ATTORNEYS RESIGN OVER LOAN MODIFICATION ACTIVITIES

MEDIA CONTACT:  Diane Curtis   415-538-2028   diane.curtis@calbar.ca.gov

San Francisco, October 21, 2009 — The State Bar’s loan modification task force announced today that it obtained the resignations of three California attorneys as a result of misconduct related to their loan modification activities. It also placed another attorney on inactive status, charging his work poses a threat to the public, and has undertaken similar efforts against two other lawyers.

In addition, James Parsa [#153389], a southern California lawyer who extensively advertises his loan modification work, resigned today. He faced interim suspension from practice as a result of a 2001 misdemeanor conviction for sex with a child under 18 that he never reported to the bar.

Parsa, 44, has advertised heavily throughout California for the past several months, offering to help homeowners facing foreclosure. Although he provided evidence to the bar that he was in fact working on cases, an investigator uncovered two 2001 misdemeanor convictions for sex with an underage girl. The bar court ordered that Parsa be placed on interim suspension. His resignation will make the suspension moot.

The State Bar created a 10-person loan modification task force in March after receiving thousands of calls from homeowners complaining that lawyers have done no work after taking fees purportedly to help avoid foreclosure. The task force has 738 active investigations underway.

Last month, it released the names of 16 attorneys it was investigating for possible misconduct related to loan modification. Four of the six who resigned or face inactive enrollment were on that list. “We are very pleased that we have been able to remove these practitioners from the practice of law quickly in order to protect the public,” said Interim Chief Trial Counsel Russell Weiner.

Until recently, attorneys were able to legally accept advance fees from borrowers for residential loan modification work and other forms of mortgage loan forbearance services. Lawyers’ services were in demand by foreclosure relief companies and operators that could not otherwise receive payment until contracted or promised loan modification work was completed. However, on Oct. 11, Gov. Schwarzenegger signed SB 94, which prohibits attorneys and any other persons from collecting an advance fee for residential loan modification and mortgage loan forbearance services. The measure took effect immediately. Details about the new law are at the Department of Real Estate home page, www.dre.ca.gov.

The attorneys who resigned from the State Bar are:

  • CAMERON EDWARDS [#222549], Alliance Law Center in San Diego, resigned Sept. 25.
  • RONALD RODIS [#181873], of Rodis Law Group and America’s Law Group in Newport Beach, resigned Oct. 13.
  • JEFFREY NEMEROFSKY [#213014], U.S. Advocacy Law Group and U.S. Financial Products, in Laguna Niguel, resigned Oct. 16.

The three are ineligible to practice law pending a California Supreme Court order accepting the resignations.

Those the bar is seeking to place on involuntary inactive status for posing “a substantial threat of harm to (their) clients or the public” under Business & Professions Code §6007(c) are:

  • PAUL LUCAS [#163076], of Lucas Law Center in Aliso Viejo. The State Bar petitioned to put him on inactive status Sept. 21; Lucas did not reply to the petition and the State Bar Court has taken the matter under submission.
  • SEAN RUTLEDGE [#255938], of United Law Group in Irvine, has a hearing Oct. 23; the bar filed its petition Sept. 22. The bar earlier charged him with seven counts of misconduct in handling a loan modification for a client who paid an advance $3,500 fee. Rutledge never took any action to negotiate with the client’s mortgage lender, the bar charges.

In addition, CHRISTOPHER L. DIENER [#187890], of Irvine, principal attorney for Home Relief Services LLC, was placed on inactive status Oct. 9, due to the State Bar Court judge's finding that he poses a substantial threat of harm to his clients and the public.

Attorney General Jerry Brown sued Diener last summer and accused him of telling homeowners he and his company would act as sole agent and negotiators and directed the homeowners to stop contacting their lender. None of the known victims received a loan modification with the company’s assistance. Brown accuses the company and Diener of bilking thousands of homeowners out of thousands of dollars each.

Founded in 1927 by the state legislature, the State Bar of California is an administrative arm of the California Supreme Court, serving the public and seeking to improve the justice system for more than 80 years. All lawyers practicing law in California must be members of the State Bar. By October 2009, membership reached more than 223,000.

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