Orchard Lake man pleads guilty to mortgage scheme

Tom Greenwood
The Detroit News

An Orchard Lake man has pleaded guilty to stealing hundreds of thousands of dollars from Michigan residents who were facing mortgage foreclosures.

Early Wednesday morning, Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette announced that his Home Protection Unit had secured a guilty plea from Steven Ruza, 52, and his company, Home Legal Group, Inc., on Sept. 2.

According to Schuette, Ruza promised victims they could obtain mortgage modifications that would then save their homes from foreclosure.

But Ruza did nothing, or little, to obtain the modifications.

“In many cases, Ruza even filed false documents with the bank,” Schuette said. “The victims never received a modification through Ruza and Home Legal Group and most lost their homes to foreclosure.”

As part of the plea agreement, Ruza will pay restitution to the victims, with the possibility of additional restitution at the determination of a judge.

The initial payment of restitution will be made by Ruza with additional restitution being paid to qualifying victims by the Homeowners Protection Fund to ensure they receive timely payments.

Ruza will then be required to reimburse those funds to the state.

On Sept. 2, Ruza pleaded guilty to one count of conducting a criminal enterprise, a 20-year felony, before Oakland County District Court Judge Marc Barron.

The plea agreement contains the following requirements:

■ Provide a list of the 50 satisfied Home Legal Group clients by Oct. 1.

■ Pay $250,000 in restitution by Sept. 22 as well as any remaining restitution as ordered by the court as a condition of parole or probation.

■ Agree to a psychological exam and complete any recommended counseling.

He will be sentenced by Oakland County circuit Court Judge Nancy Grant on Oct. 15.

Under the agreement, the court agreed to a sentence guideline range of 24-40 months for the minimum sentence to a maximum of 20 years, on the charge.

The guilty plea also ensures that Ruza cannot operate as an attorney or run this kind of business again in the future.

“Scams that take advantage of Michigan residents trying to save their homes are unacceptable,” Schuette said in a statement. “These are hardworking men and women who needed a little bit of extra help. Instead of help, they got cheated out of money they could not afford to lose.”

Schuette worked with the Legislature and Gov. Rick Snyder to establish the Michigan Homeowner Protection Fund to ensure these funds are directed toward victims of foreclosure scams or fraud.

On Aug. 1, 2012, Snyder signed legislation creating the $97 Million Homeowner Protection Fund.

Anyone who believes they may have been victims of Steven Ruza and/or Home Legal Group should file a complaint with the Attorney General’s Office at www.michigan.gov/ag by clicking “File a Complaint.”

TGreenwood@detroitnews.com

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