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Man accused of deceiving Ohioans in mortgage loan modification scheme

• Nov 12, 2017 at 10:00 AM

Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine has announced a consumer protection lawsuit against a California man accused of taking thousands of dollars for loan modification services he never provided.

The lawsuit accuses Michael D. Grinnell of Los Angeles, and his companies, Equitable Century Group LLC and 1st Financial Associates LLC, of failing to help adjust consumers’ mortgages or provide refunds even after taking thousands of dollars in fees and offering a 100 percent money-back guarantee.

Four Ohio consumers who complained about Grinnell’s companies reported losses ranging from $6,500 to $16,000.

“People paid a lot of money but didn’t get results,” DeWine said. “They also didn’t get their money back, even though they were promised full refunds. We’re seeking a court order to stop this scheme and to protect Ohio homeowners.”

According to the lawsuit, Grinnell and his companies called consumers offering to help negotiate loan modifications or other loan adjustments with the consumers’ lenders or mortgage servicers. In some cases, he allegedly gave consumers the false impression they would be working with attorneys. He also used the names Tri-West USA, TW & Associates, and NorthStar Finance Group and is associated with a newly-formed company named Financial Investment Services Corporation.

The Attorney General’s lawsuit, filed in the Franklin County Common Pleas Court, seeks restitution for affected consumers and an end to any violations of Ohio’s Consumer Sales Practices Act and Debt Adjuster’s Act.

Consumers who want to modify their mortgage loans should be wary of companies that ask for upfront payment in exchange for help.

Consumers who suspect a scam or unfair sales practice should contact the Ohio Attorney General’s Office at www.OhioProtects.org or 800-282-0515.

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