Indiana Attorney General Greg Zoeller and a team of his attorneys fanned across nine counties to sue 10 so-called foreclosure counselors Thursday.
Zoeller said it was the next step in his campaign to beef up consumer protection statewide. Last month, the attorney general sued two local for-profit credit counseling companies for what he described as fraudulent practice.
Zoeller said his team is also taking a close look at banking behemoths like Chase and Bank of America after word of their representatives "robo-signing," or blindly signing foreclosure documents, tantamount to legal affidavits, on thousands of homeowners nationwide, including a fair number in Indiana.
With Lake County Clerk Mike Brown by his side, Zoeller filed a complaint in Lake Circuit Court for an injunction and restitution against Santa Ana, Calif., based Meridian Law Center, run by attorney Kamran Yusuf Malik, for trying to get $2,000 from Sandra Dobson for foreclosure help.
"I had way more sense than to send those people any money," said Dobson, from the home she’s owned for 33 years. "I filed a complaint with the Indiana Attorney General’s office last year because the package they sent me looked fraudulent."
According to Zoeller, the 10 companies his investigators and attorneys sued have been taking money from people in financial straits and promising to help them save their homes from foreclosures or lower their mortgage rates.
Zoeller said the companies did not register to do business in Indiana, did not obtain $25,000 bonds mandated by the state and violated the Consumer Protection Act and other deceptive practices laws.
He accused the companies of having agents who seek targets based on foreclosure filings.
"Each of the companies have the same modus operandi," Zoeller said. "They’re preying on people who are in financial trouble."
Zoeller said collecting any money in restitution or costs from such companies is difficult, but the action at least sends out a warning to unsuspecting homeowners.
Dobson said she was in no financial trouble when she received a glossy, "important looking package" from Meridian Law Center Aug. 24, 2009, and immediately filed a complaint with the Attorney General’s office. The last time she was in any foreclosure proceedings was more than 25 years ago, Dobson added.
Dobson still praised Zoeller and his actions.
"I just think it’s wonderful because we’re just little people, and it’s about time somebody steps up to protect little people," she said. "They’re just con artists ripping off people trying to lead a decent life."
Zoeller said he is headed to Oregon for a meeting with of the states’ attorneys general to address the "robo-signing" scandal, but he declined to comment on specific cases in Indiana.
"Maybe all the documents are correct, but, in my mind, when you sign your name on those papers, you’re signing a legal affidavit."
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