A Florida law firm, the firm’s main attorney, and his wife stand accused of running a predatory foreclosure rescue scam that preyed on Hispanic homeowners who were struggling with their mortgages.
The Department of Justice this week filed a lawsuit against Advocate Law Groups of Florida, Jon Lindeman, and Ephigenia Lindeman, accusing the firm and the Lindeman’s of violating the Fair Housing Act by “intentionally discriminating against Hispanic homeowners by targeting them with a predatory mortgage loan modification and foreclosure rescue services scheme.”
According to the lawsuit, from 2009 through at least 2015, Advocate Law Groups of Florida “deliberately targeted” Hispanic homeowners with a “predatory” loan scheme because of their national origin.
During that time, the law firm allegedly targeted Hispanic borrowers with Spanish-language ads that claimed the firm could cut their mortgage payments in half.
Then, in client meetings, the firm allegedly promised to quickly lower borrowers’ mortgage payments in exchange for thousands of dollars of upfront fees and continuing monthly fees.
The firm also supposedly told clients to stop making the monthly mortgage payments and stop communicating with their lenders.
Additionally, the firm allegedly sent a package of documents to borrowers, but the documents were written in English and no translation was provided.
The documents, which were supposedly sent to the bank the borrowers’ behalf, contained “untrue” statements, including “an offer to the bank to return the (borrowers’) homes in exchange for a rescission of the mortgage without the (borrowers’) consent to do so.”
Despite supposedly performing all these actions on behalf of their borrowers and charging high fees for those actions, the firm “did little or nothing actually to obtain loan modifications,” the U.S. Attorney’s Office said.
The lawsuit arose after three of the firm’s former clients filed complaints with the Department of Housing and Urban Development. After HUD investigated, it referred the case to the DOJ, which then filed charges.
“Enforcement of civil rights in the housing arena is a point of focus for our Civil Division,” United States Attorney Maria Chapa Lopez said in a statement. “The predatory conduct described in this Complaint cannot go unaddressed, and we will take whatever steps are necessary to protect our district’s residents from this kind of discriminatory practice.”
HousingWire attempted to contact Advocate Law Groups of Florida, but as of publication, the firm has not responded. This article will be updated should the company respond.