Wednesday, August 25, 2010
A.G. Gets $1.1 Million Judgment Against Ex-Judge Candidate Roth
By KENNETH OFGANG, Staff Writer
Attorney General Jerry Brown has obtained a $1.1 million stipulated judgment against former Los Angeles Superior Court candidate Mitchell Roth, who agreed not to defend a suit charging him with defrauding 2,000 homeowners who hired him to protect their homes from foreclosure.
Brown made the settlement public yesterday, 12 days after it was approved by Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Zaven Sinanian. The announcement was delayed because the Attorney General’s Office had not received a conformed copy of the judgment from the court, Brown’s spokesperson said.
The suit was filed last July but stalled for a time after Roth, a candidate for the Los Angeles Superior Court in 2004, filed for personal bankruptcy. The complaint alleges that Roth filed lawsuits that were quickly abandoned, even though homeowners were charged $1,800 in upfront fees, at least $1,200 per month, and contingency fees of up to 80 percent of a home’s value.
The Los Angeles Superior Court assumed jurisdiction over Roth’s law practice in February of last year, allowing the State Bar to take control of his Sherman Oaks, San Diego and Riverside law offices. The State Bar said at the time that Roth had been hospitalized due to severe depression, leaving several clients in foreclosure defense litigation cases subject to losing their homes and facing eviction.
Roth did not contest the takeover of his practice or the State Bar’s subsequent motion to place him on involuntary inactive status, which was granted by State Bar Court Judge Richard Honn on April 23 of last year, and . Roth tendered his resignation from the State Bar the following month.
Roth graduated from the State University of New York at Stony Brook in 1974 and from St. John’s University School of Law in New York in 1977. Roth was admitted to the State Bar of California that same year, but spent most of his time in business ventures not involving law practice prior to 1997.
It was not clear whether Roth has any assets to satisfy the judgment. Brown’s spokesperson told the MetNews that the office “will take every available step to ensure victims receive restitution and the judgment is paid in full.”
The settlement agreement did not admit wrongdoing, but Brown alleged in his complaint that Roth joined with Nevada-based United First, Inc. and its owner, Paul Noe Jr., to provide foreclosure relief services. Noe, who was previously convicted of wire fraud and the subject of a 2004 Department of Insurance cease and desist order, operated the company and handled client solicitations, while Roth provided legal services.
Roth, the attorney general said, pushed a novel legal argument that a borrower’s loan could be deemed invalid because the paper had been sold so many times in the private mortgage market that the lender could not demonstrate who owned it. But Roth did little to advance the cases beyond delaying dispositions in order to collect more money from his clients, Brown said, noting that not a single client received any form of legal relief or reduction in debt.
The settlement requires Roth to pay $1 million in restitution plus $125,000 in penalties, and enjoins him from providing or advertising foreclosure relief services in the future. Brown’s office said it was continuing to litigate the case against Noe and United First. The attorney general encouraged homeowners who were defrauded by Roth and United First, or victimized by other foreclosure rescue programs, to call his office at 1-800-952-5225 or file a complaint online at: www.ag.ca.gov/consumers/general.php.
Brown noted that by law, all individuals and businesses offering mortgage-foreclosure consulting, loan modification and foreclosure-assistance services must register with his office and post a $100,000 bond, and that it is illegal for loan modification consultants and businesses to charge up-front fees for their services.
Copyright 2010, Metropolitan News Company