While the luck of the Irish might have been shining on some back on St. Patty's Day 2010, Better Business Bureau | Greater Maryland closed its first complaint against Residential Relief Foundation, a company targeting homeowners who were struggling to keep their homes and desperate for a little good luck.
Between March of 2010 and September of 2011, 156 homeowners from 33 states filed complaints with BBB alleging losses of $250 to $1,595. Their complaints against the Baltimore company, revealed an alarming pattern of false and broken promises. Single parents, seniors and families from across the country, teetering on the brink of losing their piece of the American Dream, were only left deeper in debt or even homeless.
"It's a tragedy," said Angie Barnett, president/CEO of BBB | Greater Maryland. "BBB provided its complaint detail to federal investigators and applauds the outcome of the FTC's court orders." Barnett added, "We hope that restitution helps the families affected rebuild their lives."
In a complaint to BBB, one troubled homeowner wrote, "I am seeking my $1,595 back that I paid...services were incomplete and now I'm left out to dry and don't know where to go from here."
According to court documents filed by the Federal Trade Commission in the U.S. District Court of Maryland, Residential Relief Foundation and another defendant, Mitigation America, which operated from the same address and their five business officials, including Baltimore attorney, James Holderness, must refrain from deceptive practices and assessment of upfront fees. In violation of their own privacy policies, the companies were also accused of disposing of customer documents including detailed personnel information in unlocked dumpsters.
The resulting court settlement imposed over $11 million in judgments - the equivalent of the losses incurred by consumers - and barred the defendants from working in the mortgage relief and debt settlement industries. Unfortunately, the majority of the settlement money dismissed for inability to pay. A receiver has been appointed and the defendants will have to forfeit assets that were frozen as part of the court proceedings.