State Bar Discloses Investigation of Loan Modifications
Four Lawyers in
By a MetNews Staff Writer
The State Bar of California said Friday it is investigating 16 attorneys, in addition to several whose names have previously been made public, for possible misconduct related to their loan modification services.
All but one of the
lawyers identified were from
State Bar Court Interim Chief Trial Counsel Russell Weiner said he was waiving investigation confidentiality in favor of public protection.
State Bar officials said this is the first time the names of more than a few lawyers being investigated have been made public, and Weiner insisted such a move was necessary to protect consumers.
“The number of attorneys using their law licenses to essentially take money from unwary but trusting consumers is astounding,” Weiner said. “There are literally thousands of victims who have lost money they could not afford to lose. Under the circumstances, the need for public information and protection is paramount.”
Weiner said the attorneys under investigation may have misrepresented the services they could provide or taken fees without performing services, communicating with their clients or returning unearned fees.
Many of the attorneys are associated with firms that use telemarketers or phone banks to sign up clients without regard to the facts of the individual case or whether or not the client can be helped, Weiner said.
Several also work with untrained non-attorney staff engaging in the unlawful practice of law by offering legal advice to prospective clients, and those staff members are being investigated for possible referral to law enforcement, he added.
Although officials said the State Bar was preparing to put some of the named attorneys on inactive status pending the filing of formal disciplinary charges, Weiner emphasized that they are all entitled to a full hearing on any charges that may be filed in the future and that no discipline may be imposed unless the State Bar proves the allegations of misconduct by clear and convincing evidence.
Stephen L. Burns and Michael Yellin of
Burns operates the Legal Group Network and the Law Offices of Stephen L. Burns. In 2005 he stipulated to misconduct in five personal injury cases, most involving misusing his client trust account and/or failing to perform legal services competently, according to the State Bar. Burns was admitted to the State Bar in 1984.
Yellin, of A Fresh Start Loan Modification, has no previous record of discipline and was admitted to practice last year.
Johnson, of the Avantgarde Group, was admitted to the State Bar in 2003. He was privately reproved in 2005 and suspended July 1 for failing to pay his membership fees and comply with his mandatory continuing legal education obligations.
Shoemaker, of Advocates for Fair Lending, has no record of discipline and was admitted to practice in 1988. In March of this year he lost an appeal before Div. Eight of this district’s Court of Appeal challenging the dismissal, under the anti-SLAPP law, of his complaint against Troy & Gould for conveying a settlement offer to one of his clients in order to create a conflict of interest.
The other attorneys under investigation are:
•David Arase of the
Arase Law Firm and National Housing Assistance in
•Robert Buscho of the United Law Group in
•Nicholas Chavarela of the Rodis Law Group
•Steven C. Feldman of
•Paul Lucas of the
•Brandon Moreno of
•Jeffrey Nemerofsky of U.S. Advocacy Law Group and
•Adrian Pomery of
•Ronald Rodis of the Rodis Law Group and
•Marc Tow of Marc Tow
and Associates in
•Sean Rutledge of the
United Law Group in
•Gregory Paiva of the Law Offices of Gregory Paiva
Earlier this year, two other attorneys accused of misconduct related to their loan modification services resigned from the State Bar. Christian Dillon of Dana Point and Nabile Anz of Irvine both resigned from the practice of law in August, rather than face disciplinary charges and possible disbarment.
About one-quarter—almost 800 cases—of the active investigations in the Office of Chief Trial Counsel are related to foreclosure complaints, officials said, noting that the office has experienced a 58 percent increase in active investigations in 2008 due in large part to the increase in complaints against attorneys offering loan modification services.
In March the State Bar created a special team—comprised of six investigators and four attorneys in the Office of the Chief Trial Counsel, led by Supervising Trial Counsel Suzan J. Anderson—to address the growing number of complaints received about attorneys offering loan modification services.
Weiner commented that he had “not seen a crisis of this magnitude” in over two decades handling attorney discipline matters, calling the situation “truly unprecedented.”
Copyright 2009, Metropolitan News Company