A man accused of scamming Minnesotans out of their homes has agreed to return the properties or pay restitution.

Minnesota Attorney General Mike Hatch on Monday announced the court settlement with James Hoffman, who had been accused of predatory financing schemes against 65 homeowners in the Twin Cities and surrounding areas, the Star Tribune reported.

Hatch had accused Hoffman and his firms, Home Funding Corp. and Homeland Financial Corp., of “equity skimming” or “equity stripping” in violation of state consumer protection laws. The tactic often targets people who have substantial equity in homes that are in foreclosure.

Hatch said Hoffman and his companies promised homeowners they would help them refinance their mortgages to save their homes. Some people, however, lost their homes and didn’t realize it until months later, Hatch said.

The settlement was reached midway through the trial against Hoffman and his companies. It calls for the defendants to return homes to seven former owners. A dozen other homes have been deeded back to the former owners since the suit was filed in 2003, according to news reports.

More than 40 more homeowners will receive restitution for money they lost in the alleged scheme. Hatch said exact figures hadn’t been worked out, but that the payments could average $50,000 per homeowner, according to the Star Tribune.

Hoffman and the firms are permanently barred from doing business in Minnesota that involves dealing with residential properties in foreclosure or subject to delinquency payments.

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Send tips or a Letter to the Editor to samantha@inman.com or call (510) 658-9252, ext. 140.

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