The Federal Trade Commission mailed more than 13,000 refund checks totaling $723,000 to consumers who were allegedly deceived by a company claiming it would negotiate with lenders to modify mortgages to make them more affordable.

First Universal Lending and its owners agreed to an order banning them from mortgage relief services. The FTC alleged the operators encouraged homeowners to stop making payments, and did little or sometimes nothing to help them after the upfront fees were paid.

The amount of the payments varied based upon the amount of each consumer's loss.

The FTC sued First Universal Lending; its owners, Sean Zausner, David Zausner; and attorney David J. Feingold, in November 2009 as part of Project Stolen Hope, a federal and state crackdown on mortgage foreclosure rescue and loan modification scams.

The defendants encouraged homeowners to stop making mortgage payments, saying lenders would not negotiate unless they were at least a few months behind in their payments, as alleged in the FTC’s complaint.

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