Attorney Steven Ruza Pleads Guilty To Screwing 143 Homeowners In Foreclosure Rescue Scam
Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette today announced that he has secured a guilty plea from Steven Barry Ruza. Ruza pleaded guilty to scamming homeowners facing mortgage foreclosures out of hundreds of thousands of dollars. Ruza will be responsible for paying restitution to the victims. He also faces additional restitution at the judge’s determination.
Schuette said in a statement:
Foreclosure rescue scams that take advantage of Michigan residents trying to save their homes are unacceptable.
These are hardworking men and women who needed a little bit of extra help. Instead of help, they got cheated out of money they could not afford to lose. My office is dedicated to protecting these citizens and ensuring bad actors are brought to justice.
Ruza and Home Legal Group ran the foreclosure rescue scam by promising victims that they could obtain mortgage modifications. He also promised he could save their homes from foreclosure. He then did nothing, or very little to obtain mortgage modifications for the victims. In addition, Ruza even filed false documents with the bank. The victims never received a modification through Ruza and Home Legal Group and most lost their homes to foreclosure.
The Plea Deal
Ruza pleaded guilty to one count of Conducting a Criminal Enterprise for operating the foreclosure rescue scam on September 2, 2015. Ruza faces a sentencing hearing on October 15, 2015. The plea agreement includes the following key terms for the defendant:
- Provides a list of the 50 satisfied Home Legal Group clients by October 1, 2015;
- Pay $250,000 in restitution by September 22, 2015, and any remaining restitution as ordered by the court as a condition of parole or probation; and
- Ruza must also agree to a psychological exam and complete any recommended counseling.
Ruza will make the initial restitution payment. In addition, he will be required pay further restitution payments to qualifying victims of his foreclosure rescue scam. The Homeowners Protection Fund will pay qualifying homeowners with Ruza reimbursing the State of Michigan.
The court also agreed to a sentence guideline range of 24-40 months for the minimum sentence to a maximum of 20 years on the racketeering charge. In Addition, the guilty plea also ensures that Ruza cannot operate as an attorney or run this kind of business again in the future.
Homeowners Protection Fund
The Michigan Legislature created the Michigan Homeowner Protection Fund. Governor Snyder signed legislation creating the $97 Million Homeowner Protection Fund on August 1, 2012.