David Prenatt

Courtesy Photo

David Prenatt

Bunco Artist Gets Slammer

Montecito Resident David Prenatt Sentenced to 51 Months in Prison

Thursday, December 12, 2013
Article Tools
Print friendly
E-mail story
Tip Us Off
iPod friendly
Share Article

Montecito resident and businessman David Prenatt was sentenced Monday to 51 months behind bars by a federal judge in Los Angeles after pleading guilty to one count of lying about his personal liabilities to three federally insured banks in order to secure more than $3 million in loans that he has yet to pay back. At the time he obtained the loans, Prenatt owed as much as $11 million in private notes that he did not disclose to loan officers for the three financial institutions. On the same day, county prosecutors filed a 64-count indictment against Prenatt, alleging he ran a Ponzi scheme between 2004 and 2008 in which he bilked 13 investors out of $13 million. If convicted on all charges, Prenatt, described by former friends and victims as tall, good-looking, and extremely charismatic, could face as many as 20 years in prison.

Initially, Prenatt had insisted he’d been a victim of the recession, making it impossible to pay back the millions he’d taken in as private investment loans, allegedly to promote some hotel or real estate deal. But FBI investigators and the federal bankruptcy court would discover that Prenatt was borrowing money to pay off previous investors and using the rest to finance a “wildly lavish lifestyle.” He bought fancy cars and collected designer watches; he gave generously — $119,000 — to charities and spent $375,000 on membership fees for exclusive travel clubs. He spent half a million on residential therapy for his daughter and became a big noise in the local mental health community.

Some of Prenatt’s victims — accomplished business professionals in their own right — submitted letters to the federal judge detailing how humiliated they feel to have been duped. Several said they regarded Prenatt as family and treated him accordingly. As a result, several said they have had to sell their homes and will have to abandon plans to retire. They complained bitterly that Prenatt had been allowed to prowl the Coral Casino and Santa Barbara’s coffee shops, ingratiating himself with prospective new victims. They described him as “a callous sociopath.” In the sentencing report, federal prosecutor Ariel Neuman said Prenatt came from “a good Catholic family,” had all the advantages of a good education, but was motivated by just one thing: greed.


Independent Discussion Guidelines

Thank you for the concise article. Very sad story for all involved. Hopefully the truth about this ponzi scheme is a wake up call for all of us. How well do we challenge our beliefs & assumptions about people & investments? How can we protect our senior citizens from such scams? If something/someone sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

bloomingcookies (anonymous profile)
December 12, 2013 at 11:26 a.m. (Suggest removal)

used to see him working the crowd of patsies at Montecito extremely smooth conman... still, buyers beware.

DrDan (anonymous profile)
December 12, 2013 at 12:02 p.m. (Suggest removal)

There's no "get rich quick" folks.

Ken_Volok (anonymous profile)
December 12, 2013 at 12:20 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Ken, YES, there is such thing as "get rich quick" BUT it is usually with other people's money. This guy would be AWESOME in the Obama administration!

blahblahmoreblah (anonymous profile)
December 12, 2013 at 12:49 p.m. (Suggest removal)

It was not a "get rich quick" scheme for this victim. Trusting a "well respected" man making real investments in our community. Posts are saying..even in our small Montecito/Santa Barbara community there are con men preying on folks. Losing my hard earned retirement savings to this "callous sociopath" has been devestating to this senior. Yes, its tragic for all involved, but Mr. Prenatt is getting what he deserves after preying on well intended people and lying to three banks in order for hime to "get rich quick", not the other way around. Yes, buyer beware of Mr. Prenatt should he get out of prison any time soon...

Ponzivictim (anonymous profile)
December 12, 2013 at 12:59 p.m. (Suggest removal)

I'm sorry above self-identified victim to sound callous and I hope you get repaid.

Ken_Volok (anonymous profile)
December 12, 2013 at 1:08 p.m. (Suggest removal)

It must be a mental illness. They always get vaught and it's usually all over the news, why do people even waste their time perpatuating these scams? It can only be mental illness.. soceopathy.. what makes them think they won't get caught like the 100000000000000000 plus people before them did?!

