Feb. 27--VICTORVILLE -- A former operator of two Hesperia businesses pleaded not guilty Wednesday to charges she bilked real estate investors of hundreds of thousands of dollars through a third company called Inland Property Development.
Ilona Winegardner, 61, was arrested Jan. 8, the day after prosecutors levied an array of securitiesrelated charges against her, alleging she swindled multiple investors in a real estate fraud scheme over a nearly two-year period.
Winegardner is listed as the owner of New Life Financial Real Estate and New Life Construction, which operated separately in two adjacent suites at 15800 Main St., also where Inland Property Development maintained an office, according to the Better Business Bureau.
Hesperia spokeswoman Rachel Molina confirmed earlier this month that the three businesses no longer had licenses to operate in the city, though she said she did not know "when or why" the licenses were discontinued.
A 32-count felony complaint by the San Bernardino County District Attorney's office lays out the charges against Winegardner, including grand theft, selling securities without qualification or exemption, and misrepresentation or omission in the sale of a security. The charges were the result of investigations by the District Attorney's Real Estate Fraud Prosecution Unit beginning about Jan. 11, 2012, when the scheme was first reported to authorities.
Ten victims who were identified in the complaint are alleged to have been defrauded of at least $335,000 between Sept. 7, 2007, and June 15, 2009, according to district attorney spokesman Chris Lee.
Peter Vujicich, a 60-year-old minister from Murrieta, also is accused of being part of the alleged scheme. Vujicich pleaded not guilty on Jan. 13, according to court records.
Both suspects face 10 years in state prison if convicted, Lee said. They were in custody Wednesday in lieu of $1 million bail, jail records show.
Both are due to return to Victorville court on March 12, according to records.
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