A Worcester company specializing in buying and collecting on unpaid real estate tax debts is being required by the Commonwealth of Massachusetts to pay $125,000 plus restitution to 100 homeowners in Central Massachusetts for the unlawful collection of fees in connection with the company’s purchase of property tax liens.

According to Attorney General Maura Healey’s office, Stage One Investors, LLC, located at 1 Kelley Sq. in Worcester, and the AG’s Office agreed to a settlement on Tuesday that resolves allegations that Stage One required homeowners to pay excessive and unlawful fees in order to pay off the tax liens purchased by the company.

“No one should be permitted to take unfair advantage of homeowners struggling to pay their real estate taxes,” said Healey. “This settlement ensures that Stage One stops charging illegal and excessive fees and reforms its practices to be a better partner for our cities and towns.”

In addition to Stage One’s payment of $125,000, the company will change its business practices to provide clear and fair information to homeowners seeking to pay off their tax liens and avoid tax foreclosure.

The registered agent listed on company’s state filings is Edward Murphy, owner of 7 Hills Property Management.

The AG’s Office alleges that Stage One violated the law by charging excessive and unlawful legal fees to homeowners seeking to pay their tax lien debt.

The AG’s Office investigated Stage One after receiving complaints from homeowners and legal services attorneys that the company was placing unlawful restrictions on homeowners’ right to redeem their property. Today’s settlement addresses these practices and recovers full restitution for homeowners.

The matter was handled by AG Healey’s Consumer Protection Division Assistant Attorney General Lisa Dyen, Division Chief Max Weinstein, and Paralegal Gabrielle Crossnoe, with assistance from Senior Financial Investigator Shannon Roark and Investigator Marlee Greer of AG Healey’s Civil Investigation Division.

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