AG Shapiro warns of mortgage modification scams across PA

HARRISBURG — Attorney General Josh Shapiro today alerted consumers to mortgage modification scams taking place across Pennsylvania and announced restitution for consumer victims of Michael Rabel, an attorney who scammed consumers in Western Pennsylvania

During the first three months of 2018, the Office of Attorney General has already received 15 complaints from consumers about mortgage modification scams, compared with 61 complaints last year. A mortgage modification involves obtaining a lower interest rate or extended payment terms on your loan. A mortgage scam happens when a company fails to provide mortgage modification services to consumers after accepting payment – or fails to issue refunds to consumers for modification services that were never delivered.

“If a Pennsylvania resident pays to have their mortgage modified, they deserve to receive that service or they are entitled to a full refund,” Attorney General Josh Shapiro said. “If you believe you’ve been victimized by a mortgage modification scam, I want you to file a complaint with my office. We’ll fight these scammers and stand up for your rights.”

One mortgage modification scammer is Michael A. Rabel, a suspended Allegheny County attorney, who failed to provide mortgage modification services to consumers who paid him for the services. Seven consumers filed complaints with the Office of Attorney General’s Bureau of Consumer Protection about Rabel, and two consumers have already received restitution through complaints filed with OAG.

One of those consumers, a 69-year-old Indiana County woman and recent widow, paid Rabel $4,500 for mortgage services she says he never provided. According to the consumer, she narrowly avoided foreclosure after she stopped making mortgage payments at Rabel’s direction.

“As a recent widow, I gave Mr. Rabel $4,500 to perform a mortgage modification that he never completed,” said the Indiana County widow, who asked that her name not be used. “My home went into foreclosure, and I nearly lost my house. I thought there was no hope to ever get my money back. But Attorney General Josh Shapiro held this man accountable for what he did to me. I am grateful his Bureau of Consumer Protection was able to secure a full refund for me. They may be able to help you too.”

As a condition of a settlement agreement entered into by Rabel and the Bureau of Consumer Protection, Rabel will no longer engage in mortgage modifications in Pennsylvania. In addition to full restitution of $4,500 to the consumer, Rabel is required to pay $1,000 to the Office of Attorney General for public protection and educational purposes.

From 2006 through 2016, Rabel was licensed to practice law in Pennsylvania and was the owner of Michael A. Rabel & Associates, LLC.

Attorney General Shapiro said the Bureau of Consumer Protection is still working to identify additional victims of Rabel. If you believe you are a victim in this case, file a complaint by May 14, 2018 to be eligible for restitution. If you suspect you are a victim of a questionable business practice or a mortgage modification scam, contact the Office of Attorney General’s Bureau of Consumer Protection at 800-441-2555 or visit www.attorneygeneral.gov to file a complaint.

“There’s still time to file a complaint in this case – but we need to hear from you by May 14th,” Attorney General Shapiro said. “Call my office today or email us at scams@attorneygeneral.gov. We’ll get you the justice you deserve.”

Attorney General Shapiro and his Bureau of Consumer Protection offered a series of tips for consumers to help them avoid being scammed by mortgage relief companies:

  • Don’t pay fees up front. Mortgage relief companies can’t collect any fees from you until they have obtained a written offer of mortgage relief from your lender. Consumers also have the right to reject the lender’s offer without any charge and consumers can stop doing business with the mortgage relief company at any time.
  • Be suspicious of advertisements claiming an affiliation with the government or your mortgage lender. Mortgage relief companies are required to clearly communicate certain disclosures to consumers, including that the company is not associated with the government and its services are not approved or endorsed by the government or the consumer’s lender.
  • Know you can continue to speak with your lender or servicer. Mortgage relief companies are prohibited from advising consumers to stop communicating with their lenders or servicers.

The settlement against Rabel, called an Assurance of Voluntary Compliance, was filed recently in the Allegheny County Common Pleas Court by Senior Deputy Attorney Amy L. Schulman.

Source: Office of Attorney General