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Court rules on FTC charges in refinance scam

March 28, 2005

Colorado mortgage broker ordered to pay back consumers

Inman News

A federal district court has barred a Colorado-based mortgage broker from making false claims about home mortgage financing services and ordered him to pay consumer redress following Federal Trade Commission charges that he violated federal laws.

According to the FTC, the defendant and his company deceptively claimed they could refinance consumers' mortgages at the lowest available rates at no cost to consumers.

In May 2004, the FTC filed a complaint against Phillip W. Ranney and a group of corporate defendants, operating as PWR Processing, charging that the defendants promised consumers "no-fee," low-interest home mortgages following a process of multiple refinances.

According to the FTC's complaint, the defendants told consumers that if they applied for two loans, one at a competitive rate and one at a higher-than-market rate, lenders on the higher-than-market rate loans would pay a premium to the mortgage broker that in turn would be used to pay fees associated with the lower-interest loan. The defendants allegedly claimed that the low-interest loan would then be used to pay the higher-interest loan, leaving the consumer with a low-interest, "no-fee" loan.

The FTC charged that instead of receiving the promised loan, consumers were stuck with high-interest loans, often at rates higher than they wanted to refinance. The FTC also alleged that the defendants did not pay appraisal fees, leaving many consumers with liens on their properties.

The FTC's complaint also named Kathleen A. Ranney as a relief defendant; the agency subsequently dismissed its case against her.

In August 2004, the court entered a default judgment against the corporate defendants, Armor Mortgage; Abacus Mortgage; Community Homebanc Mortgage Services; Harbor Pacific Funding; High Center; Lending Strategies of Colorado; Lite Realty Corp.; PWR Processing, dba First Source America Mortgage Corp. dba NexLoan; PWR Press; and Source Funding Co., Colorado corporations; Kace, LLC dba Aristocrat Mortgage, a Colorado limited liability company; and Mortgage Watch, a California corporation.

The judgment barred the defendants from misrepresenting: (1) that they can provide home mortgage financing at competitive, low-interest rates; (2) that the fees associated with processing consumers' loan applications will be paid at no cost to the consumers; (3) that consumers will not be required to make any payments on an interim loan because they will be funded by a lower-interest loan or paid by the lender; and (4) that they are a licensed mortgage broker. The judgment also prohibited the defendants from violating the Truth in Lending Act (TILA) or Regulation Z by advertising credit terms other than those that actually will be offered.

The terms of the litigated judgment announced today are similar to those in the default judgment against the corporate defendants, according to the FTC. The judgment bars Phillip Ranney from making misrepresentations about home mortgage financing and violating TILA and Regulation Z and orders him to pay $128,300 in consumer redress.

Copyright 2005 Inman News

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