RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - If you're having trouble paying your mortgage, beware of loan modification offers - not all of them are legit. The Federal Government recently shutdown a company accused of defrauding hundred of homeowners. Some of the victims are from here in Virginia. We spoke to a victim in the Richmond area.
Any day one Richmond homeowner fears foreclosure troubles could force him out of his home. He says, "Told my wife here we go again." He didn't want to show his face on camera or release his name but thought his troubles were over after signing up with a real estate investment company called Bella Homes. It promised to help him avoid foreclosure. Shortly after signing with them, he got the bad news. He says, "We didn't hear from Bella, we ended up getting an email about Bella being shutdown."
That shutdown was ordered by the Federal Government. It's suing Bella Homes for allegedly deceiving hundreds of customers. The lawsuits claims Bella never used the money it received to help the struggling homeowners, instead it alleges the company pocketed the money and employees used some of it for vacations, gold coins and cars.
Rachael Deane, with Housing Opportunities made equal, a HUD approved counseling agency, says these type of cases are a big problem. She says, "Every single instance in which I have seen a homeowner giving their title to an alleged scammer and renting it back, has always ended in losing the home." Deane says there could be hundreds of victims across Virginia involved in similar deceptions. If you're thinking about a loan modification, she says keep your money; any good help should be free.
Your search should start with a HUD approved agency. Deane says, "You should not be paying for a loan modification. In fact, if you are pressured to make a payment, in particular and advance fee, it is probably a scam."
Gray Hall asked victim: "You thought you were doing the right thing to try to fix the situation and turns out you are at square one. Victim:"It's a fight I have been fighting for a year and a half now between Bella and the mortgage company." Fixing the problem could take months. There's no guarantee you will keep your house or ever get your money back. Deane says, "Loan modification scammers take your money, they don't provide the services they promise and then they run."
In court documents, Bella Homes admits to defrauding homeowners. Attorneys are seeking over a million dollars in recovery funds. There's even a website to help victims try to recover money they lost. The victim in our story has started the process of getting help. He's hoping it comes before he loses his house. He says, "Part of me hopes for the knock on the door and part of me wants to keep my house, my kids, this is their home."
NBC 12 reached out to attorneys for Bella Homes-they had no comment on the case. For a closer look at the Bella Home case and other safety tips visit the links below.
Colorado Attorney General website: link
Tips on How to Avoid a Loan Scam: link
Phone Home website: link