was made available to support the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP). The money stems from the National Mortgage Settlement Zoeller entered into with the nation’s five largest banks over their foreclosure and mortgage servicing practices. The Indiana Legislature directed the new monies to the program to assist distressed renters and homeowners pay heating bills to avoid disconnection. Zoeller said this heating assistance could help borrowers continue to make their home loan payments and stay in their homes. The program is operated by local community action agencies with outreach offices in every county. For a list of agencies visit www.in.gov/ihcda/files/CAPS.pdf.