Continued from page 4

Preciado wasn’t a signatory on Pidegro’s bank account with Mr. Camp and Mrs. Down, according to documents and interviews. In court records, Mr. Liss said Mr. Camp had “primary” control of the Pidegro account.

As the money disappeared, so too did the company’s prospects.

Pidegro LLC shut down early in 2006, less than three years after its founding. Meanwhile, Mr. Camp and his business encountered other legal problems.

Last year, the Justice Department sued Mr. Camp and Universal Business along with a Texas accountant, saying they told tax clients — including at least seven former or current NFL players — that they could amend old tax returns to get big refunds from investments in a “sham” gold-mining company.

Mr. Camp disputed the accusations, but said he didn’t have the money to fight the federal lawsuit and was planning to retire anyway.

A different account

Despite her guilty plea, Preciado disputes just about every aspect of the government’s case against her. In a recent restitution hearing, she denied ever misleading the Valeses about the security of their loan.

She said Mr. Vales had done business with her in the past, including deals involving smaller unsecured loan transactions. “There is no history of deceit, there is a history of success” of past business between Mr. Vales and Preciado, said her defense lawyer, Mr. Shalleck.

In addition, Preciado said she told Mr. Vales about her involvement with Pidegro months before the loan. And while prosecutors say Preciado was “very persistent” in pitching the loan deal to the couple, she said it was Mr. Vales who first approached her.

Mr. Vales walked into my office and said, ‘You haven’t given me any loans,’” she testified, adding that Mr. Vales pushed for a higher interest rate.

Preciado also said she, too, was surprised when she found out Mrs. Down’s name wasn’t on the title of the Bethesda property. But she said that she told Mr. Vales, and he was willing to lend the $350,000 as a “personal loan.”

Finally, Mr. Shalleck said, Pidegro would have paid back Mr. Vales. He said the company even sent Mr. Vales a few checks. But the defense attorney said Pidegro collapsed once its officers became entangled in lawsuits over the loan deal.

Mr. Vales pulled the plug,” he said.

Yet after Mr. Shalleck and Preciado recounted her side of the story at a recent restitution hearing, Judge Algeo, who will sentence Preciado next month, wasn’t convinced.

“I think your client is a flat-out liar, and I send liars to jail who do this kind of thing for a long time,” he told Mr. Shalleck. “I do not believe a word she said.”

Story Continues →