A woman whose questionable business dealings were exposed by The Augusta Chronicle has been indicted on federal charges of mail fraud and money laundering.
Regina M. Preetorius is scheduled to make her initial trip to U.S. District Court in Augusta next week. In all, Preetorius 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 distressed homeowners trying to stave off foreclosures.
The Chronicle first wrote about Preetorius and her company, S.D.A. & 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 S.D.A. She contended the money would be used to purchase 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, however, Preetorius “misapplied the investors’ money and converted those funds to her own use. (Preetorius) also defrauded a number of distressed homeowners by using their homes without their authorization as collateral for investors’ loans.”
From 2004 through 2009, Preetorius and others ran the scheme that defrauded investors and homeowners, according to the indictment.
People in danger of losing their homes to foreclosure were sought out and persuaded S.D.A. could save them from foreclosure because S.D.A.’s 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.”
Preetorius then enticed investors to loan S.D.A. money to purchase and renovate those homes.
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 has previously stated that she did nothing wrong and was trying to help homeowners. She got caught short by the real estate market crash, she told unhappy investors at one of her bankruptcy court hearings.
She and her husband, Charles, who also worked at S.D.A., filed for bankruptcy in 2008. They claimed a total of $2.47 million in liabilities and zero assets. Although there were several legal challenges to the Preetorius’ 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.