BOSTON, MA (May 6, 2015)—Represented by Greater Boston Legal Services (GBLS), seventeen Latino homeowners who paid money to an attorney for loan modifications they never received won a discrimination case at the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination (MCAD) and were awarded compensatory and emotional distress damages of over $200,000. Attorney David Zak was found to have discriminated by specifically targeting Latinos for his services, believing them to be “stupid people” and “easy targets” who would pay him large sums of money upfront. In many cases, homeowners who paid money for loan modifications found themselves losing their homes to foreclosure instead. One person became homeless and had to live in his car, after paying Zak $8,000 for a loan modification.
The Chelsea Collaborative, a community organization dedicated to improving the lives of people in the Chelsea community, began hearing complaints about Zak from people in the Latino community in 2010. The Chelsea Collaborative received over 65 complaints and referred people to GBLS. The work of the Chelsea Collaborative in supporting the victims of Zak’s discrimination was invaluable in GBLS’ ability to represent the Latino homeowners and achieve justice for the victims.
By advertising exclusively in Spanish on radio stations and publications geared to the Latino community, and falsely claiming he was the only lawyer who could save Latinos from foreclosure and cut their mortgage payments in half, Zak enticed Spanish-speaking people who did not speak English well and were unsophisticated, into paying him thousands of dollars. The MCAD found that this form of targeting people based on their national origin is prohibited by Massachusetts anti-discrimination laws. The MCAD found that Zak “targeted Latino clients because he deemed them gullible consumers in contrast to Caucasian clients who he deemed to “know too much” and black clients who “would sue him.”
In addition, Zak was found to have engaged in misleading marketing and making false guarantees; charging an inflated fee; requiring non-English speaking clients to sign documents only in English; subjecting Latino homeowners to discriminatory statements, threats, insults, and intimidation; and not providing the loan modifications that were promised.
Nadine Cohen, GBLS Lead Attorney, stated, “The Latino homeowners who were victimized feel vindicated and are grateful for the opportunity to tell their story and be heard.” Gladys Vega, Executive Director of the Chelsea Collaborative, stated, “We are extremely pleased with the results of this case and applaud everyone who worked so hard to bring justice to the victims. This sends a clear message that Chelsea will not tolerate scams and fraud targeting our community.”
The MCAD case complainants were just some of those who were victims of Attorney Zak’s scheme. There are many others. The Massachusetts Attorney General’s office has a case against Zak and there are on-going proceedings at the Board of Bar Overseers.