Federal suit targets Utah lawyers in alleged mortgage scam
Following up on a raid by federal agents, a lawsuit has been filed against a group of lawyers and others alleging they defrauded a Salt Lake City-area couple in a home loan modification scheme.
The couple sued CC Brown Law, attorney Charles Craig Brown and other attorneys and nonlawyers, alleging they participated in a scam in which homeowners facing foreclosure paid to get a loan modification only to find no legal work was done on their behalf. The couple ended up losing their home.
In June, federal agents raided CC Brown or affiliated offices in Midvale, West Valley City and Salt Lake City as part of an investigation into the mortgage loan modification business. That investigation is ongoing, said Melodie Rydalch, spokeswoman for the U.S. Attorney's Office for Utah.
The lawsuit also names attorney Wilford T. Lee and the law firm WT Lee & Associates, Utah Litigation Counselors, the JL Martin Law Group, Century Law, LegalSupportLine.com and Sentry Law. Also included are John McCall, Chad Gettel and Kasey Rasmussen, who the lawsuit says operated the CC Brown loan modification program.
The lawsuit alleges the law firms worked together and "basically created a scam where they would recruit people with financial difficulties with respect to their mortgages [and] get them to hand over thousands of dollars to one of the law firms," said John Bogart, the Salt Lake City attorney who filed the suit on behalf of homeowners Jared and Vanessa Osborn.
"The law firms ran a scam where they basically had nonlawyers answering the phone and selling products, but no one actually did anything to get loan modifications."
Wilford T. Lee, WT Lee & Associates, Utah Litigation Counselors, Rasmussen and McCall denied the allegations in court filings. They and others either could not be reached or did not respond to emails seeking comment.
Lee also has filed a motion seeking to force the Osborns into arbitration.
The Osborns ended up losing their home even after paying CC Brown $8,000 to $9,000, Bogart said. They filed their lawsuit in August seeking not less than $400,000, plus other costs and punitive damages.
"We know at least with respect to the Osborns when CC Brown claimed they were in negotiations with the servicer, nothing was happening," he said. "Other times when they told the Osborns the servicer was not speaking to them and was not undertaking any loan negotiations, we know for a fact that the servicer was offering loan modifications to other folks."
Last year, the Maryland Commission of Financial Regulation issued a cease-and-desist order against CC Brown Law and Charles Brown, allegedly for violations of that state's laws that included offering unlicensed credit services.
In 2010, the Utah Division of Real Estate issued a cease-and-desist order that accused Brown and his law office of operating without a mortgage license. Brown agreed to settle the allegations with a $5,000 fine and to discontinue negotiating loan modifications without a license.