BALTIMORE, MD – September 29, 2009 – (RealEstateRama) — Attorney General Douglas F. Gansler announced today that his Consumer Protection Division has won a judgment in the Circuit Court for Baltimore City against brothers Michael K. Lewis and Earnest Lewis, Cheryl Brooke, In the House Technology, Inc., and Winston Thomas based on violations of Maryland’s law against foreclosure rescue scams. The Honorable Barry G. Williams issued an order that bars the Lewis brothers, Brooke, and Thomas from offering and selling services of any kind to a homeowner who is in default on a mortgage or is in foreclosure, and requires them to pay over a million dollars in restitution and penalties. The order also requires them to provide regular reports to the Division concerning their employment.
The Consumer Protection Division sued the Lewis brothers, Brooke, Thomas and In the House Technology, Inc. for engaging in a foreclosure rescue enterprise in violation of Maryland’s Consumer Protection Act and Protection of Homeowners in Foreclosure Act. The Division alleged that the main objective of the foreclosure rescue enterprise was to take title to consumers’ homes and then strip the homes of equity.
The Division also entered into a consent order with Cornerstone Title & Escrow, Inc., a real estate settlement company, that the Division sued for participating in the scheme and for using practices that violated the Consumer Protection Act. Cornerstone denied the Division’s allegations and has not admitted any wrongdoing.
“Maryland law prohibits foreclosure consultants from collecting fees before fully performing the services promised and now prohibits them from arranging foreclosure rescue transactions,” said Attorney General Gansler. “Additionally, Maryland law requires foreclosure consultants to provide clients with notices that explain the homeowner’s rights.”
The consent order entered with Cornerstone requires the company to pay $100,100 and bars Cornerstone from performing settlement services for either of the Lewis brothers, Brooke, Thomas or In the House Technology, Inc. The consent order also bars Cornerstone from performing settlements where the purchaser provided foreclosure consulting services to the seller or the purchaser is acting on behalf of a person who provided foreclosure consulting services to the seller.
Consumers facing foreclosure should always be wary of businesses claiming they can help consumers avoid foreclosure. Instead, the Office of Attorney General recommends consumers consult one of the HUD-approved nonprofit housing counselors listed on the Attorney General’s website at www.oag.state.md.us/consumer/foreclose.htm.
Raquel Guillory, 410-576-6357
rguillory (at) oag.state.md (dot) us