Attorney General Lori Swanson on Thursday sued six out-of-state foreclosure consulting companies who she claims defrauded Minnesota homeowners out of thousands of dollars.
Swanson, who filed the suits in Hennepin County District Court, is also seeking injunctions to stop the companies from operating in Minnesota.
The suits allege the companies violated state law by collecting large fees before performing the services they were contracted to complete.
Also, Swanson said, the companies did not deliver the solutions they promised, which put the distressed homeowners in a further bind because they lost time and more money while trying to save their homes.
"They made a bad situation even worse," she said Thursday.
Lawyers with the attorney general's office said the companies used websites, direct mailings and phone calls to solicit property owners, assuring them the companies could stop the foreclosures.
In each case, the lawyers said, the companies asked for money up front ranging from about $1,000 to almost $2,400.
The firms then demanded more money to continue working with the customers, all of whom were in arrears on their mortgages.
"The minute it hits that your home is in foreclosure, they come after you," said Lonnie Sievert of Brooklyn Park, who lost her home last year. "We just got in over our heads."
The lawsuits filed Thursday are against National Foreclosure Relief, a Nevada corporation with a California business address; Lewis Loss Mitigation of Alabama, which also does business as Stop Foreclosure and Lewis and Associates Consulting; D.R. Financial Services of California, which also does business as D.R. Financial and Superior Home Loans; American Foreclosure Specialists of Oklahoma; Mortgage Default Assistance of Florida, and Home Assure of Florida.
Terry Lake of Brooklyn Park, who has filed for bankruptcy to try to save his home, paid almost $2,400 to one of the companies. The advice he was given for his money: file for bankruptcy.
"I already knew that," said Lake, a car salesman. "I felt like I was being sold a product that it was never their intention to deliver."
The American Foreclosure Specialists website mentioned that the company was Christian-run and even quoted Bible passages to reassure prospective clients, the attorney general's office said Thursday.
Chantae Grandsberry of Brooklyn Center, who had to leave her home just last week, said she chose that company because of its religious references.
"They said they were a Christian company, and that is important to me and my husband," she said. "We didn't think that a Christian-based company would do anything wrong."
Heron Marquez Estrada • 612-673-4280