Nearly every client or prospective client who has consulted with Stopa Law Firm over the years has expressed a desire to obtain a loan modification. As much as I’d love to tell these homeowners what they want to hear, the sad reality is that mortgage modifications are few and far between, especially those with principal reductions.
Unfortunately, not everyone in the industry shares the necessary candor with homeowners. The story below, for instance, shows how one Florida lawyer duped thousands of homeowners into paying him an up-front fee based on promises of a loan modification … promises which he obviously can’t deliver.
If you’re a homeowner facing foreclosure, let this be a gentle reminder of a a few basic things.
1. Loan modifications are rare, especially with principal reductions. I know that’s frustrating, believe me – but don’t shoot the messenger.
2. If anyone is promising you a loan modification with principal reduction, predicated on you paying an up-front fee, be very wary – it’s probably a scam. The number of scam operations has gone down in recent years, but as you can see, they’re still out there.
3. Even if you’re trying to get a loan modification, you must defend your foreclosure lawsuit in the interim. Otherwise, you may think you’re negotiating for a mortgage modification, but those negotiations will end quickly once the foreclosure lawsuit ends with a Final Judgment of Foreclosure.
Of course, if you’ve been a victim of William O’Toole or Summit Legal Group, feel free to contact Stopa Law Firm for a consultation - we’ll be happy to see if it’s not too late to help you.
Here is the article, courtesy of the Daily Business Review.
The Florida Bar has called for an emergency suspension of Boca Raton lawyer William O’Toole, declaring the foreclosure defense lawyer presents “great public harm.”
In its petition for suspension, which the Florida Supreme Court is expected to rule on today, the Bar alleges that O’Toole has partnered with non-lawyers to create Summit Legal Group and collect up-front fees from clients for mortgage modifications.
State law prohibits non-lawyers from collecting up-front fees in exchange for promises of obtaining mortgage modifications. Attorneys general throughout the country have warned consumers that mortgage modification centers are a relatively new phenomenon that produce few or no results for distressed homeowners. The Bar has warned lawyers not to partner with non-lawyers on such endeavors.
According to the Bar’s petition, O’Toole is the subject of 20 complaints and has been under investigation by the Bar since March 2010. He partnered with non-lawyer Randy Baker, who is under investigation by the Florida attorney general, the petition states, to send him “leads” and then split fees with Baker in violation of Bar rules.
O’Toole currently has between 2,500 and 3,000 clients “and admits that he has so many files he does not know the status of the client’s files,” according to the Bar petition.
O’Toole did not return phone calls by deadline.
The Daily Business Review recently reported that another lawyer, Rashmi Airan-Pace, was suspended by The Bar for allegedly operating a similar mortgage modification service with a non-lawyer company. The Bar alleged Airan-Pace took up-front fees and promised to obtain mortgage modifications for underwater homeowners without results.