New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo has announced a favorable decision in a lawsuit against American Modification Agency, Inc. ("Amerimod"), formerly one of the largest foreclosure rescue companies in the country, and its owner and president Salvatore Pane, Jr.
New York Supreme Court Justice Emily Jane Goodman found that Amerimod and Pane engaged in fraudulent, deceptive, and illegal business practices that violated New York's consumer protection and real property laws.
"Amerimod shamelessly victimized vulnerable homeowners, and we are pleased the court recognized this," Cuomo said. "With the Court's decision, Amerimod and its owner will no longer be able to prey on consumers in New York and across the country. My office will continue to pursue relief for those victimized by this company's practices."
In August 2009, Cuomo filed a lawsuit against New York-based Amerimod and Pane, after an investigation revealed the company routinely collected illegal upfront fees from homeowners on the brink of foreclosure and then failed to modify their home mortgage loans and lower their monthly mortgage payments as promised.
After signing up with Amerimod, consumers often found themselves in worse financial shape with respect to their mortgages. Many were also unable to obtain accurate information from Amerimod's representatives.
The Attorney General's lawsuit claimed that many of these customers were lured in by the company's false and deceptive advertising and were not provided legally required disclosures and notices when they signed on with the company. Amerimod, which was headquartered in Uniondale, New York, had more than ten branch offices throughout New York State, as well as offices in various states throughout the United States.
The Court found that the Attorney General conducted a "meticulous investigation" and introduced "a mass of testimony and other evidence" that demonstrated "Amerimod misled its customers concerning its ability to help them modify their mortgages, and did, in fact, fail to make good on its promises." The Court noted that Amerimod often failed to attend to its customers after customers paid Amerimod's fee.
The Court also found that Amerimod made numerous false claims in its advertisements, including misrepresenting the number of homes it had saved, falsely claiming to have a 90 percent to 100 percent success rate, falsely claiming to be "licensed" by a government agency, and falsely claiming that it was affiliated with "legal experts."
The Court also ruled that Amerimod violated New York's distressed property consulting statute, Real Property Law 265-b, by charging illegal, upfront fees for its loan modification services, failing to provide contracts in the language of its customers, especially Spanish, and failing to provide homeowners with the legally required notice of their right to cancel within five business days.
The decision and order holds Pane personally liable for engaging in fraudulent and illegal acts, noting that Pane appeared in numerous commercials touting Amerimod's services, approved expenditures and the content of marketing, and made multiple misleading statements to the press.
The Court permanently prohibited Amerimod and Pane from engaging in the illegal, fraudulent, and deceptive business practices and false advertising described in the Attorney General's petition. The Court also denied a request to lift a temporary restraining order obtained by the Attorney General, freezing bank accounts and other assets. Justice Goodman ordered further proceedings to determine the amount of consumer restitution, costs and fees, and civil penalties.
The Attorney General urges Amerimod customers who have not received a mortgage modification to contact their lender immediately and explore other available resources to assist them with obtaining a modification and avoiding foreclosure. Options include consulting an attorney or a government-approved housing counselor.