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Wednesday, June 19, 2024 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

Pull the Other One, FTC Says

BALTIMORE (CN) - The FTC asked a federal judge to shut down and freeze the assets of three "foreclosure rescue" firms and the five men who run them - including a lawyer. The FTC claims Residential Relief Foundation and the others charge thousands of dollars for mortgage modification services they cannot or do not deliver. Also sued are Silver Lining Services and Mitigation America.

All three companies operate out of the same address in Baltimore, as does attorney James W. Holderness dba the Law Office of James Holderness, and the company directors or officers: Michael Valenti, Bryan J. Melanson, Jillian N. Melanson and Dennis Strzegowski, according to the complaint.

The Federal Trade Commission claims the defendants wantonly deceived consumers by claiming their loan modification programs could get them a waiver of late payments, late fees, and legal fees, convert adjustable rate mortgages to fixed rate mortgages with interest as low as 1 percent, reduce the principal and monthly mortgage payments by as much as 40 percent.

Actually, the FTC says, after pocketing $1,400 upfront and telling their victims to stop making mortgage payments, the defendants failed to get any of the relief they offered.

Throughout the scam, the firms' principals, including attorney Holderness, posed as government assistance programs, the FTC says. Using telemarketing, direct mail and Internet solicitations, the scammers claimed they were affiliated with federal efforts to stem the national foreclosure crisis - they even used a logo similar to the Great Seal of the United States in their websites, the FTC says.

To top it off, the defendants improperly "discarded materials containing consumer's personal information in clear readable text (including consumers' names, addresses, bank account numbers, bank routing numbers, credit or debit card numbers, expiration dates, and security codes) in unsecured, publicly accessible trash dumpsters," the complaint states.

The FTC seeks restitution, rescission, disgorgement, injunctions and penalties for violations of the Federal Trade Commission Act and the Telemarketing and Consumer Fraud and Abuse Prevention Act.

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