By Stan Welch
Greenville attorney Jim Bannister recently filed a response to the U.S. District Court, on behalf of Joey Preston, indicating Preston’s intentions to comply with the Court appointed receivers demands that Preston either repay the $1.2 million dollars in “ill gotten monies” gleaned from Ron Wilson’s Ponzi scheme, or show cause why he can not.
Bannister’s court filing, dated March 17, states that Preston, who claims no knowledge of the illegal nature of Wilson’s scheme, despite his active role in attracting additional investors, is “perfectly willing to abide by whatever he is required to do . . . within his financial ability to do so.”
According to court appointed receiver Beattie Ashmore, Preston initially invested $192,000 in Wilson’s silver investment scheme. He also hosted parties at his home which were designed to attract additional investors, and was paid commissions for his efforts. According to Beattie’s filings with the United States District Court and federal Judge Michelle Childs in January of this year, Preston received returns of $1.418 million, for a profit of $1.2 million.
Bannister’s filing concedes that Preston received regular statements indicating his substantial returns on his investment, but claims Preston was unaware of the illegal nature of Wilson’s enterprise until 2012; when federal agents moved in on Wilson’s business in Powdersville, sealing his offices and seizing financial records. Preston has maintained his innocence and ignorance of Wilson’s illegal scheme in recent statements to the media in the Bamberg area, where he is currently the county administrator.
Wilson has since pleaded guilty to mail fraud and is serving a nineteen and a half year sentence in federal prison. Several co-conspirators have also been sentenced to jail terms for their attempts to conceal their gains, while Wilson’s wife and brother escaped with house arrest. Wilson’s cellmate in the Florida federal prison where he was serving his term provided information exposing the plan to conceal several hundred thousand dollars from the court. It was shortly after those sentences were imposed that Preston’s role in the events leading up to the collapse of Wilson’s plan came to the fore.
Bannister has indicated that Preston is in negotiations with Ashmore about the amount of repayment. Preston’s financial circumstances will reportedly play a significant role in those negotiations. Previous public reports have indicated that Preston’s home is in foreclosure, and that significant credit issues exist, with at least one major credit card company seeking hundreds of thousands of dollars in arrears.
In addition, the Anderson County Council recently voted to proceed with their appeal of a court ruling in favor of Preston in the County’s lawsuit to recover a severance package awarded Preston in 2008 by the outgoing Council. That package amounted to approximately $1.2 million.