LANCASTER COUNTY, Pa. - A central hub and help center to assist families facing possible foreclosure due to the collapse of mortgage broker OPFM Inc. will open at Lancaster Farm & Home Center.
Also, a rally is planned in Harrisburg next week to prod state officials into doing more to assist those families.
State Sen. Michael Brubaker helped arrange a group of attorneys, accountants, banking officials and other professionals who will donate their time to help the 800 families left deeper in debt by the bankruptcy of OPFM, which did business as Personal Financial Management Inc.
"It's a regional facility designed to provide professional counseling and advice to people that are in a very difficult time in their lives," Brubaker said.
Brubaker and other elected officials will provide details, including the help center's hours of operation, at a news conference this morning at the Lancaster Farm & Home Center, 1383 Arcadia Road.
OPFM owner Wesley A. Snyder left customers facing additional mortgage costs of up to $180,000 when his five financial companies filed for bankruptcy liquidation Sept. 18.
Snyder told customers they were responsible for significantly larger mortgages OPFM had brokered for them through any of its 25 mortgage-lending partners.
Those people have until Nov. 14 to decide whether to join a class action lawsuit filed Sept. 25 by the Kutztown law firm O'Keefe & Sher. The suit seeks to invalidate the mortgages Snyder arranged without the customers' approval, claiming the lending partners didn't follow standard banking procedures.
"They've got some difficult decisions to make, and the clock is ticking," Brubaker said.
OPFM customers have been getting unsolicited offers of help from several financial agencies on tax, mortgage, bankruptcy and other issues.
Some people are having a difficult time determining "which of those requests for help they should contract with, if any," Brubaker said.
"The help center can help people involved in this case that have nowhere else to go make sure there is a confidential environment where they could go and talk to a trusted adviser," Brubaker said.
The Lancaster Bar Association has agreed to provide local lawyers to meet with homeowners for free at the Farm & Home Center.
Brubaker also has arranged to have officials from the state Attorney General's office and state Banking Department meet personally with the nearly 300 Lancaster County families stung by OPFM's bankruptcy.
Both state agencies have been in contact with OPFM customers regarding investigations into Snyder's business practices. There are at least three other federal investigations ongoing as well, Brubaker said.
Many elected officials seem content to take a wait-and-see approach concerning the plight of Snyder's victims, said Linda Bryan, who helped organize three meetings and a Web site for those affected by OPFM's collapse.
Bryan and several others victims are upset by what they call an apathetic response by Gov. Ed Rendell. Bryan will stage a rally on the steps of the state Capitol in Harrisburg Wednesday.
"This mortgage crisis is affecting hundreds of children," Bryan said. "Rendell claims to care about children. Here's an opportunity to show at least he is aware children are suffering because of this crisis."
Charles Ardo, a spokesman for Rendell, said the governor is concerned and is monitoring the attorney general's investigation.
"Certainly they appear to be in dire straits, but we have to work through the system as it is established," Ardo said. "The attorney general has to work at the pace that his investigation allows him to work."
Bryan countered that mortgage victims don't have the luxury of time.
But Ardo was undeterred, saying, "They are mistaking what appears to be the slow pace of government action for inaction."
Also, Michelle Weaver has organized a fourth meeting for OPFM victims, scheduled for 7 p.m. Nov. 5 at the Dutch Apple Dinner Theater, 510 Centerville Road.
Attorney Joseph O'Keefe will attend and answer questions relating to the class-action lawsuit he filed on behalf of customers he believes were defrauded.
Related HeadlinesMortgage holders vent frustrations
Judge assists mortgage victims
OPFM mortgage crisis hits home
Mortgage holders put on hold
Suit seeks to void 800 'Ponzi' mortgages