United States Attorney Maria Chapa Lopez announced that the United States filed a lawsuit, alleging that a Florida legal services provider and two of its officers violated the federal Fair Housing Act (FHA) by intentionally discriminating against Hispanic homeowners, targeting them with a predatory mortgage loan modification and foreclosure rescue services scheme.
The Defendants named in the lawsuit are Advocate Law Groups of Florida, P.A; attorney, Jon B. Lindeman, Jr.; and his wife, Ephigenia K. Lindeman. Advocate Law Groups of Florida, P.A., is based in Miami Lakes, Florida. The law office has offices in has offices in Orlando and Tampa, along with other locations.
According to the allegations, the defendants deliberately targeted complainants and other homeowners from 2009 through at least 2015 with an unfair and predatory loan modification and foreclosure rescue services scheme because of their Hispanic national origin. They “purposefully targeted Hispanic homeowners with Spanish-language advertising that falsely promised to cut their mortgage payments in half. … promised lower payments in a short timeframe in exchange for thousands of dollars of upfront fees and additional, continuing monthly fees.”
The defendants also instructed their clients to stop making monthly mortgage payments and to stop communicating with their lenders, placing their clients’ homes at risk of foreclosure.
In addition, Lopez alleges that the defendants sent their clients a package of documents, written in English that were sent to the bank on their behalf – but they provided no translation of the documents. The documents contained untrue statements, including an offer to the bank to return the complainants’ homes in exchange for a rescission of the mortgage without the complainants’ consent to do so.
Despite charging high fees, the defendants did little or nothing actually to obtain loan modifications.
The lawsuit arose as a result of three complaints filed with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). After conducting an investigation, HUD issued a charge of discrimination and referred the case to the Justice Department. This case is being prosecuted jointly with the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division and the Civil Rights Unit of the United States Attorney’s Office for the Middle District of Florida.
“Enforcement of civil rights in the housing arena is a point of focus for our Civil Division. The predatory conduct described in this complaint cannot go unaddressed, and we will take whatever steps are necessary to protect our district’s residents from this kind of discriminatory practice,” says United States Attorney Maria Chapa Lopez.
Anyone with information on the loan modification and foreclosure rescue services provided by Advocate Law Groups of Florida, P.A., can contact the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division at 800-896-7743 and leave a message (for English, press 1 and select mailbox 93; for Spanish, press 2 and select mailbox 7).