Facing foreclosure, families lose homes in scam - wave3.com-Louisville News, Weather & Sports

Facing foreclosure, families lose homes in scam

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Pastor Drumondo Simpson and his wife, Trinette. Pastor Drumondo Simpson and his wife, Trinette.
Pamela York Pamela York
The logo used by the California company (on top) and the logo of the official government program. The logo used by the California company (on top) and the logo of the official government program.

LOUISVILLE, KY (WAVE) - Losing a home to foreclosure can be traumatic. But what would you do if someone said they could save your home, for a price? A California company broke the heart of not one but two local families after they paid that company big bucks to stop their foreclosure. Instead, those families have been left penniless and homeless.

At the Indiana Avenue Christian Church in Jeffersonville Pastor Drumondo Simpson preaches a message of hope.

"Happily, with a smile," Pastor Simpson said. "But behind the smile there's a whole lot of pain."

Economic problems at the church left the pastor and his wife behind on their house payments. Facing foreclosure, the pastor's wife, Trinette, found the number of a company in California that said it could help by negotiating a loan modification with their bank, stopping the foreclosure.

The company called itself "Making Home Affordable." That name might sound familiar because it's the same as the website of the real program created by President Obama to help families in financial crisis stay in their homes.

"We thought it was the federal government," Pastor Simpson said of the group they were working with.

When a female case worker told the Simpsons there was a $1,300 fee to get their mortgage refinanced, the couple believed they had no other choice but to pay it. They turned to the people closest to them for help to get the money.

"The church raised it," Pastor Simpson said.

When Mrs. Simpson got a phone message from a woman who said she was with the Making Home Affordable Company and congratulating her on her loan modification being approved, it appeared the couple's home had been saved.

"We even came back and told the church that we were out, everything was wonderful," Pastor Simpson said.

One member of the congregation was so inspired he asked the Simpsons for the company's phone number because he wanted to give it to a friend in the same situation. That friend turned out to be Pamela York.

"Thanking the Lord that finally I'm going to be able to keep my house," York said of her reaction to hearing about the company.

Medical expenses left York so far behind on her mortgage she couldn't catch up so she called the Making Home Affordable Company too and talked to the same woman the Simpsons did. While York filled out paperwork she thought would save her home, she was sending payments by Fed-Ex to the company's California address - more than $2,300 in all.

York said she thought that money was being used to negotiate with her bank. As it turns out negotiations never happened and the money was gone. Weeks later the bank sold her house.

A tearful York said what she thought was a godsend turned to be anything but.

"It sure ain't no miracle now," York said.

An investigation by the Kentucky Attorney General's Office revealed the company York and the Simpsons enrolled with appears to be an imposter posing as the government's Making Home Affordable program. The phone numbers the families were calling are now disconnected. The Kentucky AG's office has referred the case to the Department of the Treasury.

Whatever federal investigators find will come too late to help York or the Simpsons.
Their house has now been auctioned off too.

"I'm a whole lot of things," the pastor said of his emotions in the wake of losing the family's home. "Because I'm a man, and I'm a father, and I'm a husband, and I have a responsibility that we trusted people," he said before choking back tears.

Treasury spokeswoman Andrea Risotto, which oversees the government's Making Home Affordable program, said the number of loan modification and foreclosure prevention scams shot up during the housing crisis.

They actually set up a web site, www.loanscamalert.org, and a telephone help line for homeowners to avoid scams. That phone number is 1-888-995-4673.

It's important to remember that there's never a fee to apply for help through the actual Making Home Affordable program. Also, be wary of any company that asks for an upfront fee in exchange for mortgage help. And never send money or sign papers unless they verify with their mortgage company directly that the organization is working with them.

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