Target 2 Consumer Alert: Housing Counselor Steals from Homeowner - WBAY

Target 2 Consumer Alert: Housing Counselor Steals from Homeowner

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Pamela Hudson was trying to avoid foreclosure. 

 "We didn't have any kind of savings at that point, all of our savings was gone," said Hudson.  "So, I had my mother's engagement and wedding ring."

The choice was emotional, but Hudson decided to sell her deceased mother's rings.

"I asked my father first, he said absolutely you need your house," said Hudson.

She gave the money to housing counselor, Lori Macakanja, who said she would use it for what's called a loan modification.

That would make Pamela's mortgage payments more affordable.  But that didn't happen.

"In this case when the housing counselor got the money, instead of paying the mortgage to the lender on behalf of the client, she pocketed the money," says U.S. Postal Inspector Shelley Carosella.

Macakanja stole almost $300,000 from 136 clients.  Investigators say she used the money to support her gambling habit and pay her own mortgage.

Carosella says "These victims often had hardships either they were sick or they had a divorce, they lost their job and they could not afford the mortgage anymore."

Hudson is one of those victims.  She has multiple sclerosis and was trying to find financial help.

She went to "Homefront," the non-profit agency where Macakanja was supposed to be assisting struggling homeowners.

"This was the letter that we took in to them and brought us to being told our money was taken, and they were very sorry, and we said 'aren't you going to give it back to us' you took it?" says Hudson.

Macakanja is now serving a six-year prison sentence and under court order to pay more than $290,000 in restitution to homeowners.

"I lost the rings, I lost the money, and I'm losing my house," said Hudson.

If you're looking for a change in your mortgage, here is some advice:

  • Always pay your lender directly, never to a house counselor.
  • Seek a HUD approved housing counseling agency for free help with loan modifications.
  • Work with your housing counselor to provide necessary documents and monitor your loan modification process.
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