North Carolina officials are claiming victory over a foreclosure rescue firm for the 12th time in the last five years.

North Carolina Attorney General Roy Cooper says his office has obtained a court order barring Reginald Keith Turner, who did business as Hazelton Management and The Carley Group, from ever offering foreclosure assistance services in the state.

The firms previously operated in Charlotte and Colfax, N.C.

"Taking people's money and then failing to help them just pushes homeowners even closer to foreclosure," Cooper said. "We'll keep going after these foreclosure rescue schemes that prey on fear and promise false hope."

Illegal advance fees

Under North Carolina law, it's illegal to charge an advance fee for help with foreclosure or loan modifications, a change Cooper fought for in 2005 after his office began to hear complaints from consumers.

Foreclosure assistance and loan modification scams typically operate by getting struggling homeowners to pay upfront for help saving their homes. In most cases, the scammers rarely do anything to help the homeowners, instead keeping their money and leaving them even deeper in trouble.

In 2010, 251 consumers filed complaints with the Attorney General's Consumer Protection Division about foreclosure and loan modification scams, down from 2009, when 448 consumers filed similar complaints. To fight the scammers, Cooper's office has taken 12 foreclosure rescue operations to court, winning judgments of more than $1 million including refunds for consumers.

Number 1 scam

Several other states have also been active in fighting foreclosure fraud. In fact, foreclosure rescue topped's list of the Top 10 Scams of 2010.

In this latest case, Wake County Superior Court Judge Lucy Inman agreed last week with Cooper's request for a default judgment against the defendants. Turner is now permanently prohibited from foreclosure assistance, loan modification and debt relief work in the state. The judgment also orders Turner to pay $32,804 in refunds to 24 consumers and $50,000 in civil penalties to local public schools.

The Attorney General's Office first warned Turner to stop violating the law in late 2008. Instead, Cooper said he reopened his business under a new name, The Carley Group, and proceeded to keep taking consumers' money.

Cooper then filed suit against Turner, alleging that he charged homeowners an advance fee of as much as $2,500 but did little or nothing to help save their homes. Turner shut down his operations and left North Carolina after Cooper won a temporary court order against his foreclosure rescue work in June 2010.