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Alleged victims speak out

The victims of alleged thief are telling their stories.

Officers arrested Penn Estes in San Bernardino County Tuesday morning.
She faces charges for grand theft, with enhancements for targeting disaster victims.

One of Estes’ alleged victims is Nancy Keltner who lost her home in the Jesusita Fire in 2009. But she remained positive, and planned to rebuild, until she ran into a snag with her insurance company.

Like so many others who lost homes in the devastating wildfires, she learned she was under insured.

“We found ourselves with not enough money to rebuild our homes,” said Keltner.

That’s where Estes stepped in. The CEO of Green Building America offered to rebuild for less.

“It seemed like a no brainer,” explained Keltner.

Victims just had to give Estes whatever insurance money they could collect, and she would cover the rest.

“It was the only solution that presented itself at the time. …She even marketed herself as the builder with a heart,” said Keltner.

“We took in that trust, and were very hopeful about the future, and rebuilding our homes.”

Keltner spent three years living in an RV on the property, waiting to break ground, but that day never came.

“Green Building and Ms. Estes just disappeared from Santa Barbara, and with it she took our insurance money,” said Keltner.

The District Attorney’s Office has spent the last six months tracking Estes down. They found her in San Bernardino County and arrested her Tuesday.

“It’s indescribable. It’s like stealing coins out of a blind man’s cup when you take advantage of somebody when they’re at their most vulnerable,” Keltner said.

Keltner had to put her property up for sale, and says she won’t ever get her money back, “but if we can be any help in keeping that from happening to other people, then there is some justice,” said Keltner.

If convicted, Estes faces up to 21 years in prison.

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