Tuesday, October 5, 2010
Carmel on the Case: Out of Business, Out of Luck?
The bad economy is taking a heavy toll here in South Florida, and that's led to a new crop of businesses that offer financial help. Investigative Reporter Carmel Cafiero is on the case of one such company that is the target of consumer complaints. It is out of business, and clients fear they're out of luck.
WSVN -- This Plantation office building was once the home of Allstate Title Agency. When the real estate market tanked, the company started dealing with foreclosures.
But it recently closed.
Carmel Cafiero: "Nobody home?"
Evelyn Gonzalez: "Nobody home."
Evelyn Gonzalez says she paid Allstate Title Agency for help with her mortgage and credit.
Evelyn Gonzalez: "My husband is unemployed. He's been unemployed. I've been in and out of the hospital, so it hasn't been a good year for us."
She says some work was done on her mortgage but nothing on her credit, and she's filed complaints with the state and local prosecutors.
Evelyn Gonzalez: "And you know this is the last thing you need when you're down."
Amy Silverman and Michael Cammarata say they paid Allstate Title Agency and a credit repair company, Allstate Business Consultants, $7,000.
Carmel Cafiero: "And did you get a home modification and did you get credit repair?"
Amy Silverman, Homeowner: "Nothing."
Michael Cammarata: "Got nothing. Got a foreclosed home."
They have also filed a complaint with the state.
It says 20 people have complained to the Florida Attorney General's Office regarding Allstate Title Agency. It tells 7 News, "The complaints were forwarded to our economic crimes section, the Florida Bar, HUD and Making Homes Affordable."
Attorney Arthur Gundling is the president of Allstate Title Agency.
Arthur Gundling, Allstate Title Agency: "Allstate Title is basically out of business. I am trying to help people with foreclosure matters on my own, but Allstate Title is out of business."
Gundling says he had nothing to do with the credit repair business.
Arthur Gundling: "I am not associated with that. I'm not an officer in the company. I don't own stock in the company."
Clients tell us they signed up and paid both companies for related services. 7 News has learned, the vice president of Allstate Title, Jeff Smith, was also the vice president of the credit company, which was located in the same office building. Smith did not want to discuss the businesses on camera, but I did get one question in.
Carmel Cafiero: "We've been contacted by a lot of people who say they paid for credit repair and did not get it."
Jeff Smith, Allstate Business Consultants: "Well, that's not true."
Carmel Cafiero: "That's not true. They're not telling us the truth?"
Jeff Smith: "No."
We found Smith at the offices of ABC Credit Consultants in Coral Springs. According to state records, Smith changed the name of Allstate Business Consultants to ABC Credit Consultants a few months ago.
"They put paperwork down."
Amy and Michael say the same people who were supposed to help them with their credit are now working at the Coral Springs office. Among them: Lou Silver, who is listed as an officer of ABC Credit Consultants. Amy says, she asked him for a refund.
Amy Silverman: "'You haven't produced any services for us, and you've left our home in foreclosure, so what are you going to do?' And his answer was, 'I'm out of business.'"
I tried to ask Silver about that.
Carmel Cafiero: "Mr. Silver? Carmel Cafiero, Channel 7. We'd like to talk with you."
And with that, he left.
In their complaint to the state, Mike and Amy say they also contacted Gundling.
Amy Silverman: "And there was no documentation that he could come up with."
Carmel Cafiero: "He didn't have your file?"
Amy Silverman: "He had a file, but I said, 'Can you show me up to today how you're still fighting for a mortgage?' And he had nothing to show me."
Gundling says, that's not so, but said he did not want to discuss it in a parking lot.
Carmel Cafiero: "But you won't sit down and talk with me otherwise, so what's my choice to get answers to our questions?"
Arthur Gundling: "Well those, I've given you my answers. Thanks."
Carmel Cafiero: "OK."
Arthur Gundling: "I appreciate it."
The next questions for Gundling could come from the Florida Bar. It says he is under investigation for one complaint concerning credit repair services.
Evelyn Gonzalez, Homeowner: "You know, I don't have another $5,000 to get an attorney to fight them or another company to help me out, so it's like, what do I do next? What do I do next?"
Carmel Cafiero: "For troubled clients who fear they may lose their homes, help can't come soon enough."
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