People around the country blame a couple of Valley businesses after losing their money and their homes to something that sounded like a great deal.
Scottsdale attorney Laura Bramnick represents Thomas Ferry, who owed more on his Indiana home that it was worth. He didn’t want to sell it at a loss and he didn’t want to default.
“He was looking for solutions to keep his home until it could increase in value enough that he could sell it and break even,” she says.
What he found was Phoenix-based Mortgage Relief Solutions.
“They had a program where they would make his mortgage payments, put a tenant in the property and the tenant would also be interested in purchasing the property,” Bramnick says.
Mortgage Relief Solutions’ sister company, Lease with a Plan, would find the tenant. Once the tenant became credit-worthy, they would buy the house and the company would pay off the original loan.
Bramnick says that didn’t happen. After a couple of months of keeping up to date, her client says Mortgage Relief Solutions didn’t pay the mortgage for five months. He says he was ignored when he tried to get answers and continued paying the mortgage himself to prevent a foreclosure.
“At that point (he) wanted to collect the rent from the tenants that were in there and he was not able to do that unless and until we sued and got an order from the judge, basically rescinding everything that happened," she says.
In 2016, he sued Mortgage Relief Solutions, Lease With a Plan, business officer Eric D. Brown, and T.M Shelby for breach of contract. A judge awarded Ferry more than $10,000 in damages.
We tracked down homeowners in Arizona, Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Maryland and tenants in Virginia. They all found the companies online. And they all say the companies stopped paying the mortgage or never paid at all.
Maria also sued the companies after she says they stopped paying the mortgage on her home in Illinois.
“A courier shows up at my house where I live and it was a pre-foreclosure notice. Evidently they just stopped making payments,” she says.
Court documents show she had to pay thousands to get her home out of foreclosure, even though before signing it over to Mortgage Relief Solutions, she says she was completely up to date on her payments.
“The final answer was ‘we just decided to stop putting money into the house’,” she says.
In her judgment, the judge writes that "…the fraud was committed with an evil mind guiding an evil hand.” In a default judgment Maria was awarded more than $50,000 in costs and damages.
Doug Cross in Maryland has a similar story.
“They were to make the mortgage payment every month in addition to homeowners fees that I made them put into the contract. Neither one of them was ever paid,” he says.
Out of options, he filed for bankruptcy protection.
Eric Brown is listed as the sole officer for both Mortgage Relief Solutions and Lease with a Plan according to the Arizona Corporation Commission website.
He is also the man in charge, according to former clients.
After unreturned messages, we looked for Brown at business addresses associated with both companies.
One was a UPS store in south Phoenix. Another was an office building that provides several companies with a receptionist near 24th Street and Camelback Road. We’re told the company packed up a few weeks ago.
Neither of the people who have received judgments has been paid by the companies or their owners.
Right now Mortgage Relief Solutions and Lease with a Plan websites are down. Another website for Rent with a Plan says it is “under construction” and has a new owner.
But we still want to talk with Eric Brown to get his side of what happened. If you know where he is, let me know.