published Friday, February 11th, 2011

Trustee seeks funds Prebul paid family

Filings in federal bankruptcy court Thursday allege that former auto mogul Joe Prebul doled out more than $880,000 to family and friends prior to declaring bankruptcy.

Five complaints filed against Prebul's wife, mother, two daughters and friend Gary Chazen detail their use of company cars, salaries received without working and interest on loans and loan payments the car dealer made as his empire crumbled.

The transfers "were made with the intent to hinder, delay or defraud creditors," Trustee Jerrold D. Farinash alleges in his complaints. The filing seeks to void the transfers.

Chazen did not return a call Thursday evening. Neither the Prebul family nor Farinash could be reached for comment.

Prebul inherited two car dealerships from his father, Abe Prebul, in 1985. He grew, merged and acquired other dealerships until he owned 12 in Southeast Tennessee and North Georgia.

In February 2009 Prebul was arrested and charged with 11 counts of federal wire fraud. His brother-in-law, Danny Bensusan, alleged that Prebul had bilked him of more than $7 million, according to newspaper archives.

Prebul pleaded guilty to misdemeanor larceny in November 2009, admitting to withdrawing $750 Bensusan had given him to run his dealership.

Farinash is the U.S. trustee-appointed handler of the Prebul bankruptcy, which was filed on Feb. 11, 2009.

In the year preceding his bankruptcy filing, Prebul repaid Chazen more than $145,000 in interest and $500,000 in loan payments. He also paid Chazen a $31,000 salary "that was not commensurate with work performed," the complaints state.

The complaints also outline that Prebul paid his mother, Esther Prebul Greenwald, $38,000 in salary and benefits along with $157,000 in interest out of his business accounts, "but she did not actually perform work for the company."

Prebul's daughters, Caroline and Alexandra Prebul, each received nearly $20,000 in salary and benefits during the same period.

His wife, Nancy Prebul, was given use of a company car valued at $12,410.

Contact staff writer Todd South at tsouth@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6347.

about Todd South...

Todd South covers courts, poverty, technology, military and veterans for the Times Free Press. He has worked at the paper since 2008 and previously covered crime and safety in Southeast Tennessee and North Georgia. Todd’s hometown is Dodge City, Kan. He served five years in the U.S. Marine Corps and deployed to Iraq before returning to school for his journalism degree from the University of Georgia. Todd previously worked at the Anniston (Ala.) Star. Contact ...

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