Atlanta-based online mortgage lender Amerisave Mortgage Corp. and its affiliate, Novo Appraisal Management Co., have agreed to refund $14.8 million to consumers and pay a $4.5 million penalty to settle allegations by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau that the companies employed a “bait-and-switch” mortgage scheme that lured consumers in with misleading interest rates, locked them in with costly upfront fees, and overcharged them for affiliated third-party services.

Amerisave allegedly charged $400 or more in upfront fees, marking up the cost of credit reports by as much as 350 percent, and referred “virtually all” of its customers’ appraisal orders to Novo without disclosing that the company was an Amerisave affiliate, in violation of the Real Estate Settlement Procedures Act (RESPA).

Amerisave’s owner and CEO, Patrick Markert, allegedly received more than $3 million in indirect profit distributions as a result of requiring consumers to use “appraisal validation” reports that Novo purhcased for $20 and charged consumers $100 for.

In addition to the $19.3 million in refunds and penalties to be paid by Amerisave and Novo, Markert agreed to pay an additional $1.5 million penalty as an individual. Source: consumerfinance.org.

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