November 24, 2009
Jefferson City, Mo. -- Attorney General Chris Koster said today he is suing a Florida company that took money from distressed Missouri homeowners without providing any meaningful mortgage-modification service. Koster joined the Federal Trade Commission and the state of Iowa in taking legal action against the company.
This represents the eighth lawsuit against a fraudulent mortgage business since Koster began his campaign against mortgage fraud in April.
"This Attorney General's office has instituted a zero tolerance policy for any mortgage modification firm that preys on and cheats desperate homeowners," Koster said. "Our office will use all its powers to investigate and prosecute businesses involved in these foreclosure rescue schemes to defraud Missouri consumers."
Koster said First Universal Lending, LLC, is based in Palm Beach Gardens, Florida, but transacts business throughout Missouri. He said the company markets its services to homeowners who are having difficulty paying their mortgages or facing foreclosure, promising them lower house payments or lower interest rates. In reality, the company appears to do little or nothing for most of its customers.
In addition, company representatives told some clients to stop making mortgage payments while the modification process was proceeding, which harms consumers by injuring their credit rating and resulting in higher late fees, penalties, and interest payments, as well as increased likelihood of foreclosure.
Koster said the business required people to pay up-front fees before they would provide any services, which is illegal for mortgage modification companies in Missouri.
Koster's "zero tolerance" campaign against mortgage fraud in Missouri has resulted in eight lawsuits since April, with a number of additional official investigations currently underway.
Koster is asking the court to award restitution to consumers who suffered losses; impose appropriate monetary penalties; and issue preliminary and permanent injunctions prohibiting First Universal from violating Missouri consumer protection laws in the future.
Koster's announcement today is part of a nationwide "sweep" on mortgage scams, called "Operation Stolen Hope." The nationwide sweep is coordinated by the Federal Trade Commission, the U.S. Department of Justice, and 20 other states.
The Attorney General urges consumers who have been the victims of fraudulent mortgage-refinancing or foreclosure-relief companies, or who are concerned about the practices of their lender, to contact his consumer hotline at 800-392-8222 or to go online at ago.mo.gov.