David Prenatt, former Montecito financial mover and shaker, was sentenced to 10 years in state prison by Judge Jean Dandona this Thursday for ripping off investors of $13 million in what prosecuting attorney Brian Cota described as a “classic Ponzi scheme.”
A number of investors took the opportunity to testify about the pain, economic hardship, and sense of bitter betrayal Prenatt inflicted. “You told me you’d look after me like I was your sister,” said one. Instead, he drained the savings on which she relied for retirement. Another said she hoped he would have no peace behind bars and, using a Yiddish word, wished for him a continuous sense of “ants in your pants.”
Prenatt, once a star basketball player, looked at his accusers as they spoke, and apologized afterward for what pain he had caused. He insisted, however, that he had always intended on paying his investors back. Cota said Prenatt would serve about half of the 10-year sentence, which would begin after he completes another three years of a federal sentence he’s now serving for lying on bank loan applications.
Prenatt has argued that he was the victim of the Great Recession and that he went down the tubes along with his investors. Cota countered Prenatt never really invested his investors’ money but used one to pay off the other. That, he said, was the fraud. “It doesn’t matter what he intended,” Cota said. “It’s what he didn’t tell them.”