Attorney General James And DFS Superintendent Lacewell Take Action Against Fraudulent Mortgage Lender
Attorney General James and DFS Superintendent Lacewell Take Action Against Fraudulent Mortgage Lender
NEW YORK – Attorney General Letitia James and New York Superintendent of Financial Services Linda A. Lacewell today filed suit in federal court against Vision Property Management, LLC; the company’s CEO, Alex Szkaradek; and a number of other companies affiliated with Vision for operating an illegal, deceptive, and unlicensed mortgage lending business in New York since at least 2011. By offering disguised, predatory subprime home loans and illegal finance-lease hybrid agreements, Vision and the other defendants took part in fraudulent activities that repeatedly targeted and took advantage of financially vulnerable New Yorkers.
“For nearly a decade, Vision put profits above people — fraudulently targeting, preying upon, and exploiting aspiring homeowners, including people with disabilities, the elderly, and those living on fixed income,” said Attorney General Letitia James. “These deceptive and abusive practices have trapped New Yorkers in mold-infested, dilapidated homes, and wrongfully placed the onus on consumers to pay the price. This behavior is unacceptable, which is why my office is aggressively prosecuting Vision and will do the same against any company or individual that tries to defraud New Yorkers.”
“As alleged in the complaint, Vision swindled vulnerable New Yorkers who wanted nothing more than the American dream of homeownership but instead got distressed properties with unsafe, squalid conditions and high-interest, predatory loans,” said Superintendent Linda A. Lacewell. “We took this action to protect New York consumers by putting an end to these illegal, predatory and unconscionable business practices and holding Vision and its CEO accountable under New York State law and applicable federal laws. I am proud of the exemplary work of the DFS colleagues who investigated Vision’s activities for over two years, analyzed thousands of documents, and who worked to protect New Yorkers and bring this company to justice.”
The complaint alleges that Vision specializes in buying severely distressed properties and then markets those properties — at a substantial markup to consumers — without making any necessary repairs or renovations, and without fully disclosing to consumers the many conditions that exist and repairs that must be made for safe habitation. Vision targets low-income consumers eager to share in the “American dream” of homeownership, claiming that its “unique” business model provides this path to homeownership. But, in reality, Vision’s illegal business model has generated significant profits by skirting consumer protections and financial regulations and trapping vulnerable consumers with high cost mortgages for uninhabitable homes.
Vision’s deceptive tactics have left many of its consumers in dilapidated homes with unhealthy and hazardous conditions, while simultaneously requiring them to pay subprime, or high-cost, interest rates — in the range of 10% to 25% — on top of paying for extensive repairs and renovations just to make their homes habitable.
Vision has engaged in approximately 150 such transactions in New York since 2011 without possessing the legally required licenses to engage in mortgage lending. Furthermore, Vision entered into contracts with financially strained consumers that illegally required them to shoulder the burden of ensuring their properties were habitable. Often, consumers were deceived and trapped into paying for the treatment and repair of dangerous and unhealthy conditions in their new homes, including infestations, faulty electrical wiring, missing heaters and septic systems, mold, and asbestos, as well as severely damaged and rotted out, floors, walls, and roofs.
Vision has violated laws applicable to both mortgage lending and the leasing of residential properties, as well as numerous state and federal consumer protection laws.
In the suit — being filed in the Southern District of New York — Attorney General James and Superintendent Lacewell are seeking to end Vision’s ongoing illegal activity in New York, secure restitution and damages for all consumers injured by these practices, and obtain statutory penalties.
The matter is being handled by Assistant Attorney General Noah Popp of the Consumer Frauds and Protection Bureau, under the supervision of Jane M. Azia, Chief of the Consumer Frauds and Protection Bureau, and Chief Deputy Attorney General for Social Justice Meghan Faux. The Bureau of Consumer Frauds and Protection is overseen by Chief Deputy Attorney General for Economic Justice Christopher D’Angelo.
Additional attorneys at the Department of Financial Services involved with this litigation include Peter C. Dean of the Real Estate Finance Division and Cynthia M. Reed, Supervising Attorney in the Consumer Protection and Financial Enforcement Division.