Two brothers who authorities say "ripped off homeowners" seeking help in reducing their property tax assessments are in hot water.
California Attorney General Edmund G. Brown Jr. has filed suit against Sean and Michael McConville and their businesses, "Property Tax Reassessment" and "Property Tax Adjustment Services," seeking an end to the scam and at least $2.5 million in civil penalties.
"These scam-artists ripped off thousands of homeowners for property reassessment services readily available free of charge," Attorney General Brown said. "This lawsuit seeks to end the deception and blocks these companies from continuing to scam homeowners."
The suit contends that these companies:
• Made and continue to make untrue and misleading statements with the intent to induce consumers to purchase products and services;
• Distributed solicitations implying a government connection, approval or endorsement;
• Distributed solicitations that appear to be billing statements; and
• Engaged in unfair competition.
The Southern California-based companies targeted tens of thousands of Californians looking to lower their property taxes with mailers that read like government billing statements, featured official-looking logos and demanded hundreds of dollars in payments for reassessment and reassessment appeal services.
The statements warned homeowners that if payments were not received by the "due date" they faced late fees or would have their file marked "non-responsive" or "ineligible for future tax reassessments."
Brown contends that neither company adequately informed consumers that they were not a governmental entity, the solicitations were not a bill, purchase of the services was not required and services were available free of charge from county assessors.
Additionally, few, if any, of the property tax assessment services homeowners were billed for in 2008 were completed.
These companies continue to solicit California homeowners and have recently sent out mailers with due dates of May 26, 2009.
Last week, the Ventura District Attorney's Office charged one of the brothers, Sean McConville, with 20 felony counts for criminal conduct stemming from his property tax reassessment operations.
To avoid becoming a victim, Brown says homeowners who believe their property value has declined and they are paying too much in property taxes should:
• Never pay money for something they did not ask for; and
• Avoid a middleman and instead contact a local county tax assessor's office for a free property value reassessment.