Deanna Reade was in a financial pickle.
She and her husband were underwater on their Windsor house when the payments jumped on their interest-only loan by $1,000 a month.
On the advice of a friend, Reade turned to Petaluma-based Mortgage Modifiers Inc., in the hope of getting a chunk of her debt forgiven and restructuring the loans on her house and an investment condo to make them more affordable.
But months after paying the company two upfront fees totaling nearly $4,000, nothing had happened, she said. And the banks said they were unaware of any effort to refinance.
So Reade confronted the company's owner, Miguel Angel Lopez-Soleta, who agreed to a refund. He sent her two checks but they both bounced, she said.
That's when Reade concluded she had been ripped off.
"He's a scammer," said Reade, an office accountant. "He got our hopes up and now they are down the toilet."
Reade isn't alone.
The state Department of Justice estimates more than 50 people across the Bay Area may have been defrauded by Lopez-Soleta, 41, and his company, Mortgage Modifiers.
Nine lawsuits have been filed against Mortgage Modifiers in small claims court, according to court records.