7/16/2014 6:13:00 AM,
Amanda St. Germain
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (CN) - A Florida attorney, operating through his four law firms, broke a slew of laws by deceptively selling "mortgage assistance" services he failed to provide, the FTC claims in Federal Court.
The FTC sued Lanier Law, Liberty & Trust Law Group of Florida, Fortress Law Group, all of Florida; Surety Law Group, of Washington, D.C., and Michael W. Lanier, of Jacksonville. Lanier controlled or participated in all the defendant firms, the FTC says.
The FTC accuses Lanier and his companies of violating the FTC Act, deceptive representations, material misrepresentations, collecting advance payments in violation of the Mortgage Assistance Relief Services Rule, telemarketing violations, failure to disclose, and violating the National Do Not Call Registry.
"Defendants have charged an upfront fee ranging from $1,000 to $4,000 or, in some instances, charged monthly fees. In numerous instances, defendants have failed to obtain any relief for their customers," the FTC says in the lawsuit.
Lanier et al. told consumers they could get their mortgages modified by "reducing the interest rate, by making the monthly payments lower and/or reduce the principal balance of their mortgages, or that there is a high probability they will do so," the complaint states.
The FTC adds that Lanier et al. told consumers they would "conduct various audits or reviews of the consumers' loan documents and transactions and that many audits or reviews reveal fraud, errors or predatory acts committed by lender."
"In numerous instances, after consumers have signed up with defendants and paid requested advance fees, defendants have failed to obtain loan modification, principal reduction, or other relief to stop foreclosure or make consumers' mortgage payments affordable," the complaint states.
The FTC says many of Lanier's customers "suffered significant economic injury including: paying hundreds or thousands of dollars to defendants and receiving little to no service in return; going into foreclosure; and even losing their homes."
The FTC seeks an injunction and penalties.