Out-of-state company accused of targeting Arizona homeownersPosted: Updated:
PHOENIX - “I find it so hard to believe that somebody can just look you in the eye and then do that to you.”
Deborah Dresen is talking about Thomas Stefanszky.
Deborah says she hired him and the company he worked for, Principal Financial Partners, to reduce the amount of her home loan.
Like many in the Valley, she owes way more than her home is worth.
Struggling to pay her mortgage, Deborah went looking for help and found Stefanszky.
For a fee, Deborah says Stefanszky claimed he could reduce her monthly house payment and if Principal Financial Partners couldn't help, she says she was told she would get a refund.
But weeks after paying, Deborah received this email from Stefanszky telling her, "I personally will no longer be associated in matters pertaining to Principal Financial Partners and its affiliates."
Deborah says she tried contacting the Colorado-based business directly.
“The phones are disconnected. The emails don't return. So, it kind of put me into a state of panic,” she said.
Then she found out about a lawsuit filed against Principal Financial Partners by the Colorado Attorney General’s office.
“And I thought oh no no no. This can't be!” she said.
The lawsuit claims owners Robert and Nanette Auhll , and Thomas Stefanszky "deceived and misled hundreds of consumers by inducing them to pay a $2,995 up-front fee for loan modification services."
AUHLL AND ASSOCIATES, LLC, d/b/a LOAN MODIFICATION SOLUTIONS, a Colorado limited liability company; NANETTE M. AUHLL, an individual; ROBERT R. AUHLL, an individual; PRINCIPAL FINANCIAL PARTNERS, INC., a Colorado corporation; and THOMAS S. STEFANSZKY, an individual, are all named as defendants in the case.
Since 2009, court documents show "the defendants have collected more than a million dollars from distressed homeowners," many of which, the AG’s office says were from Arizona.
In fact, the Colorado AG’s office says Principal Financial Partners targeted Arizona homeowners.
3 On Your Side tried contacting Principal Financial Partners multiple times.
“Is there a Thomas here?” 3 On Your Side asked.
When we didn't hear back, a 3 On Your Side producer showed up at an address court documents show is Thomas Stefanszky's home.
“Well you don't need to know anything,” someone at the home said.
“Why don't I need to know anything?” 3 On Your Side asked. “So it sounds like he does live here.”
“No he doesn't. Not anymore,” the man replied before driving off.
We also went to Principal Financial Partners' Scottsdale address.
Turns out, it's only a virtual office and that no one with the company even works there.
So where does all this leave Deborah Dresen?
Right where she started.
Still trying to afford her mortgage but with a lot less money to pay it.
We checked with the Arizona Attorney General's Office to find out if it plans to pursue this case, but so far, haven’t heard back.
Meantime, Deborah has filed a complaint in Colorado which could lead to a refund after all this plays out in court.
She's also trying to dispute the charge with her bank.