Michele Stephens is a former employee of The Hoffman Law Group from Palm Beach, Florida. Stephens said that from day one on the job, she thought she was acting unethically. She quit her job one year later and said, “I was told to lie again and again,” according to The Huffington Post.
Stephens said that she was involved in a scam that defrauded desperate and broke homeowners. The Hoffman Law Group would solicit clients, saying the firm would sue banks on their behalf to receive compensation for abusing mortgages. Stephens said that the litigation happened because of the fees paid by homeowners to support their cases. Clients needed to pay $6,000 up front and then $495 per month.
“We want to ‘make you whole’ … to get you back to where you should’ve been had the lenders not engaged in those shenanigans,” says the script that Stephens would read from when soliciting clients. “We don’t think it will be difficult to convince a judge or a jury of the reasonableness of our position.”
The lawsuits filed by the firm did not have much of the required elements, such as information about the client’s situation. Stephens said that the lawsuits did not have any chance of succeeding.
Stephens said that the main power at the firm is Michael Harper, who is a former mortgage broker and not an attorney. Harper does not have a license to practice law in Florida, according to the Florida State Bar. His name is also vacant from national registers of lawyers.
Stephens said that during her year at the firm her client list climbed to well over 350 people across the country. She acquired clients from dozens of states even though she was told she would represent only those from Kentucky, where she is licensed to practice law. Stephens would ask her supervisors what to tell clients regarding the status of their cases. Stephens always received the following response:
“The answer was always that it will take 30 to 60 more days.”
A Staten Island, New York homeowner, Vadim Govorov, paid the firm $6,000 to fund a lawsuit against JPMorgan Chase. The lawsuit was filed in October in Brooklyn federal court on the behalf of 36 people. Govorov said he received a call from someone at the firm claiming they could get him a reduced-cost mortgage if he joined the lawsuit.
The lawsuit was withdrawn in March, but Govorov was not notified until he signed with a legal nonprofit. He also has not been issued a refund from the Florida firm. A review conducted by the Huffington Post found that the firm from Palm Beach has filed some 32 lawsuits.
The head of the firm, Marc Hoffman, said the firm has been “seeking to alleviate through the courts the stresses that so many home owning consumers find themselves in with respect to their mortgages.”
Stephens quit the firm in February to work as a paralegal. “I just couldn’t do it anymore. I’ve been a mom on food stamps. I know what it is like to struggle. I couldn’t lie to those people.”