LAS VEGAS (CN) - A federal judge Wednesday ordered Utah-based Linden Financial Group to pay $28.6 million to settle an FTC complaint accusing it of deception in a mortgage assistance relief scheme.
U.S. District Judge Gloria Navarro banned Linden from offering debt relief products and services, from misrepresenting financial products and services or any other services, and from abusive telemarketing .
The FTC sued Linden and others, including lead defendant Philip Danielson LLC dba Danielson Law Group dba DLG Legal in June 2014. It accused them of charging $500 to $3,900 in upfront fees, before any of their services would begin. The complaint was filed under seal .
Consumers who made only down payments had to keep paying until the full amount was paid, and were charged a monthly maintenance fee, usually $195, starting during the fifth month.
"In numerous instances, defendants have instructed consumers to sign one or more agreements and have claimed that defendants only collect fees when certain services specified in the agreements have been completed," the FTC claimed. "In reality, defendants have established a monthly payment schedule that automatically deducts the payments from consumer's bank accounts."
The defendants also assigned a "non-attorney representative or a purported paralegal" to each consumer but provided no real service, the FTC said.
So consumers were left on their own to negotiate with mortgage lenders, and had little luck trying to get refunds from the defendants. Most got no refund or refunds that were significantly less than they paid for the services they did not receive, the FTC said.
"In numerous instances," the FTC said, the victims "suffered significant economic injury, including paying hundreds or thousands of dollars to defendants and receiving little or no service in return, going into foreclosure, and even losing their homes."
Defendants included Utah-based companies Foundation Business Solutions, eMerchant, Acutus Law, Direct Results Solutions and Strata G Solutions, and individual defendants were Philip J. Danielson, Tony D. Norton, Sean J. Coberly, Tanya L. Hawkins, Chad E. VanSickle and Jennifer B. Danielson. April D. Norton was a relief defendant.
Other defendants jointly settled with the FTC for $28.6 million .
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