LANSING – May 26, 2015 – (RealEstateRama) — Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette today announced that his Homeowner Protection Unit has filed thirty felony charges including Racketeering against attorney Steven Barry Ruza, 52, of Orchard Lake and his company, Home Legal Group, Inc., for stealing hundreds of thousands of dollars from Michigan victims that were facing mortgage foreclosures. The charges were filed following an Attorney General investigation.
“Scam artists who prey on Michigan families are deplorable, and especially so in this case where the families were already having trouble making ends meet,” said Schuette. “We will continue to aggressively dismantle these predatory operations and prosecute the criminals behind these schemes.”
Ruza and Home Legal Group allegedly promised victims that they could obtain mortgage modifications and save their homes from foreclosure but then did nothing, or very little, to obtain mortgage modifications for the victims. The victims never received a modification through Ruza and Home Legal Group and most lost their homes to foreclosure.
Schuette filed the following charges on May 22, 2015 against Ruza and Home Legal Group PLLC in Oakland County’s 48th District Court:
Twenty-six counts of obtaining money through false pretenses (making false statements to consumers), a felony punishable by up to five years in prison and/or a $10,000 fine;
Two counts of attempted false pretenses over $20,000 but less than $50,000, a felony punishable by five years’ imprisonment;
One count of attempted false pretenses of $1,000 or more but less than $20,000, punishable by up to five years in prison, and;
One count of Racketeering, a felony punishable by 20 years in prison and/or a $100,000 fine.
The Racketeering count includes an additional 114 victims for whom Schuette alleges were defrauded.
Ruza and his company were arraigned before Magistrate Nelson Klein of the 48th District Court, West Bloomfield, on Friday, May 22. Bond was set at $1 million cash/surety for Ruza and $500,000 cash/surety for Home Legal Group. Ruza’s next court appearances include a conference on June 4, 2015 and the preliminary examination set for June 11, 2015. Both appearance will be before Judge Marc Barron.
Foreclosure Rescue Scam Victim Restitution Fund
In August 2013 Schuette announced the launch of a $7.5 million Foreclosure Rescue Scam Victim Restitution fund as a part of the Homeowner Protection Fund monies received by the State of Michigan to resolve the National Mortgage Settlement. This program is intended to provide restitution payments for victims of foreclosure scams who would otherwise never see a penny of court-ordered restitution. To date over $2.2 million has been paid to Michigan victims of mortgage related crimes.
For more information on the mortgage settlement, including a consumer alert and a Frequently Asked Questions document available for download on the Attorney General’s website: www.michigan.gov/mortgagesettlement.
Mortgage Settlement and Homeowner Protection Fund Background
The historic $25 billion National Mortgage Settlement followed state and federal investigations, which alleged that five major mortgage servicers routinely signed foreclosure-related documents outside the presence of a notary public and without personal knowledge that the facts contained in the documents were correct. This civil law enforcement action also alleged that the servicers committed widespread errors and abuses in their foreclosure processes. Broad reform of the mortgage servicing process resulted from the settlement, as well as financial relief for borrowers still in their homes through direct loan modification relief, including principal reduction.
To date, Michigan citizens have received approximately $803 million in benefits from the settlement. The State of Michigan also received a direct payment of $97 million from the servicers. Schuette worked with the legislature and Governor Rick Snyder to establish the Michigan Homeowner Protection Fund to ensure these funds are directed toward victims of foreclosure. On August 1, 2012, Governor Snyder signed legislation creating the $97 Million Homeowner Protection Fund.
Citizens who believe they may have been victims of Steven Ruza and/or Home Legal Group are encouraged to file complaints with the Attorney General’s Office at www.michigan.gov/ag by clicking “File a Complaint.”
A criminal charge is merely an accusation and the defendants are presumed innocent unless proven guilty.
Contact: Andrea Bitely 517-373-8060