Police in Nevada have arrested a 46-year old businessman accused of defrauding desperate homeowners with a mortgage modification scheme.

Nevada Attorney General Catherine Cortez Masto says Stephen Vitalich, doing business as Consumer Loan Excellence of America, LLC or NBMS of America, LLC, faces charges of theft.

The criminal complaint alleges Vitalich promised clients he would obtain mortgage loan modifications that would substantially reduce clients’ monthly mortgage payments. The complaint further alleges that after collecting large advance fees, Vitalich performed no substantive work on his clients’ behalf and eventually disappeared with their money.

Since Nevada is ground zero in the nation's foreclosure crisis, Masto said Vitalich didn't have to look hard to find victims.

“Nevadans continue to struggle with the economic downturn which has wreaked havoc on our state’s housing market,” said Masto. “Some homeowners will do anything they can to stay in their home, including unknowingly turning to predators. I hope this prosecution serves as a warning to other would be predators to think twice taking advantage of Nevada homeowners.”

2010 investigation

In early 2010, Masto launched an investigation of Consumer Loan Excellence of America in response to numerous consumer complaints filed with her office. The case was investigated and is being prosecuted by the Attorney General’s Bureau of Criminal Justice Fraud Unit.

Nevada is not the only state struggling to protect homeowners for abusive mortgage modification schemes. Illinois and Indiana have, in recent months, sued various companies charging advance fees and then offering little or no help to struggling homeowners.

Masto says homeowners should never pay up front fees to reduce their loans. Help is free and generally speaking, no one should pay for assistance.

Homeowners who face mortgage difficulties should instead contact a non-profit housing counselor, either through www.HUD.gov or a local non-profit housing clinic, to learn about the mortgage process and their rights as homeowners.

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