DOB: Settlement Announced in Home Purchase Scam

{news} NEWS RELEASE

Banking Commissioner, Attorney General, DCP Announce $750,000 Settlement in Waterbury Home Purchase Scam

This news release was issued jointly by the Department of Banking, the Attorney General and the Department of Consumer Protection.


April 24, 2006

Attorney General Richard Blumenthal, Department of Banking Commissioner John P. Burke and Department of Consumer Protection Commissioner Edwin R. Rodriguez today announced a $750,000 settlement in a Waterbury home purchase scam.

GRZ, LLC, A Home Connection, LLC, and Mortgage SuperCenter, Inc., along with their owners, Michael Grady, Robert Zappone and Joel Rosario, will pay the money to settle allegations they tricked Waterbury consumers into buying at inflated prices dilapidated houses that had been cosmetically repaired. In addition, Blumenthal’s lawsuit accused the companies and individuals, who also provided financing, of manipulating consumers’ credit histories, charging improper fees, and other lending abuses.

The money will provide restitution to dozens of consumers victimized by the scheme. The state will receive any money left after restitution has been paid.

“This money will compensate consumers victimized by this unconscionable scam,” Blumenthal said. “These unscrupulous operators turned the American Dream of homeownership into a nightmare, tricking consumers into buying houses that were literally falling apart. Today’s settlement sends a powerful message: predatory lending and housing scams will not be tolerated in Connecticut. The vast majority of real estate professionals are honest and upstanding, and I will keep fighting to assure they are not unfairly besmirched by a few bad apples.”

“I am pleased to join with the attorney general in announcing this settlement, which involves Mortgage SuperCenter, a mortgage lender regulated by the Department of Banking,” Burke said. “The agreement not only returns funds to innocent victims, but provides for a two-year monitoring process that will ensure Mortgage SuperCenter’s compliance with Connecticut mortgage banking laws going forward.”

“I am pleased that homeowners will be getting restitution for all their troubles caused by the way their homes were sold to them,” Rodriguez said. “Buying a house is the biggest investment consumers make, therefore I hope that with this settlement, it will help them with any losses incurred.”

The complaint charged that the companies and individuals bought rundown houses at rock bottom prices, many of them in serious disrepair. They then resold the houses at inflated prices after making superficial repairs or failing to tell buyers about serious defects. The companies and individuals discouraged consumers from hiring independent home inspectors.

Problems included damaged or partially collapsed roofs, malfunctioning or nonworking heating systems, major plumbing defects, rotting studs, walls, framing, doors, windows and sills, and infestation by termites or mice.  

The action charged that companies and individuals tempted buyers by offering no money down, no closing costs and low monthly payments. They manipulated some credit histories and used fraudulent money transfers to qualify consumers for loans they could not afford, especially when saddled with the cost of repairing defects that seller should have fixed or disclosed.   

Under the settlement, the companies and individuals will pay $350,000 now and another $400,000 over five years.  

The Attorney General’s Office will contact all consumers who filed complaints with the state. Most are expected to receive from hundreds to thousands of dollars depending on their case to pay for repairs and, in some cases, as refunds for mortgage fees improperly shared among the defendants.   

Consumers who have not contacted the state are asked to apply for restitution within 60 days. They should contact the Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Division at (860) 808-5400.