Supes to introduce mortgage fraud bill

July 7, 2009 12:00:00 AM PDT
Homeowners struggling to hang onto their properties are easy prey for unscrupulous loan modification companies that have no intention of helping. But the people behind those mortgage scams could soon face severe consequences in San Francisco. The Board of Supervisors is considering legislation that would hit predators in the pocketbook and send them to jail.

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Little AJ Rustrian is packing up all his books and toys. His parents told him to get ready to move.

At the end of last year, the family fell behind on their house payments, and now their home is in foreclosure. They went to a company that promised to help them modify their loan.

"We trusted this third party and they just took us for a ride," said mortgage scam victim Vherney Rustrian.

The Rustrians are just one of many victims of unscrupulous mortgage consultants who use basically the same pitch.

"They asked for money upfront -- $1,500 up front -- and they guaranteed they would solve the problem," said Rustrian.

The results are all too often tragic.

"They disappeared. We couldn't get a hold of them anymore," said Rustrian.

But now, San Francisco supervisors are considering legislation that may help other homeowners from being victimized by mortgage scams.

The bill was initiated by San Francisco Assessor Phil Ting and District Attorney Kamala Harris. It would require written contracts between loan agents and homeowners.

Supervisor David Campos is a co-sponsor. He says any modification would require the following.

"At least a 20 percent decrease for a period of five years, a minimum of five years in terms of the mortgage payment or making sure the payment doesn't exceed 31 percent of a person's monthly gross income," said Campos.

Harris says there will be tougher penalties for violators.

"They will be sent to jail for up to six months and they'll be required to pay a $1,000 fine," said Harris.

Rustrian says it's too late for him, but he hopes the bill will prevent predators from taking other distressed homeowners for a ride into foreclosure.

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