Thursday, September 2, 2010
AUTHORITIES CRACKDOWN ON UNLICENSED MORTGAGE MODIFICATION ACTIVITIES BASED IN CLAY COUNTY, FLORIDA
Clay County, Florida – (September 2, 2010) Clay County Sheriff Rick Beseler and Commissioner Tom Cardwell of the Florida Office of Financial Regulation (OFR), today announced the execution of search warrants at two offices run by Clay County based companies. As the result of a joint investigative effort, the Clay County Sheriff’s Office conducted searches this morning of two offices and OFR issued an Emergency Immediate Cease and Desist Order barring the companies from continuing to do business. The Department of Agriculture was also a partner in the investigation.
OFR investigators allege the two companies – Global Equity Solutions and Hope Financial Services - have been conducting unlawful loan modification services through unlicensed loan modification companies with unlicensed personnel. Charges against owners and/or employees of the two companies are pending further investigation. Global Equity Solutions is located at 3332 Old Jennings Road, Middleburg and Hope Financial Services is located at 251 College Drive, Orange Park. Investigators from the involved agencies remain on scene at both locations.
OFR investigators found the companies marketed services throughout the United States using Internet Web sites, mass mailing materials and a boiler-room-like telephone center. Preliminary findings included nearly 250 open contracts, which required clients to pay a specified sum, generally between $1,195 and $1,795, prior to completion of a loan modification.
“Many of our citizens find themselves in difficult situations, which make them easy prey,” said OFR Commissioner Tom Cardwell. “There are laws to help safeguard consumers and protect them from becoming victims of financial fraud in their time of need.” Commissioner Cardwell also specifically cautioned against paying any up-front fees whatsoever for loan modifications. “If you’re asked for any money up front, simply turn around and walk away,” Cardwell advised.
The Office of Financial Regulation offers the following tips for consumers to identify potential fraud and avoid becoming a victim.
• Do your research! Check the regulatory requirements the profession adheres to and confirm the person you are working with has a professional license. Also check if any complaints have been filed against the company or individual. Consumers can go to www.flofr.com/real/ and get up to date information on all licenses.
• Always get your agreement in writing and specify the services to be provided.
• NEVER pay any up-front fees for loan modification services. It is illegal to charge consumers for any services until after they have been rendered.
• Immediately get help if you feel you have been victimized. Contact the Office of Financial Regulation at 1-800-848-3792 or go to http://www.flofr.com to file a complaint.
Companies providing loan modification services such as adjusting interest rates or any other such services must have an active license from the OFR. Any person or entity that continues to engage in loan modifications in this state without an active license is guilty of a felony of the third degree punishable by up to five years in prison and a fine of up to $5,000 per offense. Members of the media will be notified if today’s search warrants result in charges being filed against the involved parties. Investigators are not at liberty to provide or verify the names of suspects until such time as arrests are made.
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Flora N. Beal
Florida Office of Financial Regulation