Monday, June 21, 2010
State Bar Court Orders Attorney Inactively Enrolled
By a MetNews Staff Writer
The State Bar of California said Friday that an Orange County lawyer who signed retainer agreements with homeowners facing foreclosure but then allegedly did little or nothing to help them was scheduled to be placed on involuntary inactive enrollment effective yesterday.
“The Chief Trial Counsel’s office continues to send the message that attorneys guilty of misconduct—especially toward homeowners who are at their most vulnerable when facing the loss of their homes—will be prosecuted and disciplined,” Interim Chief Trial Counsel Russell Weiner said.
State Bar Court Judge Richard Honn said in a ruling filed Thursday that the conduct of Brian J. Colombana, 29, of Lake Forest, “poses a substantial threat of harm to his clients or the public” under Business and Professions Code Sec. 6007.
Honn cited 13 declarations against Colombana by clients from California, South Carolina, Minnesota, Nevada, New Mexico, Maryland, Utah and New York who paid upfront fees to one of the loan modification companies with which Colombana was affiliated, Mortgage Relief Law Center. Colombana was also affiliated with Loan Negotiators of America and Housing Law Center.
In most cases, clients never even met the attorney but dealt with non-attorney representatives of the loan modification companies, the State Bar said.
Honn wrote that Colombana, through the companies, “convinced numerous cash-strapped homeowners to pay him thousands of dollars in hopes of saving their homes from foreclosure,” and that “[m]any of these homeowners were worse off after retaining respondent’s services.”
The judge noted that many of the homeowners were current with their mortgages but then were advised by Colombana’s affiliates to stop paying.
“Soon these clients were behind on their mortgage payments and facing foreclosure, and [Colombana] wasn’t there to help,” he wrote.
In ordering involuntary inactive enrollment, Honn said that the Office of Chief Trial Counsel was likely to prevail on the merits of the allegations against Colombana. The judge also said that Colombana continued to harm clients by failing to refund unearned fees or communicate with them, and demonstrated a pattern of behavior likely to continue to cause substantial harm.
Colombana was admitted to the State Bar in 2005 after graduating from the University of Washington and Southwestern School of Law. The State Bar’s website shows no prior history of public discipline against him. He did not respond to a call seeking comment.
The action against Columbana continues the successful efforts by the State Bar’s Task Force on Loan Modification to shut down the practices of lawyers who exploit the vulnerabilities of frightened homeowners who face foreclosure by promising services that are never delivered.
Since the task force’s creation in April 2009, seven involuntary enrollments have been ordered and 13 resignations have been obtained from attorneys involved in loan modification misconduct, the State Bar said. Five loan modification trials are pending and 2,000 active investigations related to loan modification are being conducted, State Bar officials said.
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