By Keith Griffin
In the wake of CTLatinoNews.com’s story on alleged mortgage aid fraud by the State Law Group of California on an unsuspecting Connecticut homeowner, U.S Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) is asking for an immediate Federal Trade Commission investigation.
“I am deeply troubled [by the story] and I am calling the Federal Trade Commission and asking for an immediate investigation,” the senator said in a phone interview. “We will also contact other appropriate agencies. I think there ought to be a complete, comprehensive investigation by federal authorities.”
Blumenthal said the U.S. Attorney’s office could get involved if the FTC, which prevents fraud, deception, and unfair business practices, can refer a case for prosecution “if there is evidence of criminal wrongdoing.” Connecticut’s junior senator, who was the state’s Attorney General for 20 years, thinks there might be. “My experience is where there’s smoke, there is likely to be fire, and there is an awful lot of smoke here,” he said. “We want to put it out.”
The State Law Group has not returned numerous calls from CTLatinoNews.com seeking comment for this or the previous story.
Blumenthal’s office will be contacting Wells Fargo, which held Ramon Lopez’s mortgage, to seek a stay of execution on the eviction notice, which is scheduled for this Thursday, July 26. Lopez would then have 24 hours to evacuate his home of eight years. Lopez, could lose his home in the foreclosure proceedings because of alleged misdeeds by the State Law Group,
Lopez, 58, ran into financial troubles in 2010 after the death of a son and suffering a stroke. The New Britain laborer also saw his hours cut at work because of a slow economy. He tried three times to have his mortgage modified by Wells Fargo without success.
Then in January 2011 a solicitation arrived from the State Law Group. Lopez saw it as a way to keep his home. After a 15-month trail of e-mails, phone calls and $5,030 in payments “for processing paperwork for the bank” Lopez lost his home in foreclosure proceedings on March 26 that he knew nothing about and apparently neither did the State Law Group, which kept demanding paperwork on March 27, the day after the home was turned back to the bank.
Lopez sent the firm the notice of foreclosure. It then responded in late April that he was at fault for not sending the required paperwork by April 10 – a full two weeks after the foreclosure had already been granted.
“We will reach out to him and other victims and then we will contact Wells Fargo and other banks to urge them to show some understanding and perhaps leniency in the mortgage foreclosure. They sought to do the right thing and they have been victimized by a scam,” the senator said. “We will go to bat for them. It’s a means to protect them from immediate ramifications.”
William Rivera, Lopez’s attorney, was encouraged to hear of the senator’s involvement. “It’s a wonderful thing for Mr. Lopez. It gets some of the wheels turning at Wells Fargo. All these inquiries can help Mr. Lopez get a fair review, which is all we’re asking for,” he said. “He did all the right things.”
Rivera added, “I’m happy with this extra pressure. I hope Wells Fargo will agree to go ahead and open the case.” Officials from Wells Fargo were not available for comment before deadline.
The state Department of Banking has successfully sought 10 refunds for State Law Group customers in the past without having to take administrative action. A banking department official could not confirm or deny that the department may be instigating action against the firm.
By Keith Griffin