Beware Circling Vultures

Seeking professional guidance when faced with a serious financial issue is smart. The only problem is: who to trust? Many so-called “financial experts” may be very skilled in one area of finance, but know little or nothing of other areas. Worse, some nefarious individuals are just after what little money they can squeeze out of you and care nothing about making your situation better.

Take, for example, the investigation into a nation-wide mortgage modification scam. Recently, the Orange County California district attorney unsealed an indictment related to a $13.5-million loan-modification scheme that officials called the largest crime of its type ever prosecuted in the United States. The conspiracy reportedly involved at least 3,500 victims using mailers, a misleading website and telemarketers over a span of more than two years. The conspirators operated a company with a continually changing name, including the apparent laws firms “Prudent Law,” and “Remedy Center Law” which trained employees to falsely tell customers that they qualified for loan modifications and assure them that a lawyer from the company could represent them. Once lured in, the victims were charged an average of $4,000 of illegal up-front loan-modification fees and promised services the company couldn’t offer.

Included in the group behind the scam is Pamela Gressier, a California licensed attorney, who remains a fugitive from justice. Gressier faces multiple felony counts of conspiracy, grand theft, money laundering and filing a false or fraudulent tax return. If convicted on all counts, she could get a maximum of over 48 years in prison.

If you are in need of mortgage modification, make sure that you do your due diligence before hiring a “debt relief” company. One mortgage relief process that can provide actual relief is found in the United States Bankruptcy Code. Bankruptcy can stop foreclosure and provide you time to negotiate a home loan modification, short sale, or even to “walk away” without owing a dime. In some cases bankruptcy can force the bank to accept low interest payments for a deficiency over three to five years, or strip off an unsecured second or third mortgage. Consult an experienced bankruptcy attorney for more information on your rights under the federal law.