Kea`au Woman Fined $252,000 in Mortgage ‘Rescue’ Cases
by Dave Smith
A Second Circuit Court judge on Maui this week found a Big Island woman in civil contempt and fined her $252,000 for violating a court order prohibiting her from performing “mortgage rescue services” or receiving advance payments for such services.
Last year, the state Department of Commerce and Consumer Affairs obtained a preliminary injunction against Edna A. Franco of Kea`au and her business, Francha Services LLC, for offering the services to distressed homeowners and requesting upfront fees.
The agency sued Franco and her business, claiming they violated Hawaii’s Mortgage Rescue Fraud Prevention Act. The 2012 law prohibits advance collection of fees and requires a written contract detailing service to be provided and fees to be charged.
Franco and her business targeted homeowners on Maui, Oahu and the Big Island. The lawsuit filed by the agency’s Office of Consumer Protection alleged that Franco’s company asked homeowners to pay a substantial upfront fee and then “did little if anything to complete any of the services she promised,” it said in a statement.
At that time, Maui Judge imposed a civil fine against Franco of $1,000 per day until Franco could prove to the court that she was complying with the terms of the injunction.
As of April 4, the fines amounted to $252,000.
“Judge Loo’s order finding Franco in contempt reflects the severity of Franco’s irresponsible conduct and recognizes that charging at-risk homeowners illegal advance fees to save their house from foreclosure can inflict severe economic and emotional harm upon these vulnerable families,” said Bruce B. Kim, OCP’s executive director.
“Hawaii’s Mortgage Rescue Fraud Prevention Act was enacted in 2008 to stop this type of irresponsible conduct,” Kim said. “The court’s well-reasoned and comprehensive ruling sends a strong message that the State takes these cases seriously and that violations of the Hawaii Mortgage Rescue Fraud Prevention Act will not be tolerated.”
State regulators caution anyone who may be facing foreclosure to beware of those promoting mortgage rescue scams.
They advise avoiding any business that can promise to stop the foreclosure process regardless of circumstances, instructs you to not contact your lender or recommends you stop making mortgage payments or redirect them to the company, or collects a fee before providing any services.
Housing and Urban Development-approved housing counseling agencies in Hawaii offer free counseling services on buying a home, renting, defaults, foreclosures, and credit issues.
A HUD-approved Hawaii housing counselor can be contacted through the Hawaii Foreclosure Information Center at (808) 587-3222 or toll free at 1-800-394-1902 or through its website at www.HFIC.hawaii.gov.
The Hawaii Foreclosure Information Center is a free service operated by the DCCA to help homeowners facing foreclosure. Anyone who believes they have been victimized by a mortgage rescue scam, whether by the above Defendants or any other business, and have not filed a complaint with the state’s Office of Consumer Protection may call contact the OCP from the Big Island by calling (808) 933-0910.