Though he bears little resemblance to the record-slinging, Nixon-impersonating prankster played by Robin Williams in Good Morning, Vietnam, former Air Force radio DJ Adrian Cronauer is still closely associated with the 1987 comedy. Now, Cronauer is making a different sort of headline after the National Community Reinvestment Coalition has filed a pair of complaints against the law firm that bears his name.
According to the NCRC complaints, filed last week with both the Federal Trade Commission and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, the Washington, D.C., based Cronauer Law Center have allegedly been misleading troubled mortgage-borrowers into paying costly — and possibly illegal — upfront fees to modify loans and prevent foreclosures.
In the dual complaints, the NCRC alleges that Cronauer Center mailings intended to attract new clients bear a “striking resemblance to the legitimate ‘Independent Foreclosure Review’ letter that is routinely sent to consumers as part of enforcement actions taken by the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System and the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency,” and that the average consumer could mistakenly believe “that he or she is receiving an actual bargained for service or benefit.”
The NCRC gives the example of one person in Maryland who responded to a Cronauer solicitation only to be told they would need to pay the fee — ranging from $2,500 to $4,000 — in advance.
Upfront fees are a big no-no, unless the money is being paid to an attorney licensed to practice in the client’s state. The NCRC said it could find no evidence that Cronauer, whose name is signed on all the letters, is licensed to practice in Maryland.
It also provides a second example of similar upfront payment demands made to a potential client in Georgia. Once again, claims the NCRC, Cronauer does not appear to be licensed in that state.
NCRC President and CEO John Taylor made the following statement:
“Scammers who cause injury to homeowners under the guise of offering assistance must not be tolerated,” said NCRC President John Taylor in a statement. “We believe Mr. Cronauer and the Cronauer Law Center to be in violation of the Federal Trade Commission Act, the Mortgage Assistance Relief Act rules, and other state and federal laws. We look forward to regulators reviewing our complaints and investigating this important matter further.”
Bloomberg, which first reported the news, was unable to get comments from Cronauer or either the FTC or CFPB.
You can read copies of the NCRC complaints here.