In recent months, David Ramba, a Tallahassee lawyer and lobbyist, joined with a California attorney to help struggling homeowners sue their lenders.
But last week, California's attorney general, Kamala D. Harris, sued Ramba's West Coast associate, Phillip Kramer, accusing him of "fraudulently taking millions of dollars from thousands of homeowners who were led to believe they would receive relief on their mortgages."
Kramer charged clients up to $10,000 apiece to list them as defendants in six lawsuits filed in California courts against major lenders. None of the complaints has been resolved or gone to trial.
Ramba, who said last month that he hoped to replicate Kramer's strategy by filing similar lawsuits in Florida, said his operations would not be affected by the crackdown in California.
"The claims in California against Mr. Kramer have nothing to do with the operation of Ramba Law Group in Florida," he said by e-mail Monday. "I am researching the possibility of a mass joinder or class-action lawsuit in Florida."
Though he has had workers soliciting clients since May, Ramba also denied that he has received any retainers.
In recent months, offices bearing Ramba and Kramer's names have opened in Pinellas Park, Boca Raton and Brooksville. As reported last month in the St. Petersburg Times, homeowners in Bradenton and Baton Rouge, La., said they called a phone number that connected them to the Pinellas Park office, after receiving a mailer advertising a "mass joinder" lawsuit. Davin Spring of Louisiana said he paid half of a $5,000 retainer before having second thoughts.
Ramba, who has been a lobbyist for about a decade, said his offices never sent out any advertisements, which must be approved in advance by the Florida Bar.
He said last month that potential clients were being identified through public records, although such cold call solicitations are banned by Florida Bar rules. Ramba also denied that his intake workers were paid commission, an arrangement barred under Florida Bar rules. "Help wanted" listings for his offices advertised commissions and bonuses.
Kathy J. Bible, a lawyer with the Florida Bar, said the group has opened an investigative file on Ramba and is aware of California's action against Kramer. A spokeswoman for Florida's attorney general said it is "looking into the mass joinder issue" to see if any laws have been broken.
Ramba said he welcomes the investigation and will cooperate fully, but he declined to comment on the status of his Boca Raton office. He confirmed that the Pinellas Park location is closed.
The Brooksville call center, meanwhile, was open on Monday, with two signs identifying it as "Ramba Law Group." Ramba said that was an error.
"Clearly someone is unlawfully using my name," he said.
Times Hernando County editor Mike Konrad contributed to this report. Kris Hundley can be reached at email@example.com or (727) 892-2996.