State officials working with the Legal Aid Society obtained a $1.5 million judgement in a mortgage rescue fraud case while also helping a Waianae couple who were scammed get their property back.
Hawaii’s Office of Consumer Protection said that in 2011, Hep Yanez Guinn, also known as Hephzibah Yanez Lusica, solicited the victims with mortgage assistance relief services through her company, HYL Consultants LLC.
The couple were facing foreclosure and had hired Guinn to help with a loan modification.
When Guinn was named as a defendant in the foreclosure suit refiled in 2019, the Office of Consumer Protection at the Department of Commerce and Consumer Affairs learned Guinn tricked the couple into signing over the deed to their property to temporarily make mortgage payments on their behalf, the state agency said in a news release today.
Guinn allegedly convinced the couple to pay her a monthly rent to help cover mortgage payments which she never made.
The couple eventually landed back in foreclosure because of the unpaid loan.
According to the Office of Consumer Protection, which intervened in the case, Guinn operated the scam for nearly a decade.
Last week, a circuit judge ordered Guinn to pay the Office of Consumer Protection $1.568 million in civil fines and penalties, and awarded $62,000 in restitution to the Waianae couple. The judge also restored the title of the property back to the victims.
“The threat of losing your home is distressing and unfortunately scammers prey on any opportunity to take full advantage,” said Office of Consumer Protection executive director Stephen Levins in the news release. “This judgment sends a message that we will not tolerate bad actors and they will be held accountable for victimizing Hawaii’s consumers.”
NEED HELP WITH MORTGAGE?
For homeowners who are struggling to pay their mortgage or having trouble dealing with their lender or mortgage service company, there are certified housing counselors with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development at various nonprofit agencies in Hawaii that can help at no cost.
For more information, click here.
When seeking foreclosure prevention assistance, the Office of Consumer Protection urges homeowners to avoid businesses that:
>> Promise to stop the foreclosure process, no matter the circumstances.
>> Instruct you not to contact your lender, attorney or HUD-approved housing counselor or credit counseling agency.
>> Recommend that you stop making your mortgage payments.
>> Recommend that you make mortgage payments directly to their business rather than your lender.
>> Collect a fee before providing any services.