Lawsuit claims wife helped Petaluma real estate agent accused of mortgage fraud

A Tiburon man is suing Santa Ana-based Stearns Lending Inc., claiming a former loan agent in the firm's Rohnert Park office sent him and other clients to a refinancing specialist who defrauded them out of thousands of dollars in fees.

Robert J. Gilles said the former loan officer, Heidi Marks, referred him to former Petaluma real estate agent Miguel Lopez, who is the subject of an ongoing fraud investigation by the state Attorney General.

Unbeknownst to Gilles was that Lopez — also known as Miguel Angel Lopez-Soleta — is Marks' husband.

Gilles alleges in small claims papers filed in Marin County Superior Court that Marks and Lopez were engaged in criminal fraud with Lopez's Petaluma company, Mortgage Modifiers. He claims Stearns is liable for his losses, which include about $2,000 in fees to Lopez and $6,750 in bank penalties and other costs.

"I was assured I was dealing with Stearns Lending during the entire time the fraud was taking place," said Gilles, who had been seeking help in refinancing his mother's house in Novato.

Stearns' general counsel, Monika McCarthy, denied the firm had any affiliation with Mortgage Modifiers or that Gilles was ever a Stearns customer.

McCarthy said Marks, 43, is no longer a company employee. And she said she is unaware of other complaints related to customers being sent to Mortgage Modifiers for refinance services.

"It's Stearns' policy not to make referrals," McCarthy said.

Neither Lopez nor Marks could be reached by phone Wednesday at their Ormsby Lane home. Lopez's attorney, Jason Nelson, said his client is under investigation by the state but has not been charged. He said any complaints about his services should be resolved in civil court.

"We are confident he will be cleared of criminal wrongdoing," Nelson said. "At this point they are only allegations."

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