State officials who have spent months investigating a Petaluma mortgage assistance company for allegedly bilking customers of thousands of dollars say they seized the company's files last Thursday and may soon arrest the company's owner.
The Department of Justice's investigation stemmed from several complaints the Petaluma Police Department received about the company, Mortgage Modifiers, starting in July of 2012.
At that time, police say, several residents on the verge of losing their homes to foreclosure complained that Mortgage Modifiers and its owner Miguel Lopez had charged up-front fees for services they never delivered. Victims told police that Lopez promised to get their mortgages restructured through their lenders, charged them approximately $2,000 each, but never actually modified their home loans.
Police began investigating the complaints and, after finding that many victims lived outside of Petaluma, turned the case over to the State Attorney General's Office in December.
"It's a lot larger than just Petaluma," said Petaluma Police Lt. Tim Lyons.
During the course of its investigation, the Attorney General's office located approximately 50 victims and expects to find more now that staff has taken possession of the company's files. The state Department of Real Estate revoked the company's and Lopez's mortgage license in October of 2012 after receiving similar complaints of fraud and misconduct.
"Apparently, Lopez was collecting a fee up front for mortgage restructuring services, which is illegal," said Department of Justice spokesperson Michelle Gregory. "But he claims he was putting together mortgage packets for people. Some of the complaints are that he didn't put together any packet, others are that he never provided refunds for services he did not perform."
Gregory said investigators will be going over the newly confiscated materials, searching for more victims and will most likely arrest Lopez soon. Meanwhile, Mortgage Modifiers remains open for business in an office in the Petaluma Marina complex.
Gregory said that investigators are waiting to arrest Lopez until they have located as many victims as possible. She said she did not believe Lopez would flee, though wouldn't comment further. Miguel Lopez did not return repeated calls seeking comment.
Mortgage Modifiers is located at 755 Baywood Drive in an unmarked office on the second floor. The company's website, www.mtgmodifiers.com is currently not in service.
(Contact Janelle Wetzstein at firstname.lastname@example.org)