Pinnacle Financial Consulting, based in Lawrence, Mass., and its owner, Robert Burton, have been fined $240,000 by a Suffolk Superior court for violating an order to stop its predatory lending practices. The office of Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley filed charges against the firm in March.Preliminary injunctions barred it from soliciting further clients and receiving payment for loan modification services.
Coakley said Burton and Pinnacle profited from the foreclosure crisis by allegedly targeting minority and non-native English speakers who were trying to avoid foreclosure. "These defendants, despite a court order, continued to solicit consumers with their deceptive foreclosure relief practices and illegal upfront fees," she said in a statement. In March, a temporary restraining order blocked the defendants from dissipating or concealing assets and destroying records as well as from providing or marketing any loan modification services, legal advice or services, or financial and investment services. The defendants were also required to deposit more than $97,000 into an escrow account to cover restitution and penalties, but Coakley's office says that stipulation has not been met.
The recent judgment orders the company and its owner to pay $170,000 in penalties, about $30,400 in restitution, and more than $39,800 in fees and costs. Massachusetts law prohibits consumers from being charged advance fees for foreclosure-related services.