Industry News, Mortgage, Story

Florida targets mortgage rescue firms

Obama's voice allegedly used to recruit victims

Florida officials are suing four related companies that were allegedly collecting up to $1 million a month in up-front fees for loan modification services that they failed to deliver, soliciting consumers through the Internet and automated phone calls using President Barack Obama’s voice.

FHA All Day.Com, the company’s owner, Jason Vitulano, and three other affiliated companies are accused of failing to perform services promised to homeowners facing foreclosure, after the Florida Attorney General’s office received more than 300 complaints.

The companies allegedly charged up to $5,000 for loan modification services, claiming to have an attorney on staff even though investigators found no evidence that attorneys were working on any files, Attorney General Bill McCollum said in a press release.

The Miami Herald reported that one recorded call the companies allegedly used to solicit business began with a man saying, "Message from our president," followed by a recording of Obama saying: "All across this state, there are families who have done everything right, but are now facing foreclosure or are seeing their home values plummet."

The attorney general is seeking a permanent injunction prohibiting FHA All Day.com, Safety Financial Services Inc., Housing Assistance Law Center, and Housing Assistance Now from charging up-front fees.

The lawsuit also seeks restitution on behalf of all victimized consumers, civil penalties of $15,000 for each violation of the Foreclosure Fraud Prevention Act, and reimbursement for fees and costs related to the investigation.

The Herald reported that when it tried to reach Vitulano Tuesday, nobody answered the phone at his business and his home telephone number had been disconnected.

The company’s Web site, www.FHAALLDAY.com, informs visitors that the company is "no longer accepting any new applications."

The Federal Trade Commission last week announced a coordinated national effort to crack down on mortgage rescue scams, taking action with 23 state attorneys general against 178 companies accused of deceptively marketing foreclosure rescue and loan modification services.

California Attorney General Jerry Brown announced five lawsuits against 21 individuals and 14 companies as part of "Operation Loan Lies" (see story).

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