The principals of a mortgage relief operation and their companies are banned from the mortgage loan modification and debt relief business under court orders obtained by the Federal Trade Commission. The orders resolve charges that the scheme falsely promised financially distressed homeowners they would receive legal representation to prevent foreclosure or lower their mortgage payments and interest rates, and illegally charged thousands of dollars in advance.
The FTC charged the Jacksonville, Florida-based operation in 2014 as part of a federal-state enforcement sweep, Operation Mis-Modification. The court subsequently ordered defendants to stop misleading consumers and froze their assets pending litigation.
The FTC alleged that the defendants typically told consumers they would get a loan modification or that their chance of getting one was 85 percent to 100 percent, and collected up to $4,000 in advance, and sometimes an ongoing monthly fee of $300 or more. In some cases, they told people not to pay their mortgages while their supposed loan modifications were pending, and falsely claimed that, by auditing their mortgage documents for lender errors or lender fraud, they would be able to convince the lenders to modify the consumers’ home loans.
Under a stipulated order for permanent injunction that Edward William Rennick III, Surety Law Group LLP and Redstone Law Group LLC agreed to, they are banned from selling secured and unsecured debt relief products or services, and prohibited from misrepresenting any financial products and services, and from violating the Do Not Call Registry rules. The order imposes an $8 million judgment that will be suspended upon surrender of frozen assets.
On July 7, 2016, the court granted the FTC’s motion for summary judgment against Michael W. Lanier, Rogelio Robles, Lanier Law LLC, Fortress Law Group LLC, Fortress Law Group PC and Liberty & Trust Law Group of Florida LLC for violations of the FTC Act and the Mortgage Assistance Relief Services Rule. The order found the facts of the case indisputable, including:
The Commission vote authorizing the staff to file the proposed stipulated final order against Rennick, Surety Law Group and Redstone Law Group was 4-0. The U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Florida, Jacksonville Division, entered the order on August 12, 2016. The court granted the FTC’s motion for summary judgment against Lanier, Robles, Lanier Law, Fortress Law Group, Fortress Law Group PC and Liberty & Trust Law Group of Florida on July 7, 2016, and entered a permanent injunction against them on August 12, 2016.
To learn more, read Mortgage Relief Scams and Trouble Paying Your Mortgage?
The Federal Trade Commission works to promote competition, and protect and educate consumers. You can learn more about consumer topics and file a consumer complaint online or by calling 1-877-FTC-HELP (382-4357).
FTC Action: Court Orders Ban Mortgage Relief Scammers from Mortgage Modification and Debt Relief Business
Office of Public Affairs
Harold E. Kirtz
FTC’s Southeast Region