A judge has awarded the State of Hawaii more than $1.5 million in fines and penalties in a mortgage fraud case that lost a Waianae couple their home.

That’s according to a press release from the Department of Commerce and Consumer Affairs which said the Office of Consumer Protection won the judgment along with the Legal Aid Society of Hawaii.

The Waianae couple will also regain their home as well as $62,000 in restitution, the agency said.

The problem started in 2011 when Hep Yanez Guinn, who also goes by Hephzibah Yanez Lusica, offered to help a couple avoid mortgage foreclosure.

Eight years later, the Office of Consumer Protection discovered the family had been tricked into giving Guinn the property deed, the press release said.

“Guinn convinced the couple to pay her a monthly rent to help cover mortgage payments she never actually made, eventually landing the victims back in foreclosure because of the unpaid loan,” the press release said.

Judge Jeannette Castagnetti ruled in favor of the state on Oct. 11.

“This judgment sends a message that we will not tolerate bad actors and they will be held accountable for victimizing Hawaii’s consumers,” Stephen Levins, who leads the Office of Consumer Protection, said in the release.

The state recommends homeowners who need help with their mortgages contact federally approved housing counseling services.

The state also has a list of red flags to avoid when looking for help avoiding mortgage foreclosure.

They include avoiding people who promise to stop the foreclosure no matter what; tell you to stop making your payments or ask you to pay them instead of the bank; ask for money prior to serving you; and encourages you to sign anything you don’t understand.

Other red flags include anyone who tells you not to contact your bank or attorney, or suggests you hire a lawyer not licensed in the state.

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