The state Department of Commerce and Consumer Affairs’ Office of Consumer Protection (OCP), in conjunction with the Legal Aid Society of Hawaii, obtained a judgment totaling $1,568,000 in fines and penalties and helped a defrauded Waianae couple get their property back plus an award of more than $62,000 in restitution from a mortgage rescue scam spanning nearly 10 years.
In 2011, Hep Yanez Guinn, also known as Hephzibah Yanez Lusica, solicited the victims with mortgage assistance relief services through her company, HYL Consultants, LLC. Facing foreclosure, the couple hired Guinn to help obtain a loan modification. When Guinn was named as a defendant to the foreclosure suit refiled in 2019, OCP learned that Guinn had tricked the couple into signing over the deed to their property in order to temporarily make mortgage payments on their behalf. Guinn convinced the couple to pay her a monthly rent to help cover mortgage payments she never actually made, eventually landing the victims back in foreclosure because of the unpaid loan. Acting under its authority to enforce consumer protection laws, including the Mortgage Rescue Fraud Prevention Act, OCP intervened in the foreclosure action to hold Guinn accountable for her years of illegal conduct.
On October 11, 2021, Circuit Court Judge Jeannette Castagnetti entered a final judgment in favor of the plaintiffs, awarding the fines and penalties to OCP and awarding the victims restitution, restoration of title to the property, and voidance of their contracts with Guinn.
“The threat of losing your home is distressing and unfortunately scammers prey on any opportunity to take full advantage,” said Stephen Levins, executive director of OCP. “This judgment sends a message that we will not tolerate bad actors and they will be held accountable for victimizing Hawaii’s consumers.”
Recommendations for Homeowners experiencing financial hardship
For homeowners having trouble with paying their mortgage or dealing with their lender or mortgage servicer, there are HUD-certified housing counselors located at various non-profit agencies in Hawaii that may provide assistance at no cost. For more information please review the following HUD website:
When looking for foreclosure prevention help, avoid any business that:
- Promises it can stop the foreclosure process, no matter your circumstances;
- Instructs you not to contact your lender, lawyer or HUD approved housing counselor or credit counseling agency;
- Recommends that you stop making your mortgage payments;
- Recommends that you make your mortgage payments directly to it, rather than your lender;
- Collects a fee before providing any services;
- Recommends that you hire an out-of-state lawyer who isn’t licensed to practice law in Hawaii; or
- Pressures you to sign papers you haven’t had a chance to read thoroughly or that you don’t understand.