Businesswoman avoids eviction

An Evans woman whose business dealings set off a series of foreclosures and bankruptcies fended off eviction from her own home Thursday -- at least for now.

U.S. Bankruptcy Court Judge Susan D. Barrett gave the local counsel for American Home Mortgage Servicing until next Thursday to gather information to show that through a series of sales and transfers, it is the rightful owner of Regina Preetorious' $567,000 mortgage loan.

Ms. Preetorious obtained titles on properties owned by financially strapped people, and sold second and third mortgages to private investors who might never recover the $3.7 million they invested.

Her various companies led to more than 40 foreclosures, and about a dozen bankruptcies, including her own.

By the time she and her husband filed for bankruptcy on Aug. 4, she had been involved in the transfer of properties with a combined fair market value of more than $10.6 million.

American Home Mortgage petitioned the bankruptcy court to allow it to proceed with foreclosure on the couple's Windmill Lane home. The company contends they haven't made a mortgage payment since October 2007 on the 3,540-square-feet home.

The couple's bankruptcy attorney, Todd Boudreaux, contends American Home Mortgage should prove it holds the legal security deed on their home.

Ms. Preetorious signed the original loan on Nov. 30, 2006, with Option One Mortgage Co. In January, the company's loans were placed in a trust with Wells Fargo as the trustee. On April 30, America Home acquired all the assets and interests of Option One, company attorney James Overstreet said Thursday. The contents of the trust overseen by Wells Fargo were included, he said.

But that last step wasn't clear Thursday. There appeared to be a break in the chain of ownership, Judge Barrett said.

Mr. Boudreaux said the couple is entitled to know exactly who owns their loan.

According to their bankruptcy petition, they owe $580,000 on the home they valued at $600,000. The Columbia County property records set the value of the home at $457,919.

According to their bankruptcy petition, the family's only income is unemployment and child support payments. Their only assets besides the home are personal possessions and two vehicles.

They listed their liabilities at nearly $2.64 million. They did not, however, include in that total any value amount for potential claims by people whose homes were involved in Ms. Preetorious' businesses.

Reach Sandy Hodson at (706) 823-3226 or sandy.hodson@augustachronicle.com.