Investigative Unit 2013: Finding Rip Offs in 'Mortgage Rescue' Schemes

PHOTO: Ingrid SorianoABC News
Ingrid Soriano wrote to the ABC News Fixer when she said she was "ripped off" by a company offering to help her pay down her mortgage.

[As 2013 comes to a close, the ABC News Brian Ross Investigative Unit looks back on its major projects over the last year.]

Homeowners facing foreclosure have enough to worry about without fall prey to rip offs and fraudsters preying on their trust. But losses nationwide to phony or suspect “mortgage rescue” schemes are at least $83 million, according to the Loan Modification Scam Prevention Network, which gathers complaints in partnership with local, state and federal law enforcement.

In September, ABC News investigated the RMA Legal Network, a Long Island, N.Y., mortgage modification business that had attracted hundreds of consumer complaints. Consumers like Ingrid Soriano and Barbara Hawkins told ABC News that RMA Legal Network promised they’d qualify for a program to modify the terms of their mortgage – if they would pay thousands in fees to RMA and stop communicating with their banks.

The sad result was that both women – and numerous others – found themselves in a deeper financial hole. At the top of the company was young lawyer Rory Michael Alarcon, under investigation in three states, who ended up settling a civil lawsuit for $50,000 in restitution.

(Alarcon refused to speak with ABC News, but he claimed, in a lawsuit, that the people he hired for his mortgage modification business were to blame, and that they did not follow his instructions and lied to consumers.)

READ ORIGINAL: Dear ABC News Fixer: Mortgage Rip Off Nearly Took My Home

Impact: When ABC News Chief Investigative Correspondent Brian Ross and the ABC News Fixer, Stephanie Zimmermann, first met Soriano, she was facing foreclosure on her Poughkeepsie, N.Y., home. The ABC News Fixer was able to convince Bank of America and Green Tree Servicing to offer Soriano a trial modification and the arrangement was made permanent last October.

Hawkins, the other victim profiled in the ABC News investigation, is currently being reviewed by Chase Bank for a possible modification.

Got a consumer problem? The ABC News Fixer may be able to help. Click here to submit your problem online. Letters are edited for length and clarity.