Paul Noe Jr., a foreclosure consultant, and Mitchell Roth, an attorney, have been sued for allegedly conneing 2,000 desperate homeowners into paying exorbitant fees for “phony lawsuits” to forestall foreclosure proceedings.
These lawsuits were filed and abandoned, even though homeowners were charged $1,800 in upfront fees, at least $1,200 per month and contingency fees of up to 80 percent of their home’s value.
Beginning in mid-2008, Noe promised homeowners facing foreclosure or default he could help them lower or eliminate their mortgage debt.
He convinced more than 2,000 homeowners to sign “joint venture” agreements with his company, United First, and hire Roth to file suits claiming that the borrower’s loan was invalid because the mortgages had been sold so many times on Wall Street that the lender could not demonstrate who owned it. Similar suits in other states have never resulted in the elimination of the borrower’s mortgage debt.
After filing the lawsuits, Roth did virtually nothing to advance the cases. He often failed to make required court filings, respond to legal motions, comply with court deadlines, or appear at court hearings. Instead, Roth’s firm simply tried to extend the lawsuits as long as possible in order to collect additional monthly fees.
Under the terms of the agreement, United First charged homeowners approximately $1,800 in upfront fees, plus at least $1,200 per month. If the case was settled, homeowners were required to pay 50 percent of the cash value of the settlement. For example, if United First won a $100,000 reduction of the mortgage debt, the homeowner would have to pay United First a fee of $50,000. If United First completely eliminated the homeowner’s debt, the homeowner would be required to pay the company 80 percent of the value of the home.
“Noe and Roth ripped off homeowners desperate for help by charging unconscionable fees for phony lawsuits,” said Attorney General Edmund G. Brown, who brough the suit against Noe and Roth. “Instead of aggressively pursuing the lawsuits, Noe and Roth strung them along so they could continue to rake in fees.“
Brown’s lawsuit contends that Noe, Roth and United First:
- Violated California’s credit counseling and foreclosure consultant laws, Civil Code sections 1789 and 2945;
- Inserted unconscionable terms in contracts;
- Engaged in improper running and capping, meaning that Roth improperly partnered with United First, Inc. and Noe, who were not lawyers, to generate business for his law firm violating California Business and Professions Code 6150;
- Violated 17500 of the California Business and Professions Code.
Brown’s office is seeking $2 million in civil penalties, full restitution for victims, and a permanent injunction to keep the company and the defendants from offering foreclosure consultant services.
Paul Noe Jr. was convicted of wire fraud in 1989 and the subject of a California Department of Insurance Cease and Desist Order in 2004. Mitchell Roth resigned for the California State Bar in late May 2009, after the State Bar closed his law firm.