Ken_Volok (anonymous profile)
December 12, 2013 at 1:11 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Greed is always consensual. Some one tried to beat the market and there was someone ready to indulge that fantasy.

foofighter (anonymous profile)
December 12, 2013 at 1:33 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Always interesting when bunko artist victims demand someone else make up their losses or at least feel sorry of them; yet it is very unlikely they voluntarily redistribute their ungainly successes.

foofighter (anonymous profile)
December 12, 2013 at 1:37 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Foofighter let's hope you are SO smart to never get dupped by a con artist. Nothing to redistribute, not asking for pitty....get it right. Only suggesting that the "NOT as smart as you" folks be cautious about loaning so-called pillars in our community money. No pitty here...only regret!

Ponzivictim (anonymous profile)
December 12, 2013 at 1:51 p.m. (Suggest removal)

How was this guy ever designated a "pillar of the community". Please share your criteria to grant him this status.

What other "pillars of our community" ask you to invest your retirement funds, no questions asked and no due diligence encouraged. What did this bunko artist promise that you could not get with standard investment strategies?

foofighter (anonymous profile)
December 12, 2013 at 1:56 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Here is one example of why Mr. Prenatt was viewed as an upstanding member of our community. Generous donations to several charities. Guess who's money it might have been? Thanks for the posting banter Foofighter....checking out for now.

Mental Health Association Announces New Board President

By Daniella Elghanayan | Published on 03.02.2009 1:52 p.m.
David Prenatt
The Mental Health Association in Santa Barbara County is pleased to announce the new president of its Board of Directors, David Prenatt.

He is currently the CEO of David Prenatt Financial and General Partner of Central Coast Hotel Properties, LLC. Prenatt played professional basketball in Europe before beginning his banking career with Union Bank in 1985, and worked for several commercial banks for almost 15 years, including Security Pacific National Bank, Bank One Ohio Corporation and City Commerce Bank in Santa Barbara, where he served as Senior Vice President.

Prenatt holds a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration from Pepperdine University, where he attended on a basketball scholarship. He and his wife Maria Anastasia are both board members of the Mental Health Association in Santa Barbara and “No Kidding, Me Too!” They have been married for 26 years and have one daughter, Ashley. They live in Montecito.

Ponzivictim (anonymous profile)
December 12, 2013 at 3:55 p.m. (Suggest removal)

please eat your words here, foo!

DrDan (anonymous profile)
December 12, 2013 at 5:04 p.m. (Suggest removal)

"There's no "get rich quick" folks."


There are a lot of young kids out there who are millionaires now because they decided to put their time and effort into a new currency that is cryptic, secure, open source and has the ability to demolish the current banking and monetary paradigm.

loonpt (anonymous profile)
December 12, 2013 at 5:07 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Ponzivictim, that comment made by me was directed at the thug who committed the crimes mentioned, not the victims such as yourself. Just wanted to make that clear.
Sadly enough, crooks like this get out and do it again... and again... and again.They will never learn
No Ken, it isn't a mental illness, it is malicious intent. While a defect in the mind or psyche, it is NOT an illness by any means.
Mental illness is schizophrenia, paranoia, dementia, psychosis, conditions that make rationale and reasoning difficult to say the least.
This guy knew what he was doing, where the targets where, who he was doing it to and how to do it, the only "psychotic break" he had was the delusion that he wouldn't get caught.
He preyed on people based solely on one thing and one thing only: To cash in on their savings to get rich as quick as possible... On somebody else's dime.
To some degree I have to agree with the fooman to a certain level, greed begets greed, but the fact to the matter is the people investing in this douche's finances invested money they earned through work, not stolen.

blahblahmoreblah (anonymous profile)
December 12, 2013 at 5:07 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Well, if that is your criteria for investments of your "hard earned cash" what can anyone say.

What exactly made you think this made him a "pillar in the community"? His volunteer efforts. His Montecito address. His revolving door history of 9-5 bank jobs. BTW: Everyone is a VP in a bank. His Pepperdine degree?

