The couple long ago realized that, for now, no matter who they sue, no matter who ends up in jail, the money is gone.
Still, four years later, they’re trying to find out just where it went.
The money trail
The loan check landed in the bank account of Pidegro LLC, a small D.C.-based company consisting of Preciado, Mrs. Down and a D.C. businessman named William Camp Jr., according to court records.
At the time, the company was hoping to build inexpensive prefabricated homes in Mexico with a special kind of wind-resistant paneling, Mr. Camp said in an interview.
By spring 2005, the company needed cash. A development deal that Pidegro had been working on in Mineral Wells, Texas, fell apart, when a $17,500 “good faith” check from Pidegro to the city bounced, according to the town’s former mayor, Clarence Holliman.
“We said thanks but no thanks after that,” Mr. Holliman said.
Undeterred, Mr. Camp said other plans were under way in the state of Hidalgo in central Mexico, where Pidegro was hoping to build a factory.
Money from the Valeses’ loan provided Pidegro with much-needed cash, but Mr. Camp said he wasn’t involved in the Vales loan deal.
For her part, Mrs. Down said in a separate interview that she never agreed to have her husband’s property used as collateral. But she declined to discuss specific questions about the transaction, saying she’s since suffered a stroke.
The Maryland Department of Labor Licensing and Regulation reviewed the activities of both Mrs. Down and Mr. Camp in 2005, sending the case to Montgomery County authorities for further investigation, records show. Neither was charged with any wrongdoing.
The money from the loan didn’t last long.
Mr. Camp processed tens of thousands of dollars in transfers from Pidegro to his D.C.-based business, Universal Business Systems, according to testimony and court records filed by Mr. Vales’ lawyer, Marvin Liss.
Pidegro also paid nearly $20,000 to Metropolitan Financial Services, Preciado’s business, and issued separate $12,500 checks to Mrs. Down and to Mr. Camp for “reimbursement of expenses,” records show. In addition, money was spent in Mexico for employee salaries, office furniture and a Suburban truck.
Mr. Liss called the payments “fraudulent transfers” in court filings, arguing that Mr. Camp and his business benefited from his client’s loan proceeds. But Mr. Camp defended the payments as legitimate business expenses.View Entire Story
Jim McElhatton is an investigative reporter for The Washington Times. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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