Schroeder, 75, operated the Schroeder Piano Company, at 5680 La Jolla Blvd., for many years until it closed in February.
Schroeder, of Pacific Beach, has pleaded not guilty to all charges and remains free on his own recognizance. San Diego Superior Court Judge Charles Gill ordered Schroeder to next appear in court May 7 to set a trial date.
Deputy District Attorney Paul Greenwood said there are 19 victims in the criminal complaint and that two charges have been lodged for each victim. He said he expects to add four more charges based on testimony in the nearly five-hour preliminary hearing.
Greenwood said elder theft was charged in the event the victim was over 65 and that grand theft was charged in the remainder of the cases. The pastor at one victim, Grace Church of North Park, testified the church sued Schroeder after it placed a grand piano for sale in Schroeder's business and didn’t get paid initially after the instrument sold.
Jacobs said Schroeder eventually paid the church $8,000 and that the lawsuit was settled for $11,000.
Greenwood initially filed 14 felony charges but added more as news stories about the alleged business practices persisted.
Carol Stark, 86, of La Jolla, testified she placed a Steinway piano in Schroeder’s business in August of 2010 but received “a pittance” of $5,203. She said she expected it would sell for “at least $35,000.”
“It was a chase to futility, a song and dance,” said Stark. “He never returned calls.”
Tobe Rathaus, 85, of Pacific Beach, said she asked Schroeder to sell her Steinway piano that he estimated was worth between $12,00 and $15,000.
Rathaus said Schroeder told her the piano sold but that she never received any money for it. Her financial planner, Harry Cougler, testified Schroeder told him he sold it for $13,500 but that he contacted the DA's office when he didn’t pay Rathaus.
Vivienne Bennett testified her sister and Schroeder signed a consignment agreement for their late mother’s piano in 2008. Bennett said Schroeder eventually paid $11,000 but that the contract said the piano should have sold for $29,000.
“La Jolla,” Bennett explained, “is a reputable place to do business. [Schroeder] had been in business a long time.”
James Hancock testified his late mother’s piano disappeared from Schroeder’s store a year ago. Hancock said it was appraised by Schroeder for $8,000 but that he never received any funds after Schroeder said he sold it.
District Attorney investigator Byron Zmijewski testified about interviews he had with victims who could not testify in the hearing.
Schroeder’s attorney said during cross-examination that the pianos in question were appraised at lower figures than what the victims said they were worth.
-- Neal Putnam