PETALUMA, Calif. (KGO) --A Petaluma man, accused of defrauding scores of homeowners out of more than hundreds of thousands of dollars, is seeking bankruptcy protection -- a claim many of his alleged victims say is fraudulent. Seven On Your Side has been following this case for more than a year and now with an update.
Miguel Angel Lopez-Soleta is being investigated by the State Department of Justice and the Sonoma County District Attorney's Office for mortgage modification fraud. It's been more than a year since agents served search warrants on both his home and office. A year later, the District Attorney has yet to make a decision on whether to press charges, and now some of the victims believe bankruptcy is an attempt to prevent them from getting their money back.
A group of people showed up at Lopez-Soleta's bankruptcy hearing in federal court. The people say they paid him thousands of dollars to try to win a mortgage modification from the banks for their homes. Most say they got nothing in return.
"When we contacted our bank, all hundred people contacted their banks to see how Lopez-Soleta took care of them. Every bank says the same thing, never heard from him," Santa Rosa resident Dan Steele said.
In his bankruptcy filing, Lopez-Soleta along with his wife Heidi Beth Marks-Lopez claim they have $2.1 million in assets, but $3.2 million in liabilities.
Among his holdings, is a 2,200 square foot home in Petaluma along with the adjoining three-acre ranch. Cameras are not allowed inside federal court, but his creditors were allowed to ask questions during the hearing. This family asked Lopez-Soleta under oath if he had received $15,000 from them. Miguel denied it. Amilcar Reyes showed us a signed letter from Lopez-Soleta acknowledging receipt of $15,000 along with a copy of Lopez-Soleta's driver's license.
"He told me everything is OK. I said where the line of credit. He told me he's finished. I called the bank. The bank told me no, don't have no line of credit," Novato resident Amilcar Reyes said.
Lopez-Soleta also denied doing business after he said he shut down his company Mortgage Modifiers in February 2013. Several people in court say they had written checks to the company since that date.
"They denied everything. They lied under oath. They lied about taking money. They lied about dates," Novato resident Bob Gilles said.
Gilles says his mother almost lost her home because of Mortgage Modifiers. Homeowners also questioned the amount of money the couple reported from Marks-Lopez's business caring for horses. They also question her claim that she was paid in wine, and not cash, for her work at a local winery. Most of all, they wanted to know what happened with all the money they paid to mortgage modifiers. Miguel said all the money was used for expenses and to pay back debts.
"What do you guys think of having all those people in the courtroom that angry at you?"
The couple continued walking, ignoring my questions. Finally, I asked if they had anything to say to customers of Mortgage Modifiers who feel they've been defrauded.
"You can tell these people anything you want. You can explain anything you want. You can tell us what happened."
The couple remained silent.
It was a year ago in April that state authorities served a search warrant on Mortgage Modifiers' Petaluma office. They seized records and computer files. The evidence has been handed over to investigators for Sonoma County District Attorney Jill Ravitch and 14 months later, no decision has been made whether or not to press charges.
"The 20 of us victims showing up really hopefully woke him up that he's really done some harm to many, many people," Novato resident Lisa Marvier said.
The District Attorney's Office said it would have no comment until after its investigation was completed.