October 16, 2008 in Business

Florida firm settles with state A.G.

By The Spokesman-Review
 

Another company that claimed to help save Washington homeowners from foreclosure – but purportedly did little or nothing in return for its fees – has agreed to a settlement with the state attorney general’s office.

The state alleged Clearwater, Fla.-based United Home Savers LLP charged customers $1,200 or more up front, but routinely did not refund the money if it couldn’t help them, as the company promised. The now-defunct company and owners Darin and Stephanie Dietschy, of Belleair Beach, Fla., do not admit guilt in the Wednesday settlement, filed in Spokane County Superior Court.

The Federal Trade Commission separately is suing the partnership in a Florida federal court, asking for restitution for all customers. If that effort fails, the state attorney general’s office may petition state courts to refund Washington customers.

The settlement is the second with a Clearwater, Fla.-based foreclosure-rescue company in six months: In April, defunct Foreclosure Assistance Solutions agreed to repay $78,125 to Washington customers, plus pay $20,000 to the attorney general’s office. FAS also did not admit guilt.

“It’s cookie cutter; it’s exactly the same scam,” said Jack Zurlini, assistant attorney general.

A Portland attorney for United Home Savers could not be reached for comment Wednesday.

The attorney general’s office claimed United Home Savers identified people facing foreclosure and sent them letters and postcards, some of which “deceptively mimic official government notifications,” according to a civil compliant filed in superior court. While the materials offered a refund if the company was not successful, “UHS routinely fails to contact the financial institution entirely or in a meaningful way on behalf of consumers, and then fails or refuses to refund money to consumers,” the complaint alleges.

United Home Savers’ contracts also voided refunds if customers contacted their lenders, forcing them to rely entirely on the business, the complaint claims.

The settlement also fines United Home Savers $100,000, but suspends the penalty as long as the business follows the settlement.

Reach Parker Howell at (509) 459-5491 or at parkerh@spokesman.com.

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