(Source: Maricopa County Sheriff's Office) Michelle Madarieta, also known as Ciara Coultrap, could face up to 30 counts of fraud with her husband, Michael Coultrap, below.
PHOENIX (CBS5) -
A Mesa couple is accused of tearing Valley families apart, and deputies said they used the court system to do it.
Legacy Family and Children Services in Mesa was served search warrants Wednesday morning tied to an investigation that the owners defrauded the Maricopa court system, as well as dozens of families.
The Maricopa County Sheriff's Office had Michelle Madarieta, also known as Ciara Coultrap, and Michael Coultrap, who own and operate Legacy Family and Children Services at 4533 E. Decatur St., under investigation for several months because they believed the Coultraps provided child custody mediation services but weren't qualified to do so.
MCSO started to investigate the couple and their company after they received complaints from families that were represented by the Coultraps in court.
Deputies said they learned that Michelle Madarieta, her legal name, led her clients to believe she had a doctoral degree and was a professional therapist.
Dating back to 2009, when Legacy Family and Children Services first opened, Madarieta and Coultrap were providing mediation and supervised visitation services to the courts and county families for personal gain.
Both have been arrested and could face up to 30 counts of fraud, according to deputies.
Their victims might number into the hundreds, according to MCSO.
CBS 5 News spoke with two Valley families who claim the couple that ran the fake service terrorized them and their children.
"Our lives have changed drastically, and they've changed the life of our granddaughter," Gerald Chirnomas said.
His grandchildren were taken away by the court, and he was faced with accusations of child abuse.
Gerald Chirnomas and his wife, Nisha Chirnomas, took custody of their two young granddaughters in 2010 after their daughter died.
But that all changed when the girl's biological father hired Madarieta and Coultrap to be the mediators during his supervised visits as well as provide counseling for the girls. The Chirnomas said in a matter of months Madarieta and Coultrap had filed paperwork with the court accusing Gerald Chirnomas of child molestation.
The Chirnomas' lives aren't the only ones turned upside down.
"They are scary individuals," Marissa Prins Verburg said of Madarieta and Coultrap.
Verburg dropped her son off at the home office of Legacy Family and Children's Services twice a week for a year and a half, for what was supposed to be supervised visitations with the boy's father.
Verburg said several times he came back with bite marks and bruises. Because it was court ordered, she couldn't do a thing about it.
"I think this is the worst kind of torture you can ever do to a parent," Verburg said.
MCSO said Madarieta and her husband told clients she was a professional therapist and went as far as claiming to have worked with Flora Jessup and helping victims of polygamy.
"None of us want to believe we live in a world where the outcome of any case can, whether it be criminal case, a civil case, custody case, can be bought," Verburg said.
"The system really needs some humanity in it because who's really making decisions? If the judges are, where are they drawing the line between what's truth and not truth?" asked Gerald Chirnomas.
Detectives are asking anyone who used Legacy Family Child Services to contact MCSO.
Copyright 2012 CBS 5 (Meredith Corporation). All rights reserved.
Tuesday, June 18 2013 12:37 PM EDT2013-06-18 16:37:02 GMT
WNEM has received word that a teenager is dead and two adults have been injured and taken to the hospital after being caught during the storm while boating on the Saginaw Bay. The teenager, a 14-year-oldMore >
WNEM has received word that a teenager is dead and two adults have been injured and taken to the hospital after being caught while boating during the storm.More >
Tuesday, June 18 2013 9:23 AM EDT2013-06-18 13:23:30 GMT
A 5-year-old girl set up a lemonade stand across the street from the Westboro Baptist Church compound, and now the group is targeting her. Jayden Sink raised nearly $200 on Friday while she sold lemonadeMore >
A 5-year-old girl set up a lemonade stand across the street from the Westboro Baptist Church compound, and now the group is targeting her.More >
Tuesday, June 18 2013 12:26 PM EDT2013-06-18 16:26:49 GMT
The Midland County Sheriff's Office is investigating a two vehicle crash that claimed the life of a Gladwin County woman, severely injured her husband and resulted in minor injuries to a 16-year-old femaleMore >
The Midland County Sheriff's Office is investigating a two vehicle crash that claimed the life of a Gladwin County woman, severely injured her husband and resulted in minor injuries to a 16-year-old female driver.More >
WNEM has received word that 83 positions at St. Mary's of Michigan will be cut along with a number of open positions are not currently filled. The medical provider is looking for ways to be more effectiveMore >
WNEM has received word that 83 positions at St. Mary's of Michigan will be cut along with a number of open positions that are not currently filled.More >
Monday, June 17 2013 9:59 PM EDT2013-06-18 01:59:19 GMT
LYNCHBURG, VA (RNN) – Kimberly Burke is used to capturing emotion. As a wedding photographer, she has an eye for tender moments, like the photo she snapped of a Marine and his bride praying that has goneMore >
A quiet moment captured before a couple wed has brought collective "awws" by millions on the internet.More >
ObitMichigan.com is dedicated to delivering immediate, up-to-date information on obituaries 24 hours a day, 7 days a week to families and friends in Mid-Michigan. Death notices are displayed during theMore >
ObitMichigan.com is dedicated to delivering immediate, up-to-date information 24 hours a day, 7 days a week to families and friends who have lost loved ones.More >
Tuesday, June 18 2013 12:47 PM EDT2013-06-18 16:47:53 GMT
Police have released the identity of the woman killed in Saginaw's latest homicide on Sunday. Denise Price, 43, was killed near the intersection of S. 5th and Burt streets, becoming the city's 18th homicideMore >
Police have released the identity of the woman killed in Saginaw's latest homicide Sunday.More >
Monday, June 17 2013 6:21 PM EDT2013-06-17 22:21:19 GMT
Golf ball-sized hail and downed trees are being reported in Saginaw County after a severe thunderstorm moved through Monday afternoon. Midland County was also hit by the storms that eventually triggeredMore >
Tuesday, June 18 2013 9:47 AM EDT2013-06-18 13:47:39 GMT
A group of homeowners in Clackamas County is banding together to send crooks a strong message about an increase in crime in their neighborhood. They're starting to post signs that read, "Glock block. WeMore >
Homeowners in the Milwaukie area are posting signs in their neighborhood that say: "Glock block. We don't call 9-1-1."More >