Long before the public learned of the banking industry’s misdeeds that led to fraudulent foreclosures, Regina Preetorius was trying to explain that those misdeeds caused her business failure, she testified Monday.
As the final witness in her federal trial on charges of fraud and money laundering, Preetorius blamed the banks and lawyers, and most everyone who had any dealings with SDA & Associates, for the financial ruin in her wake.
The downfall started in 2007 and reached a crisis in 2008 because her business model depended on getting financial information on properties that she obtained from distressed homeowners, Preetorius testified. If she couldn’t get the banks to say how much money was needed to pay off a mortgage or to renegotiate a loan, the property would fall into foreclosure.
“I did everything I possibly could,” Preetorius testified. “I don’t know what I could have done differently.”
By the time she declared bankruptcy in August 2008, distressed homeowners and those in rent-to-own agreements were financially tainted and evicted because the properties went into foreclosure. Private investors given security deeds on those properties as collateral for their investments lost everything because the banks with the first mortgage foreclosed ahead of them.
The homeowners, investors and the people who entered rent-to-own agreements were mistaken in their testimony to the jury last week, Preetorius testified. She did give back one renter half of a $10,000 down payment and she had the check to prove it. And she still had a copy of the poem of encouragement an investor sent in June 2008 — an investor who only became angry because of what he read in The Augusta Chronicle, Preetorius testified.
Preetorius blamed attorney Susan Reimer for failing to return Nadine Francis’ property to her. Preetorius insisted Francis’ daughter did not tell her on the phone that she was rescinding the power of attorney, and Preetorius denied receiving either a fax or a mailed letter that repeated that instruction.
Preetorius testified she backed out of the Francis deal, which didn’t explain why days later she put an investor’s lien on the property through the power of attorney status.
On cross-examination Preetorius admitted she stopped making mortgage payments on the properties in September 2007, but she continued taking investors’ money and continued collecting down payments and rent payments.
Although she wasn’t making the mortgage payments, she was using new investors’ money to make some interest payments to old investors.
Asked if she knew what a Ponzi scheme is, Preetorius responded: “I’m very aware of what a Ponzi scheme is.”
She wasn’t paying on the mortgages but she did make her loan payments for a Mercedes Benz convertible, and she wrote SDA bank account checks to a hair salon, herself, grocery stores and pharmacies, Preetorius admitted when the federal prosecutor presented bank records.
Attorneys will make their closing arguments at 9 a.m. Tuesday and the jury should begin deliberations after receiving instructions from the judge.