A Maui Circuit Court judge this week found Edna A. Franco in civil contempt for violating a preliminary injunction obtained by the state Office of Consumer Protection against Franco and her business Francha Services, LLC, and imposed a fine of at least $252,000.
The preliminary injunction bars Franco and her business from offering mortgage rescue services and asking for advance fees for such services. Franco violated the injunction by continuing to offer mortgage rescue services to distressed homeowners and requesting payment of upfront fees from the homeowners, according to the state Office of Consumer Protection.
The state Office of Consumer Protection sued Franco and her business last year claiming that they violated Hawaii’s Mortgage Rescue Fraud Prevention Act, which, among other things, prohibits collection of fees before services are performed and requires a written contract spelling out services and fees. The suit also alleges that Franco’s company engaged in a pattern and practice of unfair and deceptive conduct.
Franco and her business targeted homeowners on Maui, Oahu and the Big Island. The homeowners were asked to pay Franco a substantial advance fee before she would help them and then she did little if anything to complete any of the services she promised.
Judge Rhonda Loo imposed a civil fine against Franco of $1,000 per day until Franco proves to the court that she complies with the terms of the preliminary injunction. As of April 4, 2013, the fines amount to $252,000.
A news release issued by the Office of Consumer Protection advises: “If you are in default on your mortgage or facing foreclosure, you may be targeted by a mortgage rescue scam. These mortgage rescue ‘professionals’ use half-truths and deceptive tactics to sell services that promise relief to homeowners in distress while demanding a substantial upfront fee.”
Anyone looking for foreclosure prevention help, should avoid any business that:
>> Promises they can stop the foreclosure process, no matter your circumstances
>> Instructs you not to contact your lender, lawyer or HUD-approved credit or housing counselor
>> Collects a fee before providing any services
>> Recommends that you stop making your mortgage payments
>> Recommends that you make your mortgage payments directly to it, rather than your lender
>> Pressures you to sign papers you have not had a chance to read thoroughly or that you do not understand
HUD-approved housing counseling agencies in Hawaii offer free counseling services on buying a home, renting, defaults, foreclosures, and credit issues. If you are facing foreclosure, you can locate a HUD-approved Hawaii housing counselor by contacting the Hawaii Foreclosure Information Center at (808) 587-3222 or toll free at 1-800-394-1902. You may also visit their website at www.HFIC.hawaii.gov
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 587-4272 on Oahu or contact the OCP neighbor island offices on Maui, (808) 243-4648, or the Big Island, (808) 933-0910.