The Mader Law Group, which has an office in West Palm Beach, operated a nationwide mortgage relief scam that lured clients in with government look-a-like websites and took upfront fees from struggling homeowners, according to a state lawsuit announced today.
The complaint was filed in Tampa by the Florida attorney general’s office against the Mader Law Group, Tampa-based attorney Eric Mader, and West Palm Beach resident Sean Batcheler, who allegedly ran a boiler room on Old Okeechobee Blvd. that would call homeowners who had asked for help on one of the firm’s websites.
“Many of these consumers thought when discussing their mortgage problems with the Mader telemarketers, that they were speaking to officials at government agencies,” the lawsuit states. “The telemarketers were instructed to sign up as many customers as possible, regardless of whether these consumers were already in such poor financial shape that they could not possibly qualify for government assistance or a loan modification.”
Batcheler, 34, said he had just seen the lawsuit this afternoon and didn’t want to comment. Mader, 45, could not be immediately be reached.
In 2011, Florida’s $1 billion Hardest Hit mortgage assistance program warned borrowers about copycat websites such as Mader’s, which had created a site with a similar address to the legitimate page run by the Florida Housing Finance Corporation.
Bonuses were awarded to Mader employees based on how many new paying consumers they signed up.
Also, telemarketers with no legal training gave legal advice to borrowers, told homeowners to stop paying their mortgages, and had them pay upfront for services such as negotiating a loan modification, according to the lawsuit.
Consumers entered a “bureaucratic maze of request for voluminous paperwork, until they discovered” that nothing had been done on their behalf.
When consumers complained to the Florida Bar or the attorney general, some were told that the Mader Law Group would file a lien against their property and that they would only receive refunds if they rescinded their complaints.
The attorney general’s lawsuit accuses the defendants of four violations to the state’s deceptive and unfair trade practices. It seeks to shut down the Mader Law Group, force it to reimburse customers and pay civil fines.
Eric Mader is listed as a member in good standing on the Florida Bar’s website. His contact information says he works for American Financial Law Group.
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