David Prenatt
Courtesy Photo

A Montecito man convicted of federal fraud charges and sentenced in December to more than four years in prison is now facing another 45 years behind bars for allegedly bilking 17 investors out of $13 million in a high-profile Ponzi scheme. The Santa Barbara District Attorney’s Office has filed a 96-count complaint against David Prenatt, who is scheduled to enter a plea Wednesday morning.

Prosecutors allege 53-year-old Prenatt, in his roles as a commercial loan broker and real estate agent, charmed a number of area residents into investing in home or hotel deals between 2007 and 2009, but then used much of the funds to support “an extravagant lifestyle.” He allegedly spent $500,000 on rehab for his daughter, $350,000 on cars, $350,000 on mortgage payments, $250,000 on travel expenses, and so on.

Prenatt, however, has claimed that he was a victim of the recession and was simply unable to pay back the private loans. His daughter has made statements to the media that Prenatt is struggling in prison, losing weight and battling depression. Public defender Mark Owens did not return a request for comment on the case.

Prenatt’s victims, many of them well-heeled Montecito residents and some of them personal friends, have written letters to authorities detailing the fallout from Prenatt’s alleged Ponzi scheme. They say they were forced to sell their homes and now can no longer retire. Before his arrest, Prenatt had also ingratiated himself with many local nonprofits, including mental health organizations.

The District Attorney’s Office said much of the incriminating evidence was laid out in a 2012 trustee’s report completed after Prenatt filed for bankruptcy.


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