Homes stolen by 'Home Savers'?

Heartbroken people lose homes, equity to "Home Savers"
December 17, 2007 3:58:27 PM PST
Two separate criminal investigations are underway into a forclosure rescue firm. Eyewitness News first told you about the company after heartbroken homeowners say they fell for a pitch to save their homes. Instead they say their houses were stolen along with tens of thousands of dollars in equity. Eyewitness News' Sarah Wallace is here now.This is an expanding probe into a company called Home Savers as more alleged victims come forward from New York City, Long Island, and New Jersey. And although the firms' owners claim Home Savers is now closed, we found them still doing business right around the corner from their now-shuttered office in Brooklyn.

Sarah Wallace joins us now with her exclusive.

"Christmas is coming around," says a tearful Serena Walker, "And you can't even put up the Christmas tree because you don't know what's going to happen."

Hours after Walker broke down in tears outside an eviction hearing on Long Island, one of the men she blames for her plight bolted from us down a Brooklyn street when he spotted our camera. Phil Simon could run, but the co-owner of a foreclosure rescue firm called Homesavers couldn't hide for long.

Sarah Wallace: "How come your ran from us?"
Simon: "You caught me off guard, you know."

Simon has reason to be on guard.

Sarah: "You've been stealing houses, you've been stripping equity, allegedly."

Simon: "At this point, at this point we have no comment."

His now-closed Brooklyn-based firm is accused by several clients of stealing their homes and equity, including Serena Walker. She says she fell behind in mortgage payments on her Wyndanch home and went to Homesavers for help.

"I?m like, 'Okay, this must be right,' you know. They're helping me to save my house, my kids have a roof over their heads, that's the only thing I want."

Walker says Homesavers promised to set up a temporary trustee and pay the mortgage for several months. Instead the trustee was allegedly used as a straw buyer to qualify for a new mortgage, with Homesavers then cashing out more than $126,000 in equity and no one paying the mortgage. Now Walker is about to be thrown out of her own home.

"And then my kids are, like, 'Mom, where are we gonna go?' We don't have no place to go."
Sarah Wallace, Eyewitness News: "It's hard to look at it, isn?t it?"
"Yeah it is, it's heartbreaking," says Jacenia Martinez.

Jacenia Martinez has already given up and moved out of her foreclosed Elizabeth, New Jersey house. She claims she also got suckered in by the same Home-stealers' scheme losing $136,000 dollars in equity.

"They cashed out all that money," Martinez says, "Because they weren't paying the mortgage."

"You got nothing out of this deal."
Jacenia Martinez: "Absolutely nothing."

Martinez says then came the foreclosure notices when Homesavers didn't pay the mortgage.

"I was $19,000 in debt because they weren't paying the mortgage in the first place. It was just devastating because it was just every day we would wake up and we were afraid..."

Afraid that someone would suddenly evict them. So they left before that could happen. They are now renting, starting over.

"I will always look at them as thieves," Jacenia says.

Sarah Wallace: "What do you say to all the people who came to you for help, to save their homes and they lost their homes?"
Simon: "Do me a favor, talk to my attorney."

Simon claims Homesavers is out of business, but he's still doing some kind of financial business out of an unmarked building a few blocks away. We got into the office and saw mailboxes for both Simon and his Homesavers partner, Garth Celestine.

Sarah: "You own this building? And you're not doing deals out of there?"
Simon: "No!"

But just minutes before, a man had arrived to talk about a prospective deal he claims Simon pitched.

Sarah: "You sell foreclosure properties?"
Ira Waltuch, Legend Land Services: "Yes."
Sarah: "And he told you what?"
Waltuch: "That he had $10 million dollars he was looking to invest in foreclosure properties."


Home Savers' alleged victims wonder if that investment money, if it's real, is their lost life-savings.

"It's just flat out stealing, and ... they just should be stopped." Martinez said.

That is.. so, so wrong," says Walker.

Simon: "At the end of the day.."
Sarah: "At the end of the day, a lot of people are out of their homes because they thought you would save them. That's at the end of the day. Do you have anything to say to those families?"
Simon: "Yeah, talk to my attorney. You've got to talk to my attorney."

Well, we did. The attorney set up a sit-down interview with the co-owners but they canceled at the last minute. Previously Homesavers has claimed it helped many people before running into financial problems themselves.

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