How did any of what you just stated that make him a sound resource for investing your money, let alone a pillar in the community? What other due diligence did you do on his investment histories. Don't you know scam artists always try to get "gilt" by association. Ironic he preyed on the mental health community.

And now for the next part of the question: what did he offer that you could not get from a more bona fide conventional investment plan?

foofighter (anonymous profile)
December 12, 2013 at 5:14 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Sorry to burst your "cryptic, secure, open source and has the ability to demolish the current banking and monetary paradigm" fantasy loony, but the bitcoin market took a little tumble the other day (on top of other little tumbles), thus indicating that it has the same potential flaws as common currency.
Again, there are no "get rich quick & stay rich in the long term" schemes, that's all they are, schemes.

blahblahmoreblah (anonymous profile)
December 13, 2013 at 10:41 a.m. (Suggest removal)

bitcoin took a 'tumble' the other day from a high of $1200 and is now holding steady in the $900 range........ that was after going up from about $300 a few weeks before!! Bitcoin is doing fantastic. You sound like the same lame people in the media talking about how gold went down from $1800 to $1300..... after coming up from $300/oz 12 years ago to under $800/oz just a few years ago!! Just because the media creates additional speculation which causes the price to jump up higher than it normally would and then resolve itself to a price level more in line with market demands does not show inherent weakness in the investment.

You can rest assured bitcoin will likely jump again, and when it does it will likely be up in the $3-6k range. It could go up to a million dollars a bitcoin or more if its use becomes widespread.

loonpt (anonymous profile)
December 13, 2013 at 11:27 a.m. (Suggest removal)

For those of you ready to blame the victims, you should read their statements to the federal court in the sentencing proceeding. (Criminal Case # 2:2013-cr-00400, Judge James Otero). They all accept some blame for allowing this con man to worm his way into their lives and for having trusted him.

It took dogged perseverance by a few people to have this man held responsible by the state and federal criminal justice systems for his criminal acts in this community. It was difficult when his computers and documents mysteriously disappeared and members of the business and non-profit community continue to vouch for him up until the end. You should also read the letters to the court from them. it doesn't appear any of them investigated the facts or what had happened to his victims.

When you read the victim statements and the facts come out in the state prosecution, you will see a disturbing picture of a man who used his looks, charm, " aw shucks" Mid western manner, apparent success and philanthropy, to befriend vulnerable people, some in the midst of life threatening illness and crises. He then proceeded to take everything they had, all the while convincing them he was doing them a great favor and would protect them like a family member. His wife befriended these people, met with and socialized with them as well. Now they are divorcing and she is in bankruptcy too?

Even sophisticated business people fell for his schemes and took his representations to be true.

It's hard to protect oneself from people like this but one thing you can do is speak up and warn someone when you see a guy like Prenatt circling his next victim at Starbucks, Coffee Bean, the Coral Casino, the local gyms. There are other people like him around, desperate for money to maintain a lifestyle they can't create or sustain on their own honest talent.

sbjustice (anonymous profile)
December 13, 2013 at 11:58 a.m. (Suggest removal)

What did this guy promise his victims that made them lose their common sense about investments?

Was he promising 10%, 50%, 100% - bit coin sure things or what? How blue was his sky?

foofighter (anonymous profile)
December 13, 2013 at 1:52 p.m. (Suggest removal)

I never said bitcoin is a sure thing - it will depend on how the market and various governments continue to receive it and whether it receives any viable competition.

I do think the odds are quite good - any good economist will tell you that the market is like a stream trying to reach the ocean. Government restrictions are like dams. But they have to let some water through the dam so it doesn't flow over the top - markets find a way around government restrictions whenever they can and bitcoin allows people to transfer wealth across borders without telling the governments of those countries. It allows people to make anonymous purchases on black markets. It is a tool for the market to use to tear down government tyranny and end the banking and monetary paradigm where the big banks print money and loan it to governments and individuals, inflating the money supply, funding the war machine and causing prices to rise for everybody. It is a dam burster.

