Prevent Loan Scams
Newsroom

Press Releases

Lawyers' Committee's Fight Against Unscrupulous Loan Modification Scammers Continues

 

NEW YORKNY - The Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law (Lawyers’ Committee) and pro bono counsel Davis Polk & Wardwell (Davis Polk) have filed their fifth lawsuit in a year targeting for-profit loan modification companies in Nassau County, New York, and the second such suit this month.  The most recently filed case, Squassoni v. Blackwell, was filed in New York Supreme Court in Nassau County on March 20 on behalf of 26 homeowners from New York and eight other states against two pairs of for-profit loan modification companies—the “United Solutions” group comprised of United Legal Solutions, Inc. (also known as United Solutions Corporation) and United Solutions Law Firm LLC and the “Consumer First” group comprised of Consumer First Corporation and Consumer First Law Group LLC, which was also sometimes called “Blackwell’s Attorneys.”  On March 20, 2012, the court granted plaintiffs’ emergency application to freeze certain of the defendants’ assets pending a determination of plaintiffs’ motion to attach those assets to secure a future judgment.  The entities whose assets were restrained are Consumer First Law Group LLC, United Solutions Law Firm LLC, and Blackwell’s Attorneys LLC.

Plaintiffs allege that two so-called “law firms” run by Anthony J. Blackwell, an attorney not admitted to practice in the State of New York, falsely advertised “legal services” to vulnerable homeowners seeking help with much-needed mortgage modifications, extracting thousands of dollars in up-front payments from each homeowner. Once paid, the firms then consistently failed to deliver results and abruptly stopped answering the homeowners’ phone calls and e-mails.  The case seeks to recover money damages, including the illegal up-front fees paid by plaintiffs, and injunctive relief to put an end to the deceptive practices of the entities named as defendants and Mr. Blackwell.  The Lawyers’ Committee and Davis Polk are representing the plaintiffs free of charge.  (Click here to view the Complaint).

“This scam is particularly pernicious because it preys on the public’s trust in legal service providers,” said Jon Greenbaum, Lawyers’ Committee chief counsel and senior deputy director.  “This case really presents two scams in one—an unlicensed attorney advertising for-profit mortgage modification services as legal services, and a for-profit mortgage modification scam that can be devastating to homeowners—causing them not only to lose the fees they paid, but in the worst cases, causing defaults that lead to foreclosure as a direct result of the scam.”

The plaintiffs allege that the defendants’ scheme operated as follows:

  • In exchange for large up-front payments typically between $1,000 and $4,000, collected in violation ofNew York law, defendants promised to work directly with plaintiffs’ lenders to renegotiate their home mortgage loans and to secure lower monthly payments and interest rates, and, in some instances, avoid impending foreclosure.
  • Defendants lured plaintiffs first using a series of slick websites that either suggested an affiliation with the Obama Administration’s mortgage assistance programs or that portrayed the companies as “law firms” with long-standing Long Island roots and experienced attorneys; then by claiming over the telephone that plaintiffs were certain to receive mortgage modifications or they would get their money back. 
  • A few short months after starting their scam and collecting their fees, Defendants became nearly impossible to reach by telephone and e-mail, and abruptly closed their physical offices.  In most cases, defendants had performed little or no work on behalf of plaintiffs.

Squassoni v. Blackwell is the Lawyers’ Committee’s seventh loan modification scam case filed nationally as part of the Lawyers’ Committee’s work with the Loan Modification Scam Prevention Network (LMSPN), and the second suit filed in New York this month by Davis Polk and the Lawyers’ Committee against for-profit mortgage modification companies in Nassau County.  The first suit filed this month was Masheyeva v. Law Offices of David Green. 

The LMSPN’s litigation effort seeks to put an end to the fraudulent and deceptive behavior of so-called loan modification “specialists.”  The LMSPN is a broad coalition that also consists of representatives from key governmental agencies, including the Federal Trade Commission, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, the U.S. Department of Justice, the U.S. Department of the Treasury, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and the offices of numerous state Attorneys General.  Since the launch of the Lawyers’ Committee’s national LMSPN database in February 2010, more than 21,000 homeowners nationwide have submitted complaints regarding scams or potential scams, representing over $60 million in monies lost to such scams.  More than 1,100 of these reports have been submitted by New York homeowners, who have reported losses of over $4 million in fees paid to alleged loan modification scammers.

Homeowners who believe they have been victims of a scam or have information about a scam, or potential scam, are encouraged to report such activities either by calling 311 in New York City or by entering such information online at http://www.preventloanscams.org and clicking the button “Report a Scam!”

 *          *          *

The Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization, was formed in 1963 at the request of President John F. Kennedy to involve the private bar in providing legal services to address racial discrimination.  The principal mission of the Lawyers’ Committee is to secure, through the rule of law, equal justice under law.

For over 160 years, the lawyers of Davis Polk & Wardwell LLP have advised industry-leading companies and global financial institutions on their most challenging legal and business matters.  The firm has a long and distinguished history of providing pro bono legal services to those who could not otherwise obtain legal representation and views pro bono work as a central responsibility of the firm and its lawyers.  For more information: http://www.davispolk.com/pro-bono.