Editor's note, added January 9, 2014:
Santa Rosa attorney Angelle Wertz has been cleared of criminal charges in an ongoing North Bay mortgage fraud case. Wertz was charged last year with providing illegal notary services for two co-defendants accused of bilking customers of their debt-elimination business. But prosecutors in August dropped all charges against Wertz, finding there was no evidence of criminal wrongdoing. The case against the two co-defendants is continuing toward trial.
A Santa Rosa man pleaded not guilty Thursday to 44 counts of mortgage fraud in a scheme prosecutors said bilked people in five counties out of thousands of dollars.
Ronald Cupp, 58, is accused of stealing from struggling homeowners in Sonoma, Marin, Napa, Solano and San Mateo counties by promising to get rid of their mortgage debt for a fee.
He was arrested last week with another defendant, Randall Hayden, 69, of San Rafael. The two men, along with a third defendant, Santa Rosa resident Angelle Wertz, 38, were named in a 57-count criminal complaint.
Only Cupp and Hayden, a real estate broker, were in custody. Hayden put off entering a plea, saying he will challenge the charges against him at a February hearing.
Cupp denied all charges. Judge Julie Conger reduced his bail from $500,000 to $200,000 and set a preliminary hearing for March 18.
Cupp operated North Bay Trust Services. A banner that read "Mortgage Problems? WeKillYourMortgage.com" hung above his Rohnert Park storefront. Prosecutors said Cupp shares extremist anti-government beliefs of so-called "Sovereign Citizens."