New Jersey Division of Consumer Affairs Takes Action Against Seven
Illegal "Mortgage Loan Modification" Providers and Seek
Restitution for Consumers
NEWARK – Continuing the State's on-going efforts to thwart fraudulent "mortgage loan modification" enterprises, Attorney General Paula T. Dow and the State Division of Consumer Affairs filed administrative actions against seven businesses for illegally offering mortgage modification services to homeowners in dire financial straits. State law requires that anyone providing these services in New Jersey be licensed as a Debt Adjuster by the Department of Banking and Insurance, or be otherwise authorized.
The Division of Consumer Affairs filed Notices of Violation against the illegitimate businesses, which offered mortgage loan modification services even though they were not licensed to do so in New Jersey. The State is seeking $35,000 in civil penalties and $49,434 in consumer restitution from the companies. The amounts sought in consumer restitution represent the fees paid by approximately 10 consumers for mortgage loan modification services.
The Notices of Violation also provide that the companies, cited for violating the state's Consumer Fraud Act and Debt Adjustment and Credit Counseling Act, must cease and desist from offering debt adjustment services. The companies have the option of contesting the Notice of Violation and requesting a hearing.
"We do not want homeowners who are already struggling to make mortgage payments victimized by unlicensed persons offering services that they cannot lawfully provide," Attorney General Dow said. "Unlicensed companies most often make a difficult situation worse for homeowners, and we will continue to go after these firms."
Thomas R. Calcagni, Director of the State Division of Consumer Affairs, said that the violations were filed as part of the Division's ongoing initiative to crack down on mortgage modification businesses operating outside the law.
"Since the Division began this initiative earlier this year, we have taken action against 18 unlawful mortgage modification outfits," said Calcagni. "So long as illegal mortgage modification businesses continue to ignore our laws and take advantage of financially-strapped New Jersey homeowners, we will continue to hold those businesses and their principals accountable. Our aggressive enforcement of these illegal enterprises continues."
Calcagni noted that the Division of Consumer Affairs created its Financial Fraud Unit, within its newly reorganized Office of Consumer Protection, specifically to focus on mortgage-related frauds that prey on the hopes and fears of homeowners struggling amid financial hardship, and desperate to keep their homes. In March 2011, the Financial Fraud Unit filed Notices of Violation against 11 fraudulent mortgage loan modification providers, seeking a total of $126,000 in consumer restitution and $55,000 in civil penalties (see the March 9 press release, www.NJConsumerAffairs.gov/press/ncpw_mortgage.htm ).
In the past year, the Division has recovered more than $2.2 million in actual restitution dollars for desperate New Jersey homeowners who had been victimized by predatory mortgage practices and mortgage-related scams.
The seven companies served with a Notice of Violation are:
predatory mortgage practices and mortgage-related scams.
Dunwell Financial Services, LLC Jersey City
Home Mitigation Group Matawan
Loss Mitigation Consultant Services Paulsboro
Rose MM, LLC Newark
Save Americas Mortgages Corp. Fort Lee
TWI Corp. Winter Garden, Fla.
Continental Associates, Ltd. Commack, N.Y.
A mortgage loan modification involves changing the terms of an existing loan – for example, by lowering the monthly payments, adjusting the interest rate, extending the length of the loan, or in some cases decreasing the unpaid balance.
The only types of business that can engage in mortgage loan modification services in New Jersey are:
Nonprofit organizations licensed as Debt Adjusters by the State Department of Banking and Insurance;
The lender or owner of the loan;
The mortgage servicer acting on the lender or owner's behalf; or
An attorney, provided he or she is not primarily engaged in debt adjustment.
To help consumers learn about more about avoiding mortgage-related scams, and how to obtain genuine assistance, the Division of Consumer Affairs has written a consumer brief that can be viewed at www.NJConsumerAffairs.gov/brief/mortgage.pdf .
Investigator Kevin Noland, of the Mortgage/Financial Fraud Unit within the Division's Office of Consumer Protection conducted the investigations of these companies. Deputy Attorney General Lorraine K. Rak, Chief of the Consumer Fraud Prosecution Section, provided legal counsel.
Consumers who believe they have been cheated or scammed by a business, or suspect any other form of consumer abuse, can file a complaint with the State Division of Consumer Affairs by visiting its website, www.NJConsumerAffairs.gov, or by calling 1-800-242-5846 (toll free within New Jersey) or 973-504-6200.