Fire destroys home of man convicted of defrauding 80 homeowners; victims still wait for restitution

A fire which destroyed the home of the man convicted is reigniting intense emotions from those the court ruled he cheated.

ByMichael Finney and Randall Yip via KGO logo
Friday, October 1, 2021
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The heartbreak felt by North Bay homeowners who lost money and even their homes in a mortgage fraud case is resurfacing five years later.

PENNGROVE, Calif. (KGO) -- The anger and heartbreak felt by dozens of North Bay homeowners who lost their money and even their homes in a mortgage fraud case is resurfacing tonight five years later.

A fire which destroyed the home of the man convicted in this fraud case is reigniting intense emotions from those the court ruled he cheated.

State prosecutors successfully argued some 80 homeowners were duped by this man, Miguel Lopez, who illegally collected advance fees for loan modifications he failed to get.

A judge sentenced him to a year in jail and ordered him to pay $250,000 in restitution back in 2016.

Today his victims say what they've received from Lopez is laughable.

RELATED: Petaluma man sentenced in mortgage fraud case

"Maybe $12 to $15 from the courts. It's like they send a check once in a while. I kind of giggle," said Kelly Gillette of Windsor.

The checks Sara Zanders got would barely pay for a cup of coffee. She doesn't even bother to cash them.

"I was really hoping to gum up the whole system because I felt they were insulting," Zanders told 7 On Your Side.

Last week fire ripped through the home of Lopez and his wife Heidi Marks in the Sonoma County town of Penngrove. He isn't getting much sympathy from his victims.

"Thank God for karma. That was my very first thought," said Zanders.

"Oh, I have zero sympathy. No. You get -- you reap what you sow," Gillette added.

RELATED: Petaluma man accused of defrauding homeowners enters plea bargain

Gillette says she paid Lopez $4,000 and was basically ignored by him after that.

Sara paid $3,000, but still eventually lost her home.

Daniel Steele paid $2,000.

"Miguel Lopez hurt people. It wasn't about the money as much as how much he hurt people," Daniel said.

He says he's only received $100 in restitution.

RELATED: Petaluma man drops bid to avoid paying debt in mortgage fraud case

Lawrence Jacobsen is a real estate attorney. He suggests the victims hire a lawyer to determine if Lopez is hiding his assets. "The whole trick to it is finding out what he has and where is it? If he doesn't have it, about all you can do is wait until he wins the lottery," he said.

The victims for now are focused on rebuilding their lives.

Steele lost the Coffey Park home he struggled to save in the North Bay wildfires in 2017. He's since rebuilt it.

"There wasn't a nail set in the house that wasn't done with respect, love, dignity and honor," he said about the home, which originally belonged to his dad.

RELATED: Bankruptcy of Mortgage Modifiers owner challenged

Zanders is now living in a small cottage she rents. "I got through it. I tried very hard to put this to bed and not think about it," she said

Gillette said she managed to work her finances out. "Yes, I'm still in the same home when it all started," she said.

7 On Your Side contacted the Sonoma County Probation office for comment, but it did not get back to us.

Take a look at more stories and videos by Michael Finney and 7 On Your Side.

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