Foreclosure Consultant Accused of Elder Abuse
LOS ANGELES (CN) - A "foreclosure consultant" defrauded an elderly woman of her home in Beverly Hills, stole her jewelry and imprisoned her in a car, the woman claims in court.
Austeene Cooper sued Rita Ortiz and her companies, Rita Ortiz LLC and Ortiz Consulting, in Superior Court.
Cooper seeks damages for fraud, elder financial abuse, false imprisonment and five other counts.
Cooper claims she was suffering from brain injuries and a foot crippled by a car collision when her property was put up for foreclosure sale in June.
Around that time, Ortiz sent Cooper a direct mail, claiming she could save her house from foreclosure, for free, according to Cooper's 18-page lawsuit.
On Ortiz's first visit to Cooper's home, the consultant took important papers on the property and a turquoise necklace worth $2,000, Cooper says.
"She told plaintiff that she would sell it for her so that plaintiff would have some money," according to the complaint. Cooper claims Ortiz also had her sign an agreement that supposedly would allow her to stay in the house for free.
But Cooper says Ortiz did nothing to halt foreclosure proceedings and charged her $2,000 a month in rent.
"Defendants are now calling plaintiff a renter and now saying that plaintiff gave the defendants, and each of them, the subject property for nothing," the complaint states.
Cooper claims Ortiz persuaded her to sign a purchase and sale agreement obligating Ortiz to pay the mortgage, homeowners insurance and property taxes, maintain the home and help Cooper obtain government grants. In return, Cooper says, Ortiz said Cooper could stay in the home rent-free until she died.
But that's not what happened, Cooper says. She claims that Ortiz "used undue influence and fraud and coerced and intimidated plaintiff into signing a number of documents without knowing what she was signing."
Cooper says she discovered, too late, she had unwittingly signed over a grant deed to Ortiz, and that the consultant bullied her into telling a notary that she knew what she was signing. She also claims that Ortiz took a $300 filing fee for a bankruptcy petition but never gave it back.
And, Cooper says, Ortiz trapped her in a car after they got into an argument about the $300 fee.
Cooper claims Ortiz locked her into the back seat of Ortiz's car, and that Ortiz told her she would lose her house and her pet cats if she called the police.
Cooper says she called 911 anyway, and a squad car was dispatched to follow Ortiz.
Ortiz drove to a Beverly Hills police station, got out and left Cooper trapped in the child-locked car, according to the complaint. Cooper claims she managed to escape because Ortiz had left one window partially open, and a passerby managed to open the door and let her out.
Finally, Cooper claims, after she reported Ortiz to the police, the Parker Stanbury law firm sent her a letter warning her to "cease and desist" from assisting the police with its investigation.
Parker Stanbury is not a party to the complaint.
Cooper wants the court to find the grant of deed void, and quiet title, plus $1 million in damages.
She is represented by David Wheeler of Beverly Hills.