A former Augusta businesswoman has been indicted on federal charges of mail fraud and money laundering in connection with a “foreclosure rescue” business she ran.
Regina M. Preetorius is scheduled to make her initial trip to U.S. District Court in Augusta next week. She faces 10 counts of mail fraud and three counts of money laundering. The indictment accuses Preetorius of cheating investors out of more than $1.7 million and defrauding homeowners trying to stave off foreclosures.
The Augusta Chronicle first wrote about Preetorius and her company, SDA & Associates, in August 2008.
Her foreclosure rescue business left a wake that included more than 40 foreclosure filings and about a dozen bankruptcies, including her own.
According to the federal indictment, Preetorius solicited people to invest in SDA, saying the money would be used to buy houses from distressed homeowners, then the houses would be sold at a profit that would guarantee investors a minimum return of 12 percent.
According to the indictment, Preetorius “misapplied the investors’ money and
converted those funds to her own use” and “defrauded a number of distressed homeowners by using their homes without their authorization as collateral for investors’ loans.”
The indictment says Preetorius and others ran the scheme from 2004 to 2009.
People in danger of losing their homes were sought out and convinced that SDA could save them from foreclosure because its staff would work out a payment plan with the mortgage holders and sell the homes for them if they signed a “special power of attorney,” the indictment said. Preetorius then enticed investors to loan SDA money to purchase and renovate those homes, the indictment said.
Investors were lured into a false sense of security because they were promised their money would be protected by legally recorded deeds. According to the indictment, they were also promised that the houses had sufficient equity to cover their investments and that each property’s value was assured by proper real estate appraisals. In reality, according to the indictment, there was neither.
What investors didn’t learn until it was too late was that each home already had a mortgage from a financial institution that stood first in line for any value of the property, leaving their deeds worthless.
Preetorius previously said she did nothing wrong and was trying to help homeowners. At one of her bankruptcy court hearings, she told investors that she got caught short by the real estate market crash.
She and her husband, Charles, who also worked at SDA, filed for bankruptcy in 2008, claiming $2.47 million in liabilities and zero assets. Though there were several legal challenges to the bankruptcy petition by people who believed they were cheated out of money and homes, the couple’s debts were discharged by the court.
According to court documents, the Preetoriuses moved to Arizona in 2009.