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71 investors sue them for allegedly defrauding $22 million in loans

The office is accumulating information from people who feel they might have been victims of a crime after loaning money to Petaluma Realtor Aldo Baccala, 67, of Baccala Realty, at 200 G St., and his wife, Karen, 66. The Baccalas obtained loans from the investors, mainly for their East Coast nursing homes and for Premier Mushrooms L.P., a mushroom farm in Colusa County.

?At this point, we can?t give out much information, but we ask for anyone who feels they might have been a victim of a crime in this situation to call us at 565-2011,? said prosecutor Christine Cook from the district attorney?s office.

The Baccalas did not return a telephone call about the matter.

Residents of Petaluma and other parts of Sonoma County were among the investors, which also included residents from Marin County and other parts of the state and country. The amount of the loans ranged from a few thousand dollars to $2.2 million.

The lawsuit stipulates that as the couple obtained the loans from investors, they gained personal profits by misrepresenting business opportunities and their available collateral, and sometimes securing multiple loans for the same project. It also states that investors are unable to get their principal payments or interest, which was as high as 15 percent, from them.

Aldo Baccala sent a letter to investors dated Nov. 5 in which he indicated that he would be suspending monthly payments on loans. He said that he recognized that this might create hardship for investors, and that ?I am doing everything in my power to rectify the situation.?

He said that his predicament was caused by the economic downturn, credit crunch and cost of the existing debt service. Baccala also said he was planning to refinance Premier Mushrooms L.P. and sell assisted living centers to help pay down the debt within two years.

In 1994, the Baccalas were sued by people they recruited to invest more than $3.2 million to convert a bourbon distillery into an ethanol production plant. Lawyers for the investors said that the Baccalas falsely told them that the plant was in production.

(Contact Dan Johnson at dan.johnson@arguscourier.com)


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