Four alleged mortgage modification scammers are banned from selling debt relief products and services under settlements resolving Federal Trade Commission charges that they deceived homeowners facing foreclosure.
The settlements stem from a complaint the FTC filed earlier this year against Brian Pacios, Chad Caldaronello, Justin Moreira and Derek Nelson alleging that, doing business as HOPE Services and HAMP Services, they promised consumers help getting their mortgages modified. Instead, they stole mortgage payments, which led some individuals into foreclosure and bankruptcy.
The orders against Pacios and Caldaronello impose a judgment of more than $2.7 million, which represents the total amount consumers paid. The settlement with Pacios also resolves an FTC contempt action against him for violating a 2013 court order that prohibited him from mortgage relief activities.
The order against Moreira imposes a $2.7 million judgment, which will be suspended upon the surrender of certain assets. The full judgment against Moreira will become due immediately if he is found to have misrepresented his financial status. The order against Nelson imposes a judgment of $859,839, which will be suspended upon the surrender of certain assets, but also due immediately if he is found to have misrepresented his financial condition.
"These rip-off artists took struggling homeowners’ last dollars, but we’ve shut down their destructive and illegal schemes,” said Jessica Rich, director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection. "Now, in addition to financial judgments, the court has permanently banned them from the industries and practices they exploited."
Denny Lake and relief defendant Cortney Gonsalves also were named in the original FTC complaint. Litigation against Lake is ongoing. An order against Gonsalves, who allegedly profited from the scheme, imposed a judgment of $218,768, which represents the amount Gonsalves received from the scam. Pacios, Caldaronello, Moreira and Nelson are also prohibited from misrepresenting any product or service, profiting from customers’ personal information, and failing to properly dispose of it. Pacios, Caldaronello, and Moreira are banned from telemarketing, and Pacios and Caldaronello are further banned from selling credit-related financial products and services. Moreira and Nelson also are prohibited from using material misrepresentations and unsubstantiated claims to sell financial products and services. Nelson is barred from telemarketing without maintaining records stipulated in the order.