SALT LAKE CITY — The owner of a loan modification business with offices in Lehi and St. George has been charged with nine felony counts for allegedly defrauding hundreds of homeowners out of thousands of dollars.

David Moffitt, 34, operated Fortified Financial, Fortified Academy and Wasatch Rent 2 Own between 2009 and 2010. According to charges filed earlier this month in 3rd District Court, Moffitt charged clients $2,500 to $3,000 to modify loans claiming to help people from losing their homes. He also promised a full refund if they were not satisfied.

However, Moffitt allegedly refused to give refunds to as many as 200 eligible clients because investigators believe the money was being used to pay for personal expenses, including food, rent, entertainment and even $4,000 for his wife’s plastic surgery.

Peter Anderson of Vernal lost $5,000 paid in advance on two loan modifications he hired Fortified Financial to complete in March 2010. After neither was done two months later, Anderson became suspicious when Moffitt stopped returning his calls.

"I just realized I'd been duped," Anderson said. "It was just serious mistrust and him taking advantage of people."

According to a news release, accountants found that Moffitt and his wife took $124,000 in 2009 and $72,000 in 2010 from Fortified Financial and another $33,000 was transferred to Wasatch Rent 2 Own during the two-year period. During the same time, employee paychecks began to bounce and bonuses were not paid.

"This scam should be a warning to everyone to take a hard look at anyone before trusting them with your money and especially your home," said Francine Giani, executive director of the Utah Department of Commerce.

Investigators filed seven second-degree felony counts of communications fraud, theft and racketeering, as well as two third-degree felony counts of theft.

If convicted, Moffitt could serve up to 15 years in prison for each second-degree felony and up to five years for each third-degree felony. Last March, Moffitt was ordered to pay $92,000 in actual damages and $2 million in punitive damages after a civil lawsuit was filed by former clients.

"We hope these charges send a strong message to anyone seeking to take advantage of struggling homeowners," Utah Attorney General Mark Shurtleff said.