Florida firm charged with running HAMP scam
Agents for the Special Inspector General of the Troubled Asset Relief Program arrested four Florida men for allegedly defrauding homeowners by falsely promising mortgage modifications. The Department of Justice leveled 20 counts of conspiracy, wire fraud, mail fraud and the misuse of a government seal to Christopher Godfrey, Dennis Fischer, Vernell Burris and Brian Kelly. According to the indictment, Godfrey and Fischer ran Home Owners Protection Economics, which used telemarketers trained by Burris and Kelly to allegedly ensnare homeowners into paying the company an upfront fee of between $400 and $900. In exchange, HOPE allegedly gave a false guarantee of a Home Affordable Modification Program workout. Most of the homeowners targeted resided in Massachusetts. HOPE telemarketers allegedly told homeowners they were affiliated with the mortgage lender and even instructed homeowners to stop making monthly payments. According to the indictment, HOPE allegedly claimed it was a nonprofit. Prosecutors pointed out most of those who received a do-it-yourself modification package in exchange for the upfront fees were denied a HAMP mod. According to the charges, homeowners paid HOPE more than $3 million in fees. Each count of conspiracy and misuse of government seal carries a maximum five years in prison and a $250,000 fine. Each count of mail and wire fraud carries a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine. Write to Jon Prior. Follow him on Twitter @JonAPrior.