GlobeNewswire

COMMUNITY LEGAL SERVICES FAIR HOUSING UNIT OBTAINS RELIEF IN LAWSUIT ALLEGING DISCRIMINATORY TARGETING OF HISPANIC HOMEOWNERS

Community Legal Services is a non-profit organization that promotes equal access to justice by providing civil legal aid to help low-income people protect their livelihoods, their health, and their families.

Orlando, Florida, June 27, 2022 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- Community Legal Services of Mid-Florida Inc., (CLS) obtained a consent judgment for $4,595,000 to compensate Hispanic homeowners who were harmed by a Miami law firm claiming to provide loan modifications and foreclosure defense services to financially struggling borrowers.  

CLS attorneys Jeffrey Hussey, Alicia Magazu, and Morgan Cardinal represented three families in a fair housing lawsuit against Advocate Law Groups of Florida, Jon B. Lindeman, Jr., and Ephigenia Lindeman (“Defendants”).  

The Fair Housing Act (the “FHA”) is a federal law that prohibits housing discrimination against people belonging to seven classes: race, national origin, color, religion, sex, familial status, and disability (states and counties also have fair housing laws that may cover additional classes). The FHA protects members of these classes against unequal treatment in real estate related activities, including the act of interference with a person’s right to live in their home free from discrimination.  

This case began in 2014 when CLS initially filed fair housing complaints on behalf of Lucia Hurtado, Noemi Roman, Argentina Roque, and their families with the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). “When these families first reached out to us for help, I was so compelled by their stories I had to find a way to seek justice for them,” said staff attorney Alicia Magazu. “Because it was clear they had been targeted based on their national origin, I reported the activity to HUD.”   

Upon completion of its investigation, HUD found cause and charged Defendants with discrimination in September 2018. HUD transferred the case to the Department of Justice (DOJ), which filed a lawsuit in the Middle District of Florida. CLS intervened shortly thereafter on behalf of Lucia Hurtado, Noemi Roman, and Argentina Roque (“Intervenor Plaintiffs”). 

In their complaint, Intervenor Plaintiffs alleged Defendants intentionally focused their loan modification and foreclosure defense services on Spanish-speaking borrowers and targeted them with false advertising. These advertisements promised to cut mortgage payments in half, suggested nearly half of homeowners did not need to pay their mortgage because their bank had committed fraud, and significantly inflated Defendants’ foreclosure defense success rate. 

An agreement was reached between the Intervenor Plaintiffs and Defendants that includes immediate payments to the three Intervenor Plaintiffs, a judgment against Defendants, and a permanent ban of Defendants providing any mortgage relief assistance services, such as loan modifications or foreclosure defense services. The judgment also imposes reporting and recordkeeping requirements for Defendants’ other real-estate activities.  

Across the country, homeowners and future homeowners will benefit from the results of this lawsuit. “This case sets a landmark precedent that law firms and other loan modification assistance providers could be held liable under the FHA for interfering with homeowners’ rights. This is a significant tool for combatting future scams targeted toward members of protected classes,” said Jeff Hussey, Director of Public Interest and Litigation at CLS.   

“It was a pleasure representing these incredibly strong women,” said Morgan Cardinal, Managing Attorney of Fair Housing at CLS. “It is outcomes like this that motivate us to fight for the fair housing rights of all Central Floridians.” 

ABOUT CLS:  

At Community Legal Services, we believe in Legal Aid for All. Everyone has the right to an attorney. CLS service area covers twelve counties throughout Central Florida and ranges from urban to rural areas. As a PILLAR in the community, our mission is to provide no-cost legal services to the most vulnerable Central Florida residents. Fair housing work at CLS is supported by funding under a grant from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s Office of Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity. 

 

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Jeffrey Hussey
Community Legal Services of Mid-Florida, Inc.
407-705-5106
jeffreyh@clsmf.org

Michelle Wargo
Community Legal Services
4079367682
michellew@clsmf.org