The Washington Attorney General’s Office announced this week, that it filed a consumer protection lawsuit against a former loan officer, accusing her of offering loan modification and bankruptcy services where she charged $600-$1,400 in illegal fees for services that she was not qualified to provide.
Miriam Lozano, also known as Miriam Shaffer, a Whatcom County loan officer and her business, Primera Services, was charged by Attorney General Bob Ferguson of violating the Washington Consumer Protection Act and the Mortgage Broker Practices Act. The AG had said that Lozano had charged illegal up-front fees, while providing little or no help.
“Preying on people facing foreclosure and bankruptcy is not only illegal — it’s immoral,” Ferguson said. “I won’t tolerate deceptive practices against Washington consumers.”
Lozanoa preyed on the Latino community via word-of-mouth promotion and Spanish-language business cards promising a variety of services, including: “Prevención de embargo Bancario”; “Negociación de deudas”; “Detención de incautación de bienes”; and “Preparación de impuestos pasados.”
Latino homeowners paid as much a $1,400 up front to Lozano for help with loan modifications, but later found out they were scammed when they received little or no help. Many of the victims ended up losing their homes to foreclosure.
In 2006, Lozano pleaded guilty to first-degree theft in Whatcom County Superior Court after being caught using another person’s identity to purchase two homes without that person’s knowledge in order to receive a commission, according to the AG. She was later banned by the state Department of Financial Institutions from working with any licensed mortgage broker for 10 years.
Despite the order, Lozano offered mortgage loan modification services. She also provided bankruptcy counseling, although she is not a lawyer or qualified to provide legal advice, according to the AG.
The Attorney General asked the court to order Lozano to stop engaging in deceptive practices, pay back all her victims, pay civil penalties of $2,000 per violation of the state Consumer Protection Act, and pay reasonable costs and fees.
Lozano will have twenty days from the date she is served to respond to the state’s complaint.
Individuals who believe they were victims of Lozano and Primera Services, are encouraged to contact the Attorney General’s Office at (800) 551-4636 or www.atg.wa.gov/file-complaint.
Victim of a scam? Contact the Attorney General’s Office
If you believe you are a victim of a scam, file a consumer complaint with the Attorney General’s Office at www.atg.wa.gov/file-complaint.
Foreclosure help, legal assistance available
Up-front fees are generally illegal and often a sign of a scam.
If you’re considering a service provider to help with a loan modification or if you are behind on your mortgage payments, help is available. Call the Washington Homeownership Resource Center at 1-877-894-HOME (4663) or visit their website, www.homeownership-wa.org, to talk to a housing counselor for free. Counselors are trained to help homeowners understand their home retention options and determine the best course of action.
Low and moderate-income homeowners can also contact the statewide civil legal aid program at 1-800-606-4819 or visit www.nwjustice.org/get-legal-help.
Resources are also available in Spanish.
Learn more about foreclosure and mortgage assistance, common scams, or file a complaint, at atg.wa.gov/foreclosure-and-mortgage-assistance or the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) website at www.consumerfinance.gov/mortgagehelp.