Three Long Island mortgage modification companies and their operators were accused Wednesday of cheating distressed homeowners, in a lawsuit filed by the state's top prosecutor.
In the suit, Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman charged that the companies -- Home Affordable Direct and Home Affordable Solutions of Farmingdale, and JR Holding Group Corp. of Babylon, along with a Tampa, Florida-based company called Clear Solutions and Settlements, Inc. -- illegally charged upfront fees ranging from $1,500 to more than $11,000. Federal law doesn't allow mortgage modification consultants to charge upfront fees. Attorneys are allowed to charge upfront.
The companies promised to reduce homeowners' mortgage payments and help them avoid foreclosure, but the promises were nothing but a "scam,” Schneiderman alleged.
The companies have been temporarily barred from collecting fees or transferring assets, in an order signed by a Supreme Court judge in Manhattan, Geoffrey Wright.
The lawsuit named Javier Gutierrez and Shadi Soumekh, described as principals of the companies. Gutierrez oversees the companies' operations and speaks with homeowners, and Soumekh has control over the companies' finances, the lawsuit charged.
Reached Wednesday, Soumekh, 30, said she worked as a secretary at Home Affordable Direct for less than a year, and left the company seven to eight months ago. "I just picked up the phone and transferred the clients,” the Great Neck resident said. "I never, ever sold anything.”
Gutierrez could not be reached Wednesday. His last known address was in Great Neck, according to the lawsuit.
The attorney general urged homeowners who have complaints about the companies to file a complaint at ag.ny.gov/complaint-forms, or by calling 800-771-7755.