Valley couple Ciara and Michael Coultrap arrested in child custody fraud case

MESA, AZ - Court records are shedding light Thursday onto the alleged court scam involving a Mesa couple.

Ciara and Michael Coutrap ran Legacy Family and Children's Services out of the home and reportedly claimed to be licensed counselors helping families in need.

According to documents, Ciara and Micheal Coultrap used the courts and judges to squeeze money from victims.

Ciara Coultrap's legal name is listed as Michelle Ciara Madarieta.

Investigators wrote Coultrap testified under oath in court she was board certified in Dental Medicine and Oral Health, had a Doctorate of Philosophy, a degree in Counseling  Psychology, a Masters of Science degree in Biological Psychology and three Bachelor of Science degrees in Neuropsychology, Developmental Biology, and Interpersonal Communication.

Investigators say Ciara Coultrap perjured herself and was not a doctor.

According to deputies, Coultrap has three undergraduate degrees from ASU in biology, psychology and communication, but no doctorate degree.

Sheriff deputies said the couple would give recommendations to the court on child custody cases. 

They would often recommend additional services such a full psychological evaluation, if the clients refused, documents state "Michael and Ciara would request the judge order the clients to the additional services.  Ciara would also advise the judge it was not in the child's best interest to switch providers based on the child's emotional health."

Sheriff investigators add that the Coultraps would then charge "whatever fees they chose and if the clients did not pay, Ciara and Miachael Coutlrap would not allow the clients to see their children."

Court records show that Michael Coultrap would inform clients of their recommendations to the judge and warn that if they did not comply they would lose their children.

Sheriff Arpaio said in a news conference Wednesday that the Coultraps are being investigated for other crimes that include taking kickbacks to trump up phony evidence to sway custody cases.

"We are looking into all aspects of it, this is the initial stage and we don't know how far this will go," Arpaio said.

"I believe my case was for sale and I believe many other cases are for sale," said Marissa Prins Verburg.

Verburg was ordered by the court to take her son to the Coultrap's home for supervised visits with his father. 

But she said she isn't sure the Coultraps were actually supervising the visits, and believes her son was abused during a visit.

"It was advocacy for hire, If you pay 'x' amount of dollars, I will guarantee you custody," Verburg said.

Four victims have come forward claiming fraud including Gerald and Nisha Chirnomas.

The Chirnomas gained temporary custody of their granddaughters after their daughter's death.

At the time she had a court order against their father.

"We were bringing these kids up from everything to teaching them to read, taking them to daycare and doctors." said Gerald.

Gerald told reporters the biological father's attorney suggested they use Legacy Family and Children's Services.

The Coultraps allegedly supervised visits with the girls and their biological father, but also allegedly provided counseling services to the elder girl.

Gerald told reporters his eldest granddaughter was in bed with her mother when she died and took care of her one-and-a-half year old sister for over a day until they were discovered.

Within two weeks of dropping the girls off for visits, Gerald said he got a gut feeling something was wrong.

"Their goal was to collect money from the other side, because the party would have paid them to win the case," Gerald said.

According to Gerald, the Coultraps came to court with false accusations that he molested his granddaughters.

As a result, the Chirnomas lost custody of their granddaughters.

"I was angry, these were our granddaughters they lived with us, we loved them," Gerald said.

Gerald said he has an email from Ciara Coultrap to the opposing attorney proving possible conflict of interest and possible collaborations between the two.

"She writes to the attorney, 'Your case is won, your case is W-O-N' before the actual hearing," Gerald said.

Ciara and Michael Coultrap were both arrested and booked into the Maricopa County Jail.

Michael Coultrap is charged with Fraudulent Schemes and Forgery.

Ciara Coutrap, or Michelle Ciara Madarieta, is charged with Forgery, Perjury and Fraudulent Schemes.

Both are being held on a $10,000 bond. 

Legacy Family and Children's Services was a private business and, according to sheriff deputies, is part of a "highly unregulated" industry.

Deputies said these businesses report to no department and there are no laws established for background checks.

If clients have issues, they would have to take them up with the judge in charge of their case.

But deputies said it is tough when you have an alleged "doctor" against you.

Sheriff Joe Arpaio stated this investigation is ongoing and more charges could be filed.

If you think you might have been a victim,

call the Maricopa County Sheriff's Office at 602-876-1853.

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