NEWARK – 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 that 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.
A lawsuit filed in December 2020 by the Office of the Attorney General, DOBI, and the Division of Consumer Affairs (collectively “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, Camden County 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 appointment of a receiver at Defendants’ expense to assume full control over 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,” said Acting Attorney General Platkin. “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.”
“With this judgment these defendants are held liable for their deceitful practices against vulnerable New Jerseyans. These individuals took advantage of people already struggling financially and made their situations worse,” said Commissioner Caride. “This is a reminder to those we regulate that the department will take action to protect residents against predatory and abusive practices.”
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.
“Instead of helping consumers out of a financial crisis, as they promised, the Defendants callously pushed struggling homeowners further into debt, including those suffering economic hardships during the height of the pandemic,” said Cari Fais, Acting Director of the Division of Consumer Affairs. “Through our collaboration with DOBI, we were able to use our respective consumer protection laws to put these scammers and their sham companies out of business for good. The Division of Consumer Affairs will continue to work with agencies across State government and beyond to pursue actions against individuals and companies who harm consumers through unlawful, deceptive, or unfair business practices.”
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.
For the Division of Consumer Affairs, the matter was handled by Deputy Attorneys General Donna J. Dorgan and Andrew Esoldi and Section Chief Patricia Schiripo of the Consumer Fraud Prosecution Section in the Division of Law’s Affirmative Civil Enforcement Practice Group. Investigators Brian Penn and Loretta Creggett and Supervising Investigator Jennifer Micco of the Office of Consumer Protection handled the investigation for the Division.
For the Department of Banking and Insurance, the matter was handled by Deputy Attorney General Garen Gazaryan, Assistant Section Chief Nicholas Kant, Section Chief Richard E. Wegryn, Jr., and Assistant Attorney General Raymond R. Chance, III, in the Division of Law’s Financial Affairs Practice Group.
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.
The mission of the Division of Consumer Affairs, within the Department of Law and Public Safety, is to protect the public from fraud, deceit, misrepresentation and professional misconduct in the sale of goods and services in New Jersey through education, advocacy, regulation and enforcement. The Division pursues its mission through its 51 professional and occupational boards that oversee 720,000 licensees in the state, its Regulated Business section that oversees 60,000 NJ registered businesses, as well as through its Office of Consumer Protection, Bureau of Securities, Charities Registration section, Office of Weights and Measures, and Legalized Games of Chance section.