GARDEN GROVE ATTORNEY ACCUSED OF LOAN MODIFICATION SCHEME PROHIBITED FROM PRACTICING LAW
SAN FRANCISCO, Aug. 1, 2013 – Finding that he poses a “substantial threat’ to his clients and the public and continues to engage in unlawful activities, the State Bar Court has ordered that a Garden Grove attorney accused of preying on distressed homeowners be prohibited from practicing law.
Stephen Lyster Siringoringo, 32, [bar # 264161] was placed on inactive status July 29 pending the outcome of a disciplinary case against him. Siringoringo is in the midst of a trial for 25 counts of misconduct tied to loan modification matters and faces additional charges in connection with 14 other cases outlined in the court’s decision and order of inactive enrollment.
In that order filed July 26, State Bar Court Judge Richard A. Honn wrote that Siringoringo’s business model violated Civil Code section 2944.7, which prohibits loan modification professionals – both attorneys and non-attorneys – from charging fees before they have performed all the services that they were contracted for.
According to Honn, the Siringoringo Law Firm set up retainer agreements with its clients whereby the loan modification work would be split into stages. In stage one and two – which involved pre-qualification and completing a loan modification application – clients would be charged between $2,000 and $3,500. In stage 3, during which the firm was to submit the loan modification application and purportedly negotiate with the lender, clients were charged $495 every 30 days while awaiting the lender’s decision.
Honn noted that Siringoringo’s conduct demonstrates a pattern of behavior, he has failed to acknowledge his billing methods are wrong, and there is no indication he will change his practices.
“Respondent has demonstrated a lack of understanding or appreciation of his ethical and fiduciary duties,” Honn wrote. “In addition, respondent continues to harm some of his clients by failing to refund their unearned fees and communicate with them. Absent the court’s intervention, it is likely that respondent’s misconduct will continue to harm his present and future clients.”
Siringoringo is the third attorney this year that the State Bar Court has placed on involuntary inactive status for alleged misconduct. In May, the court placed Los Angeles attorney Gene Wook Choe, 50, [bar # 187704] on involuntary inactive status for alleged misconduct in loan modification matters similar to the allegations against Siringoringo.
In June, the court granted the State Bar’s application to involuntarily enroll Hal Erwin Wright [bar # 157814] as an inactive member. Wright, 58, of Davis, has been charged with multiple acts of misconduct involving moral turpitude and dishonesty, including misappropriation of funds.
The Office of the Chief Trial Counsel seeks orders of involuntary inactive enrollment in cases where immediate action is necessary due to the threat of ongoing harm to the public.
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.