Colorado Attorney General John Suthers has announced that a Denver District Court judge has ordered Leo Shifrin, a Centennial, Colo. mortgage broker and his mortgage brokerage companies to pay nearly $1 million in civil penalties, consumer restitution and disgorgement for engaging in deceptive advertising and fraudulent loan origination practices. The ruling against Shifrin and his companies also bars them from engaging in loan origination in Colorado. The judge also awarded the Colorado Office of the Attorney General attorneys fees and costs related to prosecuting the case.
The Office of the Attorney General reached a consent decree with another individual involved in the businesses, Jerry Johnson, shortly before trial that also provides for a $1 million judgment and precludes him from engaging in loan origination. The companies involved in the mortgage brokerage activities were Mortgage Planning & Lending Specialists Ltd., Jupiter Lending, Mile High Mortgage, Shifrin Inc. and Wholesale Mortgage Lending.
“This ruling is a victory for Colorado consumers who had relied on these mortgage brokers to put them in loans with low interest rates.” said AG Suthers. “In most cases, the low teaser rates these and other companies used to draw people in lasted a month and not years. This verdict is as much a victory for affected consumers as it is a statement that my office has and will continue to aggressively prosecute individuals and companies engaged in mortgage fraud.”
According to the complaint the state filed against Shifrin, Johnson and their companies in February 2008, the defendants defrauded consumers between 2004 and 2007 through the use of deceptive advertisements and failing to disclose important details during the loan-origination process. As a result of the defendants’ conduct, Colorado consumers ended up with option adjustable-rate mortgage (ARM) loans.
Through the advertisements used to solicit customers and the dealings they had with consumers, the defendants failed to make required disclosures about loan terms and to clearly describe the loan program consumers were enrolling in. The court found that defendants lured borrowers into their offices with hundreds of advertisements printed in The Denver Post and The Rocky Mountain News that featured low teaser rates. The court found that defendants misrepresented and failed to disclose that these low teaser rates only lasted for a few months and then would quickly escalate upwards thereafter. The court additionally found that borrowers who thought that their low rate of one percent to 3.25 percent would last anywhere from one to five years were surprised to learn that it was rapidly escalating on a monthly basis. Most borrowers quickly refinanced out of these loans, thereby incurring a prepayment penalty, after learning the true terms of their loans.