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AG Cooper stops mobile home seller that cheated consumers, lenders

Release date: 11/3/2004

Raleigh: A Vance County mobile home dealer accused of misleading customers about the costs of buying a home is barred from deceptive practices and must pay both the state and consumers, Attorney General Roy Cooper said today.

“Consumers thought they were getting homes they could afford but instead got tricked into payments they couldn’t keep up with,” said Cooper. “People lost their homes and their hard-earned money, and banks lost on bad loans.”

Under terms of a consent judgment approved today by Wake County Superior Court Judge Narley Cashwell, Donald W. Gupton, Inc. and owner Donald W. Gupton are permanently barred from using unfair and deceptive trade practices to sell manufactured homes and land. The judgment resolves Cooper’s lawsuit originally filed in January of 2003 against Gupton, which also operated as Dynasty Homes of Henderson, Creative Real Estate, and Superior Housing Center.

Gupton also agreed to pay $75,000 to the state and substantially more money to approximately 65 victims represented by a private attorney. The terms of that private settlement are confidential, but Cooper’s agreement with Gupton was contingent upon these individual consumers getting money back from the company.

The judgment prohibits Gupton from: selling mobile homes to consumers whom the company knows cannot keep up with the payments; deceiving customers about the price of homes and property, monthly payments, and possibilities to refinance at a lower rate; falsifying loan applications; soliciting false gift letters from customers in order to secure financing; misrepresenting the value or source of down payments or trade-ins; encouraging inflated appraisals of homes and land sold to consumers; failing to make proper disclosures about the sales of manufactured homes to customers as required by law; and using false or misleading representations to sell mobile homes and land. The company must also allow the Attorney General’s office to review its loan files and sales records at any time to ensure compliance with the law.

Cooper’s office first began investigating Gupton’s practices in 2002 following complaints from consumers. As alleged in the suit filed in 2003, consumers were lured by advertisements that promised to help those with “bad credit” get a home for $500 a month. Consumers who responded to the ads were told that they could buy a home regardless of their credit and, in many cases, that Gupton would pay off their debts in order to help them qualify for a home loan. It was not until the loan closing that consumers discovered higher than promised costs and payments. Many consumers wound up losing their homes through foreclosure or were forced into bankruptcy. The complaint also alleged that Gupton inflated sale prices and property values, causing financial loss to banks that funded the loans.

“Buying a home is the most important purchase many people will ever make,” said Cooper. “My office is firmly committed to looking out for homeowners and other consumers.”