Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Two California Attorneys Near Disbarment, Another Faces Disciplinary Trial In Connection With Upfront Fee 'Mass Joinder' Loan Modification Racket

In San Francisco, California, The State Bar of California recently announced:

  • Two Southern California attorneys are facing disbarment and a third faces a disciplinary trial after a joint investigation by the State Bar’s Office of Chief Trial Counsel and the Attorney General’s Office into a loan modification scam that targeted distressed homeowners, the State Bar of California announced [].

  • The proposed discipline is the result of a coordinated effort in August 2011, when the State Bar and the Attorney General’s Office shut down law firms and marketing companies suspected of running a so-called “mass joinder” scam.

  • Philip A. Kramer (bar number 113969), 52 of Calabasas, has agreed to be disbarred. In a stipulation accepted Friday by the State Bar Court, Kramer admitted to numerous counts of misconduct including his collection of illegal fees, failure to return advanced fees, and accepting employment in states where he was not licensed to practice law. Kramer also agreed to pay $122,000 in restitution to 27 former clients as part of the stipulation.

  • Paul W. Petersen (bar number 170922), 51, of Irvine, is facing disbarment by default after he failed to appear in State Bar Court for a March 27 trial on various counts of misconduct including allegations of improper solicitation, unlawful collection of advance fees, failure to refund fees, and failure to perform services competently. Under the State Bar’s Rules of Procedure, unless the default is set aside, the State Bar Court will recommend Petersen’s disbarment to the California Supreme Court.

  • Anthony J. Kassas (bar number 227647), 35, of Diamond Bar, faces trial on 285 counts of disciplinary charges. The formal charges, filed April 6 by the Office of Chief Trial Counsel, include allegations that Kassas improperly solicited clients, collected unlawful advance fees, failed to provide proper accounting of funds and aided the unauthorized practice of law by non-lawyers.
  • According to papers filed in Los Angeles County and Orange County superior courts, the attorneys involved had contacted homeowners through deceptive mailers that looked like official documents from mortgage lenders.

  • The mailers contained language such as “Litigation Settlement Notification” that caused homeowners to think they were potential plaintiffs in a “national litigation settlement.” Directing homeowners to a toll-free number for assistance, the mailers contained exaggerated promises.

  • They stated that by joining a “mass joinder” lawsuit, foreclosures would be stayed, loan balances would be reduced and the homeowners would receive monetary benefits or their homes free and clear of their mortgage. Homeowners often paid retainer fees ranging from $3,500 to $10,000 but were never contacted by an attorney or included in a mass joinder lawsuit.

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