MCSO arrests couple linked with child custody fraudPosted: Updated:
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.
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