The Department of Real Estate revoked Mortgage Modifiers of its real estate license in October, but the doors of the company remain open and some of its clients are wondering how that's possible. 7 On Your Side decided to take a look at what's going on.
Lisa Marvier's home sits on 1.6 acres in Novato. It's also known as Farm Girl Nursery. It is a you-pick farm and summer camp for kids. Both the home and the property are currently underwater.
"This is my dream. This is the home we built from scratch and I certainly don't want to lose it," said Marvier.
Deanna Reade's home in Windsor is also underwater. Like Marvier, Reade is struggling to save her home. She heard about a company known as Mortgage Modifiers in Petaluma from a friend. She said the company promised to get her mortgage lowered by $1,000 a month.
"The original loan was supposed to be modified down to basically what our home was valued at now," said Reade.
Marvier says she received similar promises when she met with Miguel Lopez. Lopez is described in court papers as the president of Mortgage Modifiers.
"When I met with him and he showed me the numbers. He showed me that everything could be reduced. The interest rate could be reduced, the principal could be reduced," said Marvier.
Marvier and Reade are just two of the people who have filed complaints with Petaluma police.
"No service was ever completed. They ask for a refund which supposedly was guaranteed to them and they never got a refund," said Petaluma Police Lt. Tim Lyons.
The department says it has received 11 complaints about Mortgage Modifiers and they are aware of other complaints as far north as Cloverdale and Ukiah. Mortgage Modifiers sublets space in an office park in Petaluma, but the company has no signage on the office.
In October, the Department of Real Estate upheld a judge's decision stripping the real estate licenses of both Miguel Lopez and Mortgage Modifiers. Both were found to have illegally collected advance fees for performing services for borrowers in connection to loans.
"He is asking for an advanced fee to do either some type of mortgage modification or to seek information on doing mortgage modification and that is illegal in the state of California," said Lyons.
Both Marvier and Reade paid Mortgage Modifiers $1,995 each to save their homes. I decided to pay Lopez a visit. I went to his office in Petaluma hoping to get answers.
Yader: "I'm Yader. I work for Mortgage Modifiers. Can I help you with something?"
Michael: "Yeah, you sure can. We have a lot of complaints about Mortgage Modifiers, that you guys are doing business without a license, that you're offering to modify loans and taking money up front.
Yader: "So I work for the company. I can't really tell you anything because I'm not the owner of the company so..."
Lopez was not available that day, but by email he told us he didn't need a real estate license. He said, "This company does not conduct loans and or real estate, such a license is not needed. This company provides a packaging service."
"This is the whole entire packet that you received from Miguel. It's his educational package that he claims is for the $1,995," said Reade.
She said the package included a request for a modification, her financial and loan information, a property value report and other documents.
Reade showed us emails from Lopez promising he would make sure the file became a priority in the lender's eyes. In the emails Lopez urged her to let him do all the calling and faxing to the lender. However, Lopez denies the $1,995 he charged is an advanced fee.
"We offer a packaging service. Clients pay for the package and nothing more," said Lopez.
Marvier, however, isn't buying any of that.
"To know from the start here to the end that it was all a lie, I don't trust anyone anymore," said Marvier.
The Petaluma Police Department has forwarded all of the complaints to the state attorney general.
The contract both Marvier and Reade signed guaranteed a refund if the educational financial package submitted to the lender does not render a positive outcome. Reade received two refund checks that both bounced. Marvier's refund request was denied.