The office of the New York Attorney General ha s filed a complaint in State Supreme Court seeking justice on behalf of thousands of mortgage holders duped by two companies that promised to save them from foreclosure. The companies, American Modification Agency and Amerimod, Inc., were founded in October 2007 by Sal Pane Jr. Pane marketed himself as an expert in fixing distressed mortgages, saying he could negotiate with mortgage lenders to get borrowers out of trouble.

Instead, according to a report in The New York Times, Mr. Pane’s companies illegally required mortgage holders to pay an up-front fee of at least 1 percent of the total amount owed, and then vanished. The Times reports that “nearly everything about Amerimod was illegal.”

In addition to requiring the upfront fees, which is illegal, according to the attorney general’s complaint, the companies also boasted unfounded and outlandish claims of success in renegotiating troubled mortgages, a “negligible” number of the company’s clients actually had any loan modified, and the contract did not provide borrowers with information about free alternatives to paying a mortgage adjustment company.

A permanent injunction against Mr. Pane and his companies was issued by the State Supreme Court in Manhattan. Mr. Pane himself cannot be located.

If you are facing mortgage foreclosure in Alabama, there is help available. The Alabama State Bar operates a free Mortgage Foreclosure Hotline and mortgage foreclosure assistance program, in conjunction with Legal Services Alabama. The program is sponsored by a grant from the Alabama Civil Justice Foundation and the Alabama Access to Justice Commission.  The goal is to help people keep their homes by working with lenders to find alternatives to foreclosure.

Some services are open to anyone, while others are designed to help low-income homeowners. Call the toll-free Mortgage Foreclosure hotline at 1-877-393-2333 or find more information by visiting the Alabama State Bar online.

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