October 4, 2012
LANSING - Attorney General Bill Schuette today announced a 23 to 40 year prison sentence for a Westland man who ran an extensive foreclosure-rescue fraud operation that may have scammed up to 400 victims. Rickey White, 46, of Westland, and his company, Braunstein & Associates, pleaded guilty to three felonies for collecting upfront fees and impersonating a mortgage modification company.
"Foreclosure rescue scam artists who attack Michigan homeowners struggling financially must be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law," said Schuette. "Instead of helping families stay above water, these criminals push them back under. We will continue to dismantle these predatory operations and connect victims with real foreclosure assistance."
The criminal charges were filed as the result of an investigation by Attorney General Schuette's Corporate Oversight Division after receiving complaints against the company through his Consumer Protection Division. The investigation revealed that from December 2009 through May 2011 White operated two companies that were marketed as mortgage modification businesses: Braunstein & Associates in Oakland County and Expert Financial in Wayne County.
White offered prospective clients mortgage loan modifications for a fee, with a full money-back guarantee. White told victims his companies employed expert attorneys who would review their lender files to pre-qualify the homeowner for a mortgage loan modification. White assured clients his attorneys would file the modification proposals with the homeowner's lender on their behalf. The Attorney General's investigation revealed that White had no attorneys on staff, and that modification proposals were either incomplete or never actually submitted to the banks. White closed Expert Financial after learning of Schuette's investigation and continued his scam under Braunstein & Associates.
White and his company, Braunstein & Associates, each pleaded guilty as charged on July 26, 2012 to:
One count of Conducting Criminal Enterprises (Racketeering), a felony punishable by up to twenty years in prison;
Two counts of False Pretenses - $1,000-$20,000, a felony punishable by up to five years in prison and/or three times the value of money or property involved.
White was sentenced on October 3, 2012 by Judge Michael Warren in Oakland County 6th Circuit Court to 280 months (23.3 years) to 40 years in prison and was ordered to pay $283,245 in restitution to 148 victims that have been identified and confirmed so far. Attorney General Schuette also filed notice to supplement White as a fourth time habitual offender, due to his prior criminal record, which raised the maximum penalty for the Racketeering offense to a maximum of life in prison or any term of years.
Citizens who believe they may have been victims of Braunstein & Associates or Expert Financial are encouraged to file complaints with the Attorney General's Office at www.michigan.gov/ag by clicking "File a Complaint."
Schuette reminds Michigan homeowners that citizens do not need to pay to speak with their lender or servicer or to obtain outside assistance with foreclosure issues. Free local assistance with foreclosure issues can be found by calling the Michigan State Housing Development Authority at (866) 946-7432.
"I encourage homeowners with foreclosure concerns to contact free, state-certified housing counselors," said Schuette. "You do not have to pay for assistance or to speak with your lender."
- 30 -