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Petaluma couple accused of mortgage fraud appear in court

A Petaluma couple accused of defrauding perhaps hundreds of North Coast homeowners in a mortgage modification scam appeared in federal bankruptcy court Thursday to answer questions under oath, while the alleged victims jeered at them and called them names.

Miguel Angel Lopez-Soleta and his wife, Heidi Beth Marks-Lopez, have filed Chapter 7 bankruptcy, asking the court to discharge more than $3 million in debt. They claim they have $2.2 million in assets, including three houses and horse property.

Their bankruptcy follows a criminal investigation into Lopez-Soleta's role in Mortgage Modifiers Inc., a defunct Petaluma company he ran that purported to help underwater homeowners restructure their debt and save their homes.

Instead, dozens of his creditors allege, Lopez-Soleta took thousands of dollars from them and never followed through with lenders. Some have said they lost their houses to foreclosure or were forced into deeper debt fixing the mess his advice caused.

The couple's attorney declined to comment Thursday. Lopez-Soleta previously said he only provided educational materials to clients so they could do their own loan modifications.

“Hey, snake!” “Hey slime ball!” yelled his former clients Thursday as Lopez-Soleta ran past them into the U.S. Bankruptcy Court building in Santa Rosa for the hearing before Trustee Tim Hoffman.

“I hope the trustee will see that this is a bankruptcy fraud on a massive scale,” said Bob Gilles of Marin County, who said his mother was scammed out of thousands of dollars and then incurred several more thousands in penalties and taxes based on Lopez-Soleta's advice.

The couple's bankruptcy filings identify 537 creditors, many of whom were homeowners in Sonoma County, Marin County and other North Bay cities.

Several assembled Thursday accused the couple of stealing their money and using it to finance extravagant vacations, diamond rings and other expensive tastes.

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