Former Pinn Fund Figure Runs Loan Modification Business
'Nation's Housing Modification Center' Called 'Scam'
4:06 AM, Aug 3, 2009
When the I-Team walked into a non-descript office in a business park in San Marcos, a scuffle immediately began with the people running Nation's Housing Modification Center."Bye," a man named Austin told reporter Lauren Reynolds, as he put a hand in front of the camera, after she had walked into the rear of the office."Don't touch the camera," she warned.At the same time, in the front of the office, broker Mike Trap was telling I-Team Managing Editor, J.W. August, to leave, as Trap, too, put his hand over the camera lens."Don't do that, that's assault," said August.The I-Team visited the San Marcos office after getting tips that Nation's Housing Modification Center was not what it markets itself to be.Its mailings are sent from the NHMC, Department of Financial Records. An official-looking envelope is used and the address printed on it says 611 Pennsylvania Ave. SE, Washington, DC.Nancy Coxall of Boston received one of the mailers and said, "I thought it might be a check from the government for some reason."The Nation's Housing paperwork claimed a link to federal mortgage relief, aiming to reduce mortgage payments and keep families in their homes."It says all the wonderful things they can do for me," pointed out Coxall.The claims include loans being modified to lower monthly payments, with late payments, late fees and legal fees waived.All homeowners had to do to qualify was call Nation's Housing, speak to a consultant and pay an upfront fee, ranging from $1,500 to $3,500.Stephanie Daveau of Denver called Nation's Housing and spoke to a consultant."He said that the fee was for a team of 11 highly qualified lawyers," Daveau said. She considered paying the fee but decided there was something fishy about the claims.Former employee Tom Fatica said homeowners are getting ripped off."They're totally illegitimate crooks," Fatica said of the people running Nation's Housing.He was fired, he said, after he became suspicious of the company and questioned managers about the company's legitimacy.He points out he never saw a single attorney in the offices, even though he was provided a script to read to potential clients over the phone that stated, "We have a team of attorneys working around the clock to negotiate the terms of your loan."Fatica worked in a phone room with 30 other consultants and, he says, the phones rang constantly."You couldn't even answer the phones fast enough," he said.Robert Negron is another former employee who was working the phones the day the I-Team walked into the offices of Nation's Housing. The I-Team's visit, he said, confirmed suspicions he already had, so he, too, questioned his bosses and was fired immediately."They have taken in millions of dollars from people in the month, over a million dollars," Negron said. He's concerned because he talked his family and friends into signing up with Nation's Housing for loan modifications, but he never saw any loan modified.Neither did employee Tom Fatica."They had done zero," he said.The I-Team learned that the Pennsylvania Ave., Capitol Hill address used on their mailers is nothing more than a UPS Store. It's a mailbox drop. The company really operates out of its 2-story office in San Marcos.Company officials have repeatedly refused to answer the I-Team's questions.Reporter Lauren Reynolds asked one person during their in-person visit, "Why do you use a post office box from Washington, DC? What's your name? You won't even give us your name? Are you doing something wrong?"The I-Team later learned that his name is Austin, part of the brain trust behind Nation's Housing.The supervisors in the company didn't reveal their last names to employees. So, the I-Team only learned Austin's first name. Other managers include Sean, Joe, Bryan Rosenberg and finally, mortgage broker Mike Trap. He's listed as the business owner.J.W. August questioned Trap, "Are you the manager? We're just trying to find out what you're doing here." Trap would not answer and told the I-Team to leave. He also tried to hide his face from the camera, for good reason. This is not the first time he's been accused of wrongdoing.Trap was involved with another seedy swindle eight years ago. It was the Pinn Fund, located in Carlsbad. The Ponzi scheme cost investors $100 million.Trap admitted that he hid evidence and pleaded guilty to lying to a grand jury. He was sentenced to probation, but he managed to keep his real estate license by appealing actions against him by the California Department of Real Estate.Nancy Coxall, who canceled her payments to Nation's Housing after being warned by Tom Fatica, said of Trap, "He's despicable, preying on people who are in trouble."After the I-Team called the Department of Real Estate, the department revoked Trap's license, saying a glitch had allowed him to keep it three years after his final appeal was exhausted.However, even without a licensed broker, he and his partners are still in business. Since the visit from the I-Team, they've hired private security patrols to keep uninvited guests away.The I-Team has turned over what it learned about Nation's Housing to the California Attorney General and the California Department of Real Estate. The I-Team has also learned that law enforcement is looking into the actions of Nation's Housing.