(WSVN) - They created their own business, worked hard to build it, and then, a crook conned five lenders into loaning him money while pretending to be the business owner. Now, the actual owner is on the hook for it and facing financial ruin as a result. The Nightteam’s Patrick Fraser has tonight’s special assignment report: Debt Disaster.

It’s the goal of many Americans: own your own business.

Kurt Prelle, attacked by crook: “I start with a little body shop, and I see the business part was good.”

Kurt’s auto parts company became a success, and it wasn’t just luck.

Ximena Prelle, crook got loans: “He’s a super hard working man. He’s an honest working guy.”

So, of course, a very honest guy has to get taken by a very crooked guy.

Kurt Prelle: “And I said, ‘I don’t have loan. I don’t have credit lines. You have the wrong person,’ and I hung up.”

Turns out, a fellow pretending to be Kurt Prelle had gone online and gotten five loans for the auto parts business — a lot of money from five different lenders.

Ximena Prelle: “Loans amount to approximately $200,000.”

And when the lenders wanted their money, their collectors called the honest Prelles.

Ximena Prelle: “They were not friendly.”

How did the crook pick Kurt’s business? Using the state of Florida’s list of corporations.

Ximena Prelle: “The name of the business was correct. The business address was correct. This information is readily available to anyone on sunbiz.org.”

The Prelle’s got a copy of several of the loan applications submitted by the crook. One included a driver’s license of the fellow pretending to be Kurt, but he wasn’t very good at pretending.

Ximena Prelle: “Driver’s license number was incorrect, date of birth was incorrect, signature was incorrect and photograph was incorrect.”

But five lenders didn’t catch it and gave the online crook the money without ever seeing him.

Ximena Prelle: “We felt violated. We couldn’t sleep because it also had our home address.”

With the collectors coming after them, the Prelles turned to the Pinecrest Police, who wanted to help but couldn’t.

Ximena Prelle: “His hands are tied because this is a case that involves other states, not just Florida.”

The Prelles were told to contact federal agencies and got nowhere.

We did the same thing, and they could not even tell us if they were investigating the crook with each saying one way or the other, “No comment.”

Kurt Prelle: “Shocking.”

Ximena Prelle: “Shocking.”

It got worse.

Turns out, the thief had signed documents telling the lenders if he missed payments, they could take the Prelle’s business and all their personal property.

Ximena Prelle: “So basically, if this goes on, we can lose everything.”

Jarrett Wolf, Wolf Global: “The more cases you have, the more evidence you have.”

Jarrett Wolf tracks down crooks like the one that targeted the Prelles.

He says despite the way they feel, they are not alone in this battle.

Jarrett Wolf: “My first instinct as an investigator would be to drop a subpoena on the bank because I want to follow the money. They should be cooperating, and it’s really they who have the greatest interest in tracking down the bad guys.”

But in the meantime, the Prelles have to hire lawyers to prove they didn’t take out those five loans.

That costs money — money they don’t have.

Kurt Prelle: “Seven thousand dollars for each case. We had to sell her car. Now, she is riding a bike.”

The crook struck it rich, destroyed an innocent honest family and left them with a debt disaster.

Copyright 2023 Sunbeam Television Corp. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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