Bitcoin, if adopted, is a message loud and clear to the elite who manipulate our money supply and run the banking industry that the people can take back control of the market. They will not give up easily. They will publish propaganda against bitcoin. They will eventually use force to try and stop people from using bitcoin. They will hypocritically use bitcoin themselves for their own criminal activity. It will not be easy, but we can prevail.

loonpt (anonymous profile)
December 13, 2013 at 3:59 p.m. (Suggest removal)

There was a rule at one time that if you moved your money offshore to avoid government regulations or taxes, you had better want to live there if you ever wanted to see it again. Wonder how that rule applies to money flitting around cyberspace. There is also a rule about in pari delicti.

foofighter (anonymous profile)
December 13, 2013 at 6:11 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Wow, I did not know bit-coins were vacuous political statements as well. Sounds like the biblical injunction, a fool and his money are soon parted resonates here too. Sorry money has become such a burden to you, loonpt.

foofighter (anonymous profile)
December 13, 2013 at 6:14 p.m. (Suggest removal)

"Sorry money has become such a burden to you, loonpt."

foofighter you sound like a liberal defending high taxation, because that is exactly what the inflation tax is. They print money to fund the war machine and fund big government, in the mean time prices on housing, education, energy and health care all go through the roof. Then on top of that we have our income and capital gains taxed. You pay a lot more taxes than you think, and even though you may live a comfortable life in a nice area you can't possibly be happy about putting that much of your resources toward big government that is hampering business and doing so much of the things that you yourself rail against every day here.

Wonder where that money comes from to pay for everything when the prices go up? The banks counterfeit the money then loan it out to us at interest. If I counterfeited money I would go to jail - but if a bank counterfeits money and loans it to somebody at interest it is completely legal. It's a complete fraud happening right in front of our eyes and we are sitting here worried about this jack ass.

Bitcoin is not just for somebody who wants to circumvent government or move money today - it is a mechanism by which all kinds of government controls can be circumvented and thus the laws of economics dictate that it must grow because that is how the natural flow of the economy works as discussed in my previous post.

I don't care if bitcoin is down to $500 by Christmas, by the middle of next year it will probably be up to at least $5k.

loonpt (anonymous profile)
December 13, 2013 at 8:12 p.m. (Suggest removal)

And another thing foo, as much as you like to rail against poor people, the inflation tax hurts everybody but who do you think it hurts the most? Rich people may arguably be hurt more by the income and capital gains tax, poor people are hurt the most by the inflation tax and most of them don't even know they are paying it.. and sadly neither do you.. This is why we have such a huge problem with poverty while surrounded by the likes of Goldman Sachs. Poverty is built into inflationary economies, it doesn't matter what ratio of people are 'lazy' or have attributes which you believe make them poor because it is all built into the system. So there would be less homeless and less poor people if we are able to tackle the horrors of our monetary policy. Wouldn't you like that? Or do you get a kick out of mocking them and trying to keep them out of your community?

Anybody interested in learning about the banking system is encouraged to watch the following:

loonpt (anonymous profile)
December 13, 2013 at 8:26 p.m. (Suggest removal)

loonpit, I see high taxes as a function of idiots voters who keep voting for them, and for those legislators who do this deed for us. Evil corporations can't buy your vote unless you let them.

Which I do see as manipulations of the public sector unions who have controlled the election process for far too long. But only as long as voters go along with this. You have met the enemy and they is us.

If all it takes are glitzy brochures, faux endorsements, and a few TV ads from disguised union sources to win your votes, you get what you paid for.

This strangulation of politics is happening right here and right now. All politics are local. If you can't even get employee unions off your local school boards, your bit coins are not going to buy you anything.

Government employee unions have created a monopoly and like the 19th Century monopolies they have to be busted. You have chosen the wrong enemies to fight. And probably even voted for most of them to keep this untenable public union stranglehold going.

It is your Fourth Branch of government - the large unelected government agencies and their representative unions -- that is your enemy from within, right in front of your own eyes.

