Monday, March 12, 2012

Sale Leaseback Peddler Hit With Allegations Of Fair Housing Act Violations In Civil Suit Brought By Screwed-Over Virginia Couple

The Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law(1) announces:

  • On March 6, 2012, K&L Gates, LLP, the national Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law (Lawyers’ Committee), and the Washington Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights and Urban Affairs (Washington Lawyers’ Committee) filed a lawsuit on behalf of a Woodbridge, Virginia couple who have been victimized by mortgage rescue scammers that allegedly prey on vulnerable homeowners by targeting Hispanics in Northern Virginia. As a result of the alleged scam, the couple has lost title to their home and thousands of dollars.

  • The complaint, filed in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, alleges that the mortgage rescue scam in this case is operated by Bella Homes LLC (Bella), a Georgia-based company. As alleged in the complaint, local representatives of Bella specifically targeted the scam to Hispanic people in Northern Virginia, like the Virginia couple, who are Hispanic and for whom English is a second language.

  • Bella, it is alleged, induced the Virginia couple, who have limited understanding of financial matters, to give the company title to their home for no money; they then entered into a “lease agreement” with Bella whereby the couple paid thousands of dollars to “rent” their home while Bella allegedly worked to purchase their mortgage.

  • The complaint further alleges Bella did nothing to help the couple avoid foreclosure, and the representations made by Bella to induce the couple into this scheme, including advice that they need not continue making their mortgage payments, were false. As a result of the scam, the couple has defaulted on their primary mortgage, subjecting them to a risk of foreclosure and of damage to their credit.

  • The targeting of this scam on Hispanics is alleged to violate the anti-discrimination provisions of the Fair Housing Act. This is one of first cases filed in federal court that alleges a violation of the Fair Housing Act based on a mortgage rescue scam.

  • In addition, the scam allegations in this case contain many hallmarks identified by federal enforcement agencies as typical of predatory mortgage modification and foreclosure rescue scams.

  • In fact, the United States Attorney and the state Attorney General in Colorado recently initiated an enforcement action against Bella for similar scamming operations throughout the country. In the Colorado case, Bella agreed to a preliminary injunction ceasing further operations and transferring approximately $500,000 to the government, pending final resolution of the case or further orders from the court (go here for lawsuit: U.S. v Bella Homes LLC, et al.).(2)

For more, see Lawyers' Committee & Partners File Suit Against Bella Homes LLC for Mortgage Rescue Scam Targeted at Hispanics.

For the lawsuit, see Viera v. Bella Homes, LLC, et al.

(1) The Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law is a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization formed in 1963 to involve the private bar in providing legal services to address racial discrimination.

(2) For more on this type of foreclosure rescue ripoff, see:

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