April 26 (Bloomberg) -- A U.S. military veteran made famous by his portrayal in the movie “Good Morning Vietnam” is accused by a consumer group of preying on financially troubled homeowners seeking to lower their mortgage payments.
Adrian Cronauer, the former wartime disc jockey who was played by Robin Williams in the 1987 film, is now a lawyer in Washington. His firm improperly sought thousands of dollars in up-front fees in exchange for helping borrowers negotiate better mortgage terms, according to two complaints filed by the The National Community Reinvestment Coalition, a Washington-based fair-credit watchdog.
“It will be a good morning in America when we put an end to this kind of loan-modification scam,” said John Taylor, the coalition’s president and chief executive officer. “Taking advantage of a homeowner while they are vulnerable is shameful, and it’s also against the law.”
The coalition filed the complaints with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and the Federal Trade Commission on April 17.
The Cronauer Law Center in Washington did not return phone calls or e-mails seeking comment. FTC spokesman Peter Kaplan and CFPB spokesman Michelle Person had no comment on the complaints.
Cronauer, a former special assistant at the Pentagon, earned his law degree from the University of Pennsylvania, according to the firm’s website. The firm’s practice areas include loan modifications, foreclosures and bankruptcy.
The Cronauer Law Center solicited homeowners with letters and television ads, according to the complaint. One Maryland homeowner received a letter urging recipients who had experienced “financial hardship,” late payments or unemployment to call the firm for help receiving a loan modification. The homeowner did and was told that the service would cost between $2,500 and $4,000, the complaint said.
Another borrower, in Georgia, was told to sign a contract with the Cronauer firm so it could negotiate with the lender on the homeowner’s behalf. The borrower was told to make payments totaling $1,300, according to the complaint.
It is illegal for companies working to provide mortgage relief to charge up-front fees, according to the FTC. Lawyers can be exempted from the rule if they’re licensed in the state in which their client or the home is located, according to the commission.
Cronauer is not licensed to practice law in Maryland or Georgia, according to the complaint.
To contact the reporter on this story: Lorraine Woellert in Washington at email@example.com;
To contact the editor responsible for this story: Christopher Wellisz at firstname.lastname@example.org.