Prudential Locations LLC, a Honolulu real estate brokerage, has agreed to a $48,000 settlement with HUD for allegedly providing gifts and vacations to sales agents who referred business to an affiliated mortgage company, Wells Fargo Home Mortgage Hawaii LLC.Department of Housing and Urban Development investigators found that Prudential hosted a "First Annual Wells Fargo Party" in January 2003 and invited only sales agents that referred over $1 million in business to Wells Fargo. One agent won a three-year lease on a Mercedes-Benz automobile in a drawing and others received trips to Thailand, Las Vegas, and San Francisco. HUD determined that Prudential violated the Real Estate Settlement Procedures Act, which prohibits the payment of referral fees in the homebuying process. "When real estate companies tie gifts and other benefits based on the referral to affiliated businesses, that's a kickback and that's against the law," HUD Assistant Secretary Brian Montgomery said. Prudential Locations, a franchisee of Prudential Real Estate and Relocation Services, Irvine, Calif., could not be reached for comment.

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