A federal court has found two Orange County businessmen duped mortgage relief clients out of more than $18 million.
Jeremy Foti and Charles Marshall, acting through Brookstone Law and Advantis Law with several Orange County addresses, “made numerous false and/or misleading material statements to consumers” when selling legal services for purported mortgage relief, the Federal Trade Commission said in a statement Wednesday, Sept. 20.
The ruling brings to a close a years-long investigation into the companies and court action against several defendants who were charged with defrauding customers
“Preying on homeowners who already are financially distressed and struggling to pay their mortgages is appalling,” Jessica Rich, director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection, said last summer. “That’s why stopping phony mortgage relief operations, like this one, is a priority at the FTC.”
The investigation culminated in June 2016 when a federal court ordered Brookstone Law and Advantis Law to halt their services.
According to the FTC, the court found Foti and Marshall controlled or participated in the scheme and knew they were deceiving consumers. The agency is seeking monetary judgments and wants the court to ban the pair from any debt relief activities in the future.
The FTC lists Brookstone’s addresses as 6 Hutton Centre Drive, Santa Ana; 1503 South Coast Drive, Costa Mesa; 18400 Von Karman Ave., Suite 1000, and 18331 Von Karman Ave in Irvine.
The defendants, the FTC said, falsely told homeowners they could get “at least $75,000” or their homes “free and clear” through so-called mass joinder lawsuits against their mortgage holders. These suits combined hundreds of consumers in the same matter; however, unlike class-action lawsuits, in the event of trial, each plaintiff in a mass joinder suit would have to prove his or her case separately.
Foti and Marshall have never prevailed in a mass joinder suit, according to the FTC.
As a result of the court’s decision, litigation against all of the defendants in this matter has now been resolved.
Earlier this year, Vito Torchia and R. Geoffrey Broderick, two of several co-defendants in the case, were banned from debt relief work in the future. A judgment of $2 million was rendered against Broderick. Damian Kutzner and Jonathan Tarkowski also stipulated to court orders, with Kutzner agreeing to a judgment of more than $18 million.
The U.S. District Court for the Central District of…