ATTORNEY CHARGED WITH UNAUTHORIZED PRACTICE OF LAW, COLLECTING ILLEGAL FEES IN ORANGE COUNTY-BASED LOAN MODIFICATION FRAUD
SAN FRANCISCO, July 9, 2013 – The State Bar of California has filed disciplinary charges against a Cerritos attorney accused of collecting illegal advanced fees from homeowners and unlawfully practicing law in several states in the latest example of loan modification misconduct.
Pamela Stacey Gerber-Gressier [Bar # 140353] is facing 108 counts of misconduct including the unauthorized practice of law in another jurisdiction, aiding in the unauthorized practice of law, collecting an illegal fee, moral turpitude and failing to return unearned fees. Gerber-Gressier, 53, is also accused of convincing a former client to withdraw his State Bar complaint in exchange for the return of unearned fees he paid her and enticing several clients to sign documents waiving their right to file malpractice claims by offering partial fee refunds. In doing so, Gerber-Gressier also failed to inform the clients that they could seek the advice of an independent lawyer.
According to the notice of disciplinary charges filed on June 28, 2013, Gerber-Gressier ran Orange County law firms under the names Prudential Law Group, Prudent Law Group and Remedy Center Law Associates at the time her misconduct occurred, in 2011 and 2012. Using the various firm names Gerber-Gressier sent advertisements through the mail to homeowners in Illinois, Florida, Massachusetts, Ohio, North Carolina, New York, Georgia and New Jersey offering loan modification services. She was not licensed to practice law in any of those states and did not personally evaluate the clients' cases. She also did not determine how much in legal fees to charge them, or whether they qualified for loan modifications, leaving those tasks to non-attorney staff members instead.
Gerber-Gressier is also accused of improper solicitation because the mailers she sent to prospective clients did not clearly state that they were advertisements and made it appear as though they were sent by the homeowners' respective mortgage holders. In addition, the mailers contained other misleading statements including that the sender had already reviewed the terms of the recipients' mortgages.
The misconduct charges against Gerber-Gressier are part of the State Bar’s ongoing effort to curb loan modification fraud targeting consumers. Since February 2009, the State Bar has received 12,502 complaints regarding loan modification services and 9,581 of those matters have proceeded to the investigation stage, according to the Office of Chief Trial Counsel. Of those, 1,536 have resulted in the filing of disciplinary charges involving roughly 195 licensed California attorneys. Approximately 1,161 cases have resulted in discipline (involving 144 attorneys) and 528 of those cases have resulted in disbarment (involving 42 attorneys). Some 353 cases (involving 59 attorneys) are still pending before the State Bar Court, with another 197 matters (involving 111 attorneys) under active investigation.
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 July 2013, membership reached 243,000.