Make us your home page
Instagram

Business duped homeowners facing foreclosure, suit says

State Attorney General Bill McCollum on Thursday sued a Clearwater foreclosure rescue operation, accusing it of engaging in deceptive and unfair business practices.

The lawsuit alleges that Law & Associates pitched services to homeowners facing foreclosure in Florida and across the country through direct mail and various Web sites.

Those who responded were charged an up-front cash fee of $1,500 to $2,000 for guidance and help negotiating with lenders, but the services never materialized, according to the suit.

Despite an advertised money back guarantee, unhappy customers sometimes did not get their fees returned.

The attorney general's office reviewed more than 65 consumer complaints about the company, which began operating in Clearwater in 2004. In none of those cases did the company actually prevent foreclosure of a home, the lawsuit says.

The company's actions "shock the conscience," and "offend established public policy and are unethical, oppressive, unscrupulous or substantially injurious to consumers," the suit says.

Thomas E. Law, described in the lawsuit as the company's sole managing member, could not be reached for comment.

"More citizens in Florida are facing the very real possibility of losing their homes to foreclosure than anywhere else in the country," McCollum said in a statement. "My office will continue working to ensure that businesses who offer assistance to these people are held accountable to the law."

McCollum's lawsuit alleges six counts of violating the state's Deceptive and Unfair Trade Practices Act. The state is asking the circuit court to order the company to cease operating. It's also hitting the company for $60,000 in fines and asking that customers get their fees returned.

Though some companies do offer legitimate assistance to distressed homeowners behind on mortgage payments, it's an area of commerce ripe for unscrupulous profiteers.

Deborah Berry, operations manager for Pinellas County's Justice and Consumer Services Department, said regulators are finally giving the issue the attention needed.

"Both the feds and the state are definitely looking at these companies now and their various operations," she said.

Berry said that through 2007 until now, her office had gotten 8 complaints from consumers who had sought help from Law & Associates.

Times researcher Caryn Baird contributed to this report. Will Van Sant can be reached at vansant@sptimes.com or 445-4166.

Consumers who wish to report a complaint against the company or who would like more information may contact the Attorney General's fraud hotline at 1-866-966-7226 or may file a complaint online at http://myfloridalegal.com.

>>Fast facts

To report a complaint

Consumers who wish to report a complaint against the company or who would like more information may contact the attorney general's fraud hotline at 1-866-966-7226, or they may file a complaint online at http://myfloridalegal.com.

Business duped homeowners facing foreclosure, suit says 04/03/08 [Last modified: Monday, April 7, 2008 4:55pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Irish 31 brings flair, flavor to Wiregrass

    Business

    WESLEY CHAPEL — Irish 31 Pub House & Eatery opened its fifth location at The Shops at Wiregrass earlier this month.

    hillsevbiz072117: Irish 31 has opened at the Shops at Wiregrass with a warm, wood decor. Photo courtesy of Irish 31.
  2. Family fun featured at Lutz-area ice cream shop

    Business

    LUTZ — For Joe Schembri, ice cream reminds him of fun times he spent with his family as a child.

    hillsevbiz072117: Joe Schembri has opened the Ice Dreamery in Lutz. Photo courtesy of Joe Schembri.
  3. Clean Eatz offers low-cal options in South Tampa

    Business

    Inside Clean Eatz, almost everything is under 500 calories.

    Clean Eatz will offer healthy dining options in South Tampa. Photo courtesy of Clean Eatz.
  4. Salon brings a Parisian experience to Tampa

    Business

    A new salon in International Plaza, opened by French women Geraldine Jousseau and Estelle Mattingly, takes clients on a trip to Paris.

    Le Studio Paris offers a variety of salon services in International Plaza. Photo courtesy of Le Studio Paris.
  5. Ratings service Nielsen begins tracking live TV consumption on Hulu, YouTube

    Retail

    TV ratings service Nielsen will begin tracking how many people watch network TV on YouTube and Hulu to gauge how many viewers broadcast networks have through streaming, the company announced Tuesday.

    Nielsen, a ratings company, is monitoring how many viewers watch live TV on Hulu and YouTube to get a better sense of overall viewership. | [AP]