When the California Attorney General last week announced the arrests of Christopher Wright Fox (right) and his partner Curtis James Melone for allegedly collecting more than $6 million from homeowners
nationwide for loan modification services that were never performed, Moe Bedard was not surprised.
“What does surprise me,” Bedard reacted, “is how long it took to issue these arrest warrants
when these loan modification clowns have been operating for many years
That was posted on Bedard's LoanSafe.org blog, which along with sister blog LoanWorkout.org has been reporting on the “rogue loan modification firm” and its owners
for four years. “They were
probably the largest firm and thus most likely the biggest scam to hit
the loan mod industry since its inception in early 2007,” Bedard informs.
Laguna Niguel's Fox and Huntington Beach's Melone (who also goes by Curtis Kubat), both 37, pleaded not guilty at their Orange County Superior
Court arraignment last Wednesday to 37 felony counts, including
conspiracy, grand theft and unlawful collection of advance fees.
A third man, disbarred Tennessee lawyer King Harris III, 42, also was
charged in the case. State prosecutors were in the process of seeking his
extradition to California from Missouri, where he's facing
federal mail and wire fraud charges.
According to the complaint shared by Attorney General Kamala Harris, Fox and Melone operated
Green Credit Solutions in Irvine, which was later
renamed Guardian Credit Services and Get My Credit Grade.
Thousands of homeowners
facing foreclosure were charged $3,500 apiece in up-front fees in exchange for
attorney services that weren't provided, according to prosecutors who say Green Credit lawyers did little, if anything, for clients.
“Homeowners continue to struggle throughout California and across
the country to hang onto their homes, and this prosecution is another
warning to predators who would seek to profit from their distress: this
kind of criminal conduct will meet with swift and certain consequences,” Harris told the gathered media last week.
Her office launched an investigation in June 2009 after numerous consumer complaints were filed with her office, the Better Business Bureau, the California Department of Real Estate and
the State Bar of California.
The probe found that from November 2008 to October 2009, Fox,
Melone and Harris collected more than $6 million from thousands of
homeowners across California and nationwide, according to the complaint.
Victims were allegedly told their
funds would be held in a so-called “attorney escrow account” until
services were completed. In fact, those fees were often deposited into
the account of a disbarred attorney and then promptly transferred to
Green Credit, according to the complaint.
In California, foreclosure consultants are prohibited by law from
collecting money before services are performed. “Homeowners should never pay up-front
fees to reduce their loans,” said Harris, who advised Californians facing mortgage difficulties
to instead contact a non-profit housing counselor, either through www.HUD.gov or a local non-profit housing clinic. Tips on how to
avoid mortgage fraud and other resources, and to report fraud or file a
complaint, are available at http://oag.ca.gov/consumers/
Read the Green Credit complaint at http://oag.ca.gov/.
“We hope that we have assisted law enforcement in their investigation,” Bedard writes, “and also helped thousands of other potential victims from being
defrauded by these financial thugs.”
Matt Coker has been engaging, enraging and entertaining readers of newspapers, magazines and websites for decades. He spent the first 13 years of his career in journalism at daily newspapers before “graduating” to OC Weekly in 1995 as the paper’s first calendar editor. He went on to be managing editor, executive editor and is now senior staff writer.