2 mortgage firms to pay restitution in foreclosure scheme

December 16, 2009|By Larry Carson | larry.carson@baltsun.com

Two Owings Mills-based mortgage firms accused of running a "foreclosure rescue scheme" have agreed to pay $110,000 in cash restitution as part of a settlement that saved the Ellicott City homes of two elderly women, one of whom has since died after becoming a victim.

Poor health and related bills left the two women behind on mortgage payments in 2006, when they responded to a refinancing offer contained in packets labeled "Your Best Hope has just arrived." But instead of a promised rescue from the brink of foreclosure, the women found that they had unwittingly signed away the titles to their homes and were facing eviction.

That's when Howard County consumer protection officials stepped in, filing suit against Stewart D. Sachs, president of Bay Capital Corp., which sent the letters; and Heavyweight Title Co. They also obtained a temporary restraining order to prevent the eviction of Betty J. Bullock, who was 63 and legally blind at the time she signed the mortgage papers, and Griselda Mason, then 68. Bullock died in October 2008 of a stroke.

Both women had been told they could get out of debt in two years, but were then charged rents so high that they could not afford to stay in the homes.

County officials announced Tuesday that they had reached a final settlement. Under the agreement, ownership of the two homes was restored to Mason and to Bullock's granddaughter, who was living with Bullock, and Sachs and Heavyweight agreed not to do any commercial lending in Howard County for three years and to never use "unfair deceptive trade practices" again in the county, officials said. In addition, Sachs is to pay $10,000 in investigation costs and restitution, and Heavyweight agreed to pay $100,000 to the victims to settle the suits.

"These settlements obviously represent a tremendous victory for the individual consumers who were deceived by this foreclosure rescue scheme," said County Executive Ken Ulman in a statement.

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