Under a settlement with the Federal Trade Commission, a federal court banned three men and their company from the mortgage modification business and ordered them to pay nearly $19 million for consumer refunds. The defendants allegedly deceived distressed homeowners with phony claims that they would negotiate with lenders to modify their mortgages and make them more affordable.
The FTC sued First Universal Lending and its owners in November 2009 as part of Project Stolen Hope, a continuing federal-state crackdown on mortgage foreclosure rescue and loan modification scams. As alleged in the FTC’s complaint, the defendants encouraged homeowners to stop making mortgage payments, saying lenders would not negotiate unless they were at least a few months behind in their payments. After charging consumers up to $7,000 in up-front fees, the defendants often did little or nothing to help them, the agency charged. The court subsequently halted the defendants’ operation, froze their assets, and ordered them to disable their Web sites and computers.
In addition to imposing a judgment of more than $18.8 million against the defendants, the settlement order bans them from the mortgage relief services business. It also permanently prohibits the defendants from misrepresenting material facts about any good or service, violating the Telemarketing Sales Rule, selling or using customers’ personal information, failing to properly dispose of customer information, and collecting payments from their customers.
The defendants are First Universal Lending LLC, Sean Zausner, David Zausner, and David J. Feingold, an attorney in Palm Beach Gardens, Florida.
The FTC asks people to report foreclosure rescue and mortgage modification scams to FTC.gov or by calling 1-877-FTC-HELP. The FTC makes those complaints available to federal, state, and local law enforcement through the Consumer Sentinel Network.
The Commission vote approving the proposed consent judgment was 5-0. The FTC filed the proposed consent judgment in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida. The consent judgment was entered by the court on May 25, 2011.
NOTE: This consent judgment is for settlement purposes only and does not constitute an admission by the defendant that the law has been violated. Consent judgments have the force of law when approved and signed by the District Court judge.
The Federal Trade Commission works for consumers to prevent fraudulent, deceptive, and unfair business practices and to provide information to help spot, stop, and avoid them. To file a complaint in English or Spanish, visit the FTC’s online Complaint Assistant or call
1-877-FTC-HELP (1-877-382-4357). The FTC enters complaints into Consumer Sentinel, a secure, online database available to more than 2,000 civil and criminal law enforcement agencies in the U.S. and abroad. The FTC’s website provides free information on a variety of consumer topics. Like the FTC on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.