News Release: Judge Finds Big Island Woman in Contempt, Fines Her More Than $250,000

Posted on Oct 4, 2013 in News, News Releases

DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE AND CONSUMER AFFAIRS

Office of Consumer Protection

News Release

 

     NEIL ABERCROMBIE

GOVERNOR

_________________________________________________________________________________________________

BRUCE KIM                                                      KEALII S. LOPEZ

OFFICE OF CONSUMER PROTECTION           DIRECTOR

EXEC. DIRECTOR

Phone (808) 586-2630                                     Phone: (808) 586-2850

Fax: (808) 586-2640                                         Fax: (808) 586-2856

_________________________________________________________________________________________________

 

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Oct. 4, 2013

 

Judge Finds Big Island Woman in Contempt, Fines Her More Than $250,000

Consumer Protector Obtained Injunction Against Defendant’s Mortgage Rescue Services

HONOLULU – A Maui Circuit Court judge this week found Edna A. Franco (“Franco”) in civil contempt for violating a preliminary injunction obtained by the state Office of Consumer Protection (OCP) against Franco and her business Francha Services, LLC, and imposed a fine of at least $252,000.

 

The preliminary injunction bars Franco and her business from directly or indirectly offering to perform mortgage rescue services and asking for, demanding or receiving advance fees for such services. Evidence presented by OCP showed that Franco violated the injunction by continuing to offer mortgage rescue services to distressed homeowners and requesting payment of upfront fees from the homeowners.

 

OCP sued Franco and her business last year claiming that they violated Hawaii’s Mortgage Rescue Fraud Prevention Act, which, among other things, prohibits collection of fees before services are performed and requires a written contract spelling out the services and fees to be charged for such services. The OCP suit also alleges that Franco’s company engaged in a pattern and practice of unfair and deceptive conduct.

 

Franco and her business targeted homeowners on Maui, Oahu and the Big Island. The homeowners were asked to pay Franco a substantial advance fee before she would help them and then she did little if anything to complete any of the services she promised.

 

Judge Rhonda Loo imposed a civil fine against Franco of $1,000 per day until Franco proves to the Court that she complies with the terms of the preliminary injunction.  As of April 4, 2013, the fines amount to $252,000.

 

“Judge Loo’s order finding Franco in contempt reflects the severity of Franco’s irresponsible conduct and recognizes that charging at-risk homeowners illegal advance fees to save their house from foreclosure can inflict severe economic and emotional harm upon these vulnerable families,” said Bruce B. Kim, OCP’s executive director. “Hawaii’s Mortgage Rescue Fraud Prevention Act was enacted in 2008 to stop this type of irresponsible conduct. The court’s well-reasoned and comprehensive ruling sends a strong message that the State takes these cases seriously and that violations of the Hawaii Mortgage Rescue Fraud Prevention Act will not be tolerated.”

 

If you are in default on your mortgage or facing foreclosure, you may be targeted by a mortgage rescue scam. These mortgage rescue “professionals” use half-truths and deceptive tactics to sell services that promise relief to homeowners in distress while demanding a substantial upfront fee.

 

If you are looking for foreclosure prevention help, avoid any business that:

 

  • Promises they can stop the foreclosure process, no matter your circumstances
  • Instructs you not to contact your lender, lawyer or HUD-approved credit or housing counselor
  • Collects a fee before providing any services
  • Recommends that you stop making your mortgage payments
  • Recommends that you make your mortgage payments directly to it, rather than your lender
  • Pressures you to sign papers you have not had a chance to read thoroughly or that you do not understand

 

Violations of Hawaii’s Mortgage Rescue Fraud Prevention Act and the laws prohibiting unfair and deceptive trade practices subject offending parties to fines ranging from $500 to $10,000 per violation.

 

Act 183, signed into law by Gov. Neil Abercrombie on June 28, 2012, makes certain violations of the Mortgage Rescue Fraud Prevention Act a class C felony with a mandatory $10,000 fine.

 

HUD-approved housing counseling agencies in Hawaii offer free counseling services on buying a home, renting, defaults, foreclosures, and credit issues. If you are facing foreclosure, you can locate a HUD-approved Hawaii housing counselor by contacting the Hawaii Foreclosure Information Center at (808) 587-3222 or toll free at 1-800-394-1902. You may also visit their website at www.HFIC.hawaii.gov. The Hawaii Foreclosure Information Center is a free service operated by the state Department of Commerce and Consumer Affairs to help homeowners facing foreclosure.

 

Anyone who believes they have been victimized by a mortgage rescue scam, whether by the above Defendants or any other business, and have not filed a complaint with the state’s Office of Consumer Protection may call 587-4272 on Oahu or contact the OCP neighbor island offices on Maui, (808) 243-4648, or the Big Island, (808) 933-0910.

 

OCP staff attorney Landon Murata represents the state in this action.

 

 

###

For media inquiries, please contact:

Brent Suyama

Communications Officer, DCCA

Phone:  586-7582

E-mail:  bsuyama@dcca.hawaii.gov