STATE BAR TAKES ACTION AGAINST ATTORNEY LOAN MODIFICATION FRAUD

MEDIA CONTACT:  Diane Curtis    415-538-2028    diane.curtis@calbar.ca.gov

San Francisco, July 15, 2009 — The State Bar of California and its Office of Chief Trial Counsel made clear today that it will aid in prosecution and will bring its strictest standards to bear against attorney participation in loan modification fraud.

“Attorney misconduct in connection with the provision of loan modification services is a significant and growing problem,” said Acting Chief Trial Counsel Russell Weiner. “It is unfortunate that any attorney would fail to adhere to the highest ethical standards in providing legal services to a vulnerable client possibly facing the loss of their home. We will aggressively investigate and vigorously prosecute these attorneys.”

Following an increasing number of complaints against attorneys involved in the loan modification business, the bar created a special team to deal only with those complaints. The team, made up of seasoned investigators and prosecutors, is currently investigating hundreds of current consumer complaints, has evidence there are many more and is intent on prosecuting attorneys who take advantage of distressed homeowners.

Just within the last few days, State Bar prosecutors took steps to shut down the operations of two attorneys involved in loan modification misconduct, marking the third such action in the bar’s aggressive pursuit of lawyers who wrongly take advantage of vulnerable homeowners.

State Bar prosecutors filed an application against Nabile J. Anz (Bar No. 183324) who ran the Federal Loan Modification Law Center of Irvine to have Anz enrolled involuntarily inactive. Bar prosecutors charged that Anz, 44, abandoned clients who retained Federal Loan Modification by failing to perform on behalf of those clients, closing Federal Loan Modification without any notice and failing to return unearned fees. The bar is seeking to prevent Anz, against whom 34 complaints have been lodged with the bar, from continuing to practice law.

On Feb. 11, State Bar prosecutors obtained a Superior Court order effectively shutting down the Sherman Oaks, San Diego and Riverside law offices of Mitchell Roth (Bar No. 77962). Roth, 58, had expanded his practice to primarily represent homeowners facing foreclosure that were referred to his office by a company doing business as United First, which was not a law firm. Through his attorney, Paul J. Virgo, Roth consented to the Superior Court order. On May 29, State Bar prosecutors obtained and filed Roth’s Resignation with Charges Pending with the State Bar Court. At that time, the bar had approximately 93 open investigations on consumer complaints regarding Roth. Roth had been enrolled as an inactive member of the State Bar and is ineligible to practice law pending a Supreme Court Order accepting his resignation.

On July 7, State Bar prosecutors filed the first Notice of Disciplinary Charges against attorney Sean Rutledge (Bar No. 255938) of Irvine. Rutledge, 34, is charged with seven counts of violating the Rules of Professional Conduct, including failing to perform on behalf of a loan modification client, failing to refund that client’s unearned fees, moral turpitude and forming a partnership with a non-lawyer.

The State Bar will continue to take every step to see to it that any attorney who engages loan modification fraud will no longer be permitted to practice law, and will cooperate with prosecutors in their pursuit of such criminal conduct.

 

Founded in 1927 by the state legislature, the State Bar of California is an administrative arm of the California Supreme Court, serving the public and seeking to improve the justice system for more than 80 years. All lawyers practicing law in California must be members of the State Bar. By July 2009, membership reached more than 222,000.

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