A state judge has found a Uniondale loan modification company guilty of fraud in taking clients' money and failing "to make good on its promises" to save their homes.
Amerimod and its owner and chief executive Salvatore Pane Jr. illegally charged upfront fees and violated state laws passed specifically to protect troubled homeowners from scams, State Supreme Court Justice Emily Jane Goodman ruled this month in the civil suit filed last year by state Attorney General Andrew Cuomo.
"Amerimod does not seriously challenge the numerous accusations that it failed to attend to its clients after it received payment of its initial fee," Goodman wrote.
She said she plans to refer the case to the district attorney, who handles criminal charges, and decide on restitution and penalties after she receives a special referee's report. The amount of money involved has not been determined. Pane and the defense attorneys could not be reached for comment. Phone numbers listed for Amerimod were not in service.
The firm did not refute several charges of false advertising, including its claim of being licensed by a government agency, according to the ruling. Even ads touting success rates as high as 100 percent were contradicted in court by the firm's own claim of 1,300 successful cases out of 3,000 applications, the judge said. That is a 43 percent rate.
The judge's decision delighted former Queens resident Sandra Catus, an administrative assistant who said she gave $3,500 to Amerimod to lower her payments in October 2008 but didn't get a modification. She won a small claims suit in June to get back her money but hasn't seen a dime, she said. "I feel that my patience has paid off," Catus said of the ruling.
Cuomo Tuesday said he liked the ruling: "Amerimod shamelessly victimized vulnerable homeowners, and we are pleased the court recognized this."
In the summer, Cuomo's office got an order freezing the company's assets. The judge noted that bank records show $1.25 million had been transferred since May 2008 from the defendants' accounts to three entities with ties to Pane and the firm, moves that Pane told the court were routine business.
Under the decision, Pane is also personally liable. A Cuomo spokesman said that means Pane's personal assets can be seized.