Acting Attorney General Matthew J. Platkin and the Department of Banking and Insurance (DOBI) Commissioner Marlene Caride today announced that the State has obtained a judgment totaling more than $1.9 million against a New Jersey family.
This family defrauded financially struggling homeowners through the sale of sham mortgage adjustment services that provided no meaningful debt relief to homeowners and often made their precarious financial situations even worse.
In a lawsuit filed in December 2020, the State alleged that husband and wife Neal J. Vanderpoel II and Eileen P. Vanderpoel of Medford, and their sons Ryan Vanderpoel of Medford, and Neal J. Vanderpoel IV, of Magnolia, advertised, offered for sale, and sold worthless loan modification and other debt adjustment services to New Jersey consumers through a web of corporate entities.
The corporate entities include Financial Services For America; Financial Processing Services, LLC; Tri-State Financial Relief, LLC; and Mortgage Help and Loan Audits of America, LLC, which are named as Defendants.
The suit, filed in Superior Court in Burlington County, alleged that beginning in 2013, the Defendants defrauded thousands of consumers seeking to prevent their homes from going into foreclosure by conduct that included falsely advertising and selling worthless and unlawful mortgage loan modifications and providing false hope of guaranteed loan modifications.
Through their corporate entities, most of which were not authorized to provide debt adjustment services in New Jersey, the Vanderpoels charged consumers unjustifiable and unlawful “upfront” fees grossly in excess of the legal limits for permissible charges by licensed debt adjusters, netting them millions of dollars in ill-gotten revenues, the State alleged.
Burlington County Superior Court Judge Paula T. Dow granted in part the State’s motion for summary judgment on June 28, 2022, and found that the Defendants committed multiple violations of New Jersey’s consumer protection laws and regulations, including charging excessive fees to at least 1,883 consumers and had collected more than $4.6 million in improper fees since early 2015.
The summary judgment order directs Defendants to pay $1.88 million in statutory civil penalties, as well as to disgorge all funds and property acquired or retained as a result of the scheme, and to pay restitution to consumers harmed by Defendants’ wrongful conduct.
The order also grants the State’s request for the appointment of a receiver at the Defendants’ expense to assume full control over the Defendants’ accounts, render a full accounting, and make restitution.
Additionally, the order discharges to the State the full amount of Financial Services of America’s bond under the Debt Act ($48,000), and $50,033 held in two banks accounts belonging to Financial Services of America as partial payment of monetary relief, and requires Defendants to pay the State’s attorney fees and investigative costs in an amount to be determined at a later date.
The summary judgment order also permanently shuts down the sham companies operated by the Vanderpoels and permanently bars the family from performing any services involving loan modification, debt adjustment, and mortgage compliance in New Jersey.
“Together with the Department of Banking and Insurance, we’re holding the Vanderpoel family accountable for shamefully preying on consumers trying desperately to hang onto their homes in the face of financial hardship,” Acting Attorney General Platkin said.
“The judgment we’re announcing today sends a clear message that New Jersey will not tolerate financial abuse of vulnerable consumers who can afford it least.”
The State’s lawsuit, filed as the COVID-19 emergency entered its eleventh month, alleged that the Vanderpoels sought to capitalize on consumers’ financial insecurity by misleadingly suggesting that one of their companies offered services designed to address hardships caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
In granting the State’s request for summary judgment, the Court found that the Defendants violated the Consumer Fraud Act and the Debt Adjustment Act.
The Court held Neal Sr., Eileen, Neal Jr., and Ryan Vanderpoel jointly and severally liable, in their individual capacity and with the corporate entities they operated, for each and every violation of the Consumer Fraud Act and the Debt Adjustment Act.
Consumers who believe they have been cheated or scammed by a business or suspect any other form of consumer abuse can file an online complaint with the State Division of Consumer Affairs by visiting its website or calling 1-800-242-5846 to receive a complaint form by mail.
Consumers who have any issue or complaint concerning any entity regulated by the Department of Banking and Insurance can contact the Department’s Consumer Hotline at 1-800-446-7467 or go to the Department website and click on Consumer Assistance - Inquiries/Complaints at https://www.dobi.nj.gov.