The Federal Trade Commission has charged two local mortgage brokers with misrepresenting loan terms to borrowers and causing them to lose their houses, file for bankruptcy or seek refinancing as a result.
According to a complaint filed by the agency in U.S. District Court here, Nationwide Mortgage Corp. and Community Mortgage Corp. used "unfair or deceptive" tactics to induce more than 100 Washington area borrowers to use their homes as collateral for one-year loans that required balloon payments at the end of the year of up to $72,800.
When the borrowers were unable to make the payment, they lost their homes or went bankrupt or obtained refinancing at additional costs, the complaint alleges.
Nationwide Mortgage Corp. now has no telephone listing, but the FTC said it has operated offices in Annandale, Alexandria and Falls Church. Community Mortgage Corp. is a privately owned company based in Annandale.
The case involved homes in the District and Maryland, in areas where the value of the homes had increased greatly in recent years, said Stephen L. Cohen, an FTC attorney. The commission believes homeowners in Virginia also may have been induced into obtaining similar loans, he added.
The complaint, filed late Tuesday, asks the U.S. District Court to order the firms to stop their alleged "unfair or deceptive acts or practices." It also accuses the firms of violating the Truth in Lending Act, which requires disclosure of certain information and grants certain rights to borrowers.
The FTC also is seeking restitution for at least the loan fees paid by the borrowers, Cohen said. The firms took fees of about 30 percent on the loans. On 100 loans for an average of $40,000, those fees would total about $1.2 million.
Evidence presented in support of the complaint covers about two years, from 1980 to 1982. The FTC said it has not determined if the alleged violations continued beyond that time.
Also named as defendants in the complaint were: Norman C. Tillette, president of Nationwide Mortgage; Kyle L. Doniff, president of Community Mortgage; four individual loan originators; Southeast Title Corp. and its president, C. Jimmie Vaccaro Jr.; and Richard Boddie and J. Michael Slocum, attorneys in the local law firm Phelps, Slocum & Boddie.
An attorney for Doniff and Community Mortgage disputed the FTC charges. Community Mortgage once shared office space with Nationwide, but the two firms "were not partners in any sense," said Jacob Sheeskin.
Doniff and Community Mortgage "did not engage in any illegal acts or violations of federal laws or regulations," Sheeskin said.
Neither Tillette nor Slocum could be reached for comment. An answering machine at Southeast Title said yesterday that the firm was closed because of "an emergency."
Vaccaro referred inquiries to his attorney, who could not be reached.
Boddie referred a call to an attorney, who did not return a call.
According to the FTC, Nationwide and Community sought out potential borrowers who were in "desperate need" of money and who had substantial equity in their homes. The firms then offered to arrange loans quickly, "regardless of the borrowers' credit and ability to repay loans," if they used their homes as collateral.
Although the companies claimed that the loans arranged would have long-term financing, they were actually 12-month, interest-only loans, with balloon payments of principal due at the end of the year, the FTC said.
The two mortgage companies "falsely and deceptively represented in writing" the annual percentage rate of the loans, the FTC said. The firms claimed to offer rates of 12 to 18 percent, but failed to include additional fees that drove the rate for most loans to as high as 28 to 151 percent, the FTC said.
When borrowers inquired about obtaining long-term financing, the brokers assured them the loans would be made long-term, the FTC said.
The brokers allegedly offered some borrowers an opportunity for refinancing, collected application fees and then rejected the applications because of poor credit or lack of equity, the FTC said. Some borrowers sought refinancing elsewhere, only to be turned down because of poor credit or lack of equity, the agency said.
Most of the borrowers who could not obtain refinancing lost their homes through foreclosure, the agency said. Those who could refinance had to pay brokers' fees and settlement costs again.