Suit Accuses Real Estate Firm of Scam

November 17, 2007

A real estate firm’s president engaged in “a massive real estate financial scam upon Pennsylvania consumers” that netted him and his companies more than $3 million, state prosecutors alleged in a civil lawsuit.The Attorney General’s Bureau of Consumer Protection sued James C. Platts, of Pittsburgh, his company Easy Realty Solutions LLC and two subsidiaries on Thursday in Allegheny County Court. The bureau also asked a court to shut down what prosecutors allege are their unlicensed or deceptive real estate and mortgage activities in Allegheny, Beaver and Butler counties.

“Consumers came to Mr. Platts and Easy Realty looking for homes and a piece of the American Dream,” Attorney General Tom Corbett said Friday. “Instead, their dreams of home ownership quickly turned into nightmares of inflated prices, undisclosed fees and bogus legal filings, all intended to squeeze as much money as possible from trusting consumers.”

A message left Friday for Platts at Easy Realty was not immediately returned. A listed number for Platts could not immediately be found.

Corbett accused Platts and his companies of getting more than $2 million in payments from consumers related to real estate sales and of extending or receiving at least 113 second mortgages, valued at more than $1.2 million, though they lacked required real estate or secondary mortgage loan licenses.

In some cases, when buyers needed additional money to purchase properties, Platts and Easy Realty would offer second mortgage financing, though lacking the license, Corbett said.

Platts is also accused of wrongfully filing legal notices of pending civil lawsuits against property owners although no legal dispute appeared to exist, according to Corbett. The filings held up the titles for the properties, preventing their sale until settlement.

Corbett alleged that Platts and his companies collected payoff fees, ranging from $1,198 to $78,599, to satisfy the filings and allow sales to proceed.

In 2005, Platts agreed to pay $17,000 in restitution, fines and other costs after customers accused him of using misleading sales tactics.

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