(BTW: Be sure to see the list of corporations just released on HuffPo supporting Leftie think tank CAP and Obama's new wing man Podesta.).

foofighter (anonymous profile)
December 13, 2013 at 10:20 p.m. (Suggest removal)

I rail against impoverishment; not poor people. One is a choice; the other is a temporary condition.

foofighter (anonymous profile)
December 13, 2013 at 10:21 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Who wants to bet he doesn't get more than 15 years? Even if he gets the 20, he still would've stole more than most of us will make in 20 years. Maybe he should be added to the gang injunction to protect the people of Mon-tay-si-toe from the real criminals in this community.

AZ2SB (anonymous profile)
December 13, 2013 at 10:29 p.m. (Suggest removal)

"Maybe he should be added to the gang injunction"

AZ2SB hereby wins Comedian of the Indy Commenters Award.

Reminds me of the Corporate Cops episode of The Chappelle Show, or this one:

loonpt (anonymous profile)
December 14, 2013 at 12:18 a.m. (Suggest removal)

In this case the victim was a willing participant. Gang violence victims are not.

Cute Occupy ploy, but irrelevant.

foofighter (anonymous profile)
December 14, 2013 at 8:53 a.m. (Suggest removal)

Where to you go on the web to find Criminal Case # 2:2013-cr-00400, Judge James Otero sbjustice describes above?

boomers (anonymous profile)
December 14, 2013 at 12:35 p.m. (Suggest removal)

No such thing as "willing" victim foo, check your definition.

AZ2SB (anonymous profile)
December 14, 2013 at 11:35 p.m. (Suggest removal)

He was a willing participant. He cannot claim to be a "victim". Over-used term anyway. Good to demand we all use it with more precision. Correction noted.

foofighter (anonymous profile)
December 15, 2013 at 10:31 a.m. (Suggest removal)

Most victims of gang violence are other gang members so they would be willing participants.

loonpt (anonymous profile)
December 15, 2013 at 11:59 a.m. (Suggest removal)

I'm finding the "willing participant" argument beyond sleazy.

Ken_Volok (anonymous profile)
December 15, 2013 at 1:24 p.m. (Suggest removal)

all of foo's eleven repetitive comments indicate 'willing participant,' distaste for any concept of "victim" [admittedly overdone in our culture of complaint], and jealousy of Prenatt's being construed as "a 'pillar in the community'[?] His volunteer efforts. His Montecito address. His revolving door history of 9-5 bank jobs. BTW: Everyone is a VP in a bank. His Pepperdine degree?"
Hey, the Cito rich readily sucked up to him, allowed him into their inner sanctum at the Coral Casino, and got what they deserved.

DavyBrown (anonymous profile)
December 15, 2013 at 5:26 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Not everyone in Montecito is fabulously wealthy.

Ken_Volok (anonymous profile)
December 15, 2013 at 6:07 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Victimizing people is victimizing people regardless of victim's wealth, social rank, zip code etc. Wrong is wrong.

Ken_Volok (anonymous profile)
December 15, 2013 at 6:08 p.m. (Suggest removal)

What rate of return did the willing participant intend to get in this bunko scam?

What promised returns made the willing participant abandon common sense and prudence when handing his/her money over to this scam artist?

5% -10% - 50% - 150%. Matters when determining whether someone was a willing participant in this deal; or a "victim" of prudent due diligence.

foofighter (anonymous profile)
December 16, 2013 at 8:52 a.m. (Suggest removal)

my point, KV, was in the "being construed as..." point; thus, some folks in Cito construed Prenatt as being a pillar of the community [foo's question was how did people think he was so cool/pillar of?] since he was Pepperdine, a bank officer, etc. No. not everyone in Cito is wealthy, BUT, KV, those Prenatt fleeced generally were wealthy...and, inattentive... foo also asked, "What did this guy promise his victims that made them lose their common sense" -- riches beyond what they already have/had. Yes, victimizing the rich is still wrong and they are still victimized... yet you might feel differently if he fleeced poor people of really small sums.

DavyBrown (anonymous profile)
December 16, 2013 at 2:09 p.m. (Suggest removal)

event calendar sponsored by: