EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

New Hampshire

August 1, 2008

Plaistow mortgage company faces fraud charges

PLAISTOW — The state Banking Department has received nine consumer complaints about The Mortgage Specialists in the last few years, but it was the department's routine check of the Route 125 business that led to fraud charges.

In a recent examination of the real estate and mortgage firm, the state said it found that the company forged customer signatures, altered and destroyed documents, and broke other state and federal laws.

The Mortgage Specialists was issued a cease-and-desist order it must respond to within 30 days, according to department spokesman Rich Arcand. The company, which received the order last week, could face $200,000 in fines and revocation of its license.

The firm's New Hampshire offices in Salem, Windham, Manchester and Somersworth, remain open for business.

Yesterday, the company's Peabody and Worcester, Mass., locations were also issued a cease-and-desist order by the Massachusetts Division of Banks in the wake of similar allegations.

The Mortgage Specialists' lawyer, Alex Walker of Manchester, said his client has had a history of compliance and is working with the New Hampshire Banking Department to resolve the matter.

"The company is prepared to take whatever steps are necessary to ensure that the Banking Department is satisfied with the bank's internal procedures and operations and is compliant in every respect," he said.

Banking Department staff visited the main office in Plaistow a few weeks ago to perform an examination that is routinely administered every 18 months, Arcand said.

When the department asked for 20 files stored at a site within a 10-minute drive, it took more than four hours for employees to return with the folders, according to the cease-and-desist order. Documents were missing from all the files, but the department said it later found some of them in a bin waiting to be shredded.

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