Creditors stand in way of bankruptcy

Creditors are lining up to contest an Evans businesswoman's attempt to cancel her debts through bankruptcy.

Regina Preetorius and her husband, Charles "Greg" Preetorius, filed Chapter 7 bankruptcy in August, seeking relief from $2.47 million in debts.

This month, Darryl Johnson and Valerie Whittle-Johnson joined the chorus of those accusing Mrs. Preetorius of fraud, alleging she cheated them out of a $100,000 investment.

An investigation by The Augusta Chronicle found the Johnsons and dozens of others lost their homes and life savings after going to Mrs. Preetorius for help to catch up with mortgages or sell their homes, to buy or lease homes, or to invest in properties.

Last week, the bankruptcy trustee in charge of the Preetorius case filed a motion asking the judge to allow him to join those wanting to stop the couple from erasing their debts.

Also last week, Chapter 7 trustee A. Stephenson Wallace asked the judge to allow him to bring in the law firm of Klosinski Overstreet to help him sort through the tangled Preetorius business finances.

And U.S. Trustee Donald F. Walton asked the judge for more time to file his own complaint in the case.

Judge Susan D. Barrett hasn't ruled on the petitions that seek to stop the Preetoriuses from discharging their debts.

On Wednesday, however, Judge Barrett did sign an order that allowed a mortgage company to foreclose on the Preetoriuses' Windmill Lane home.

The Preetoriuses admitted they had not made a mortgage payment in more than a year, but they challenged the mortgage company's right to foreclose on the $567,000 loan, which had been bundled and sold to another mortgage company.

The Preetoriuses blame the crash of the real estate market for the financial bind that set off more than 40 foreclosures and numerous bankruptcies.

Several of those who dealt with Mrs. Preetorius, however, allege fraud.

The Johnsons' petition contends Mrs. Preetorius gave them security deeds on four properties in exchange for their $100,000 investment.

Though the properties were titled to Mrs. Preetorius' company, SDA & Associates, each was still under original mortgages. The Johnsons contend she never told them of the original mortgages, which are now in default.

The Johnsons contend their reliance on Mrs. Preetorius' honesty and professionalism was reasonable given a letter of reference from the Reimer Law Firm.

The Johnsons are among the people Mrs. Preetorius persuaded to give her nearly $3.7 million in exchange for security deeds on properties.

Another couple who has asked to intervene in the Preetoriuses' bankruptcy, Brian and Kim Fichtner, allege they were cheated out of $6,250 they put down in a lease purchase agreement with Mrs. Preetorius. They were evicted from their West Lynne Drive home in Martinez, they contend, when Mrs. Preetorius stopped making payments on the original mortgage.

According to their petition, Mrs. Preetorius stopped making the payments in October 2007, two months before she signed their lease purchase agreement.

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