ORANGE COUNTY LOAN MODIFICATION ATTORNEY PLACED ON INVOLUNTARY INACTIVE ENROLLMENT

Media Contact: Diane Curtis       415-538-2028    diane.curtis@calbar.ca.gov

San Francisco, June 18, 2010 —  An Orange County lawyer who signed retainer agreements with homeowners facing foreclosure but then did little or nothing to help them has been placed on involuntary inactive enrollment effective Sunday.

“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,” said Interim Chief Trial Counsel Russell Weiner.

State Bar Court Judge Richard Honn said in his June 17 ruling that the conduct of Brian Colombana [Bar #238272], 29, of Lake Forest, “poses a substantial threat of harm to his clients or the public.” 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, including Loan Negotiators of America, Housing Law Center and Mortgage Relief Law Center.

In most cases, clients never even met the attorney but dealt with non-attorney representatives of the loan modification companies. Through the companies, Colombana “convinced numerous cash-strapped homeowners to pay him thousands of dollars in hopes of saving their homes from foreclosure,” Honn wrote. “ . . . Many 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,” Honn wrote.

In ordering involuntary inactive enrollment, Honn said Colombana continues to harm clients by failing to refund unearned fees or communicate with them and demonstrates a pattern of behavior likely to continue to cause substantial harm.

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 creation of the task force in April 2009, seven involuntary enrollments have been ordered and 13 resignations obtained from attorneys involved in loan modification misconduct. Five loan modification trials are pending and 2,000 active investigations related to loan modification are being conducted.

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Founded in 1927 by the 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 June 2010, membership reached 227,000.