Quiescent county Web site stirring suspicions

April 4, 2008

By KAREN VELIE and DANIEL BLACKBURN

A Web site maintained by San Luis Obispo County’s Clerk-Recorder’s office – which provides property deed transaction data and other public information and is routinely updated weekly — has been dormant for 36 days.

The site’s lack of relevance quickly became a cause of concern for some investors who have placed funds with a troubled Paso Robles hard money lender, Estate Financial.

Clerk-Recorder Julie Rodewald attributed the site’s inactivity to a missing technician and promised a quick fix. But the site had not yet restored to a current status by midday Thursday.

The Web site contains general information on the Clerk-Recorder’s office as well as a searchable database to allow public access to official county records.

The situation raises a question of conflict of interest, according to several investors who talked to a reporter. Roderick Rodewald, the clerk-recorder’s husband, is a San Luis Obispo attorney whose clients include Estate Financial and its president, Karen Guth.

UncoveredSLO.com posted an article March 14 reporting the apparent unraveling of Estate Financial and actions and practices of its two top officers, Guth and her son, Joshua Yaguda . That article detailed the alleged loss of millions of dollars by a large number of investors, many of whom said they had been hindered in their efforts to contact others with funds in Guth’s hands.

Three days after that article appeared, several hundred EF investors expressing deep concern and growing anger met at San Luis Bay Inn to exchange stories, loan data, phone numbers and action plans.

“At a time when Estate Financial is not forthcoming with investor data, the Clerk-Recorder’s office is one of the few options investors have,” said one person who has been regularly monitoring the Web site’s lack of progress, wrote in an e-mail to UncoveredSLO.com.

Numerous individuals allege that Estate Financial has sold properties and failed to repay investors. Consequently, many investors rely on the Clerk-Recorder’s Web site to follow activity or changes involving their properties. The site provides information showing if any reconveyance (loan repayments) have occurred; or if Estate Financial is foreclosing on specific properties.

Investors might be unaware that the site has been outdated during the month-plus dormancy, and as a result may be relying on stagnant information during a period when numerous Estate Financial transactions might be occurring.

Julie Rodewald said she has been out of the office on personal matters and has not been able to facilitate updates.

“Our system is not a county standard system,” she told UncoveredSLO.com, “and our IT guy is out. The (county’s Information Technology Department) doesn’t manage our AS400 (computer program). That we are trying to deny access to documents because of Estate Financial is absolutely not true.”

A source in Information Technology said any one of more than two dozen county technicians could have easily and quickly handled the usual updating. Other computer experts contacted by UncoveredSLO.com said keeping the county Clerk-Recorder’s site current is not a complex undertaking, suggesting the site’s update is virtually a push-button exercise.

Julie Rodewald said this week she would have nothing to gain from trying to affect the Web site’s current status.

“This begs the question, can he or I do anything?” Julie Rodewald said when asked if her husband’s work for Estate Financial has created at least the impression of a conflict of interest. “Our personal lives are separate from our professional lives. All recordings are public record.”

Roderick Rodewald, too, scoffed at the suggestion of a conflict.

“How in the world could I assist Karen Guth through my wife’s office?” he wondered recently. He also noted that he and his wife have “heard the allegations” but insisted no conflict exists. He disavowed any involvement with Estate Financial other than providing legal counsel.

One of Roderick Rodewald’s counsel chores was to chastise Myron “Mike” Knecht, who placed an advertisement in local periodicals seeking to locate and organize other EF investors. The lawyer wrote in a Sept. 2007 letter and e-mail to Knecht that his ads were having “an adverse affect on our clients’ business.”

Roderick Rodewald added, “Your advertisements have a chilling effect on both further investments in the mortgage fund and on the fractional loan investments, with corresponding harm to your fellow investors and my clients’ business. I would urge you to discuss this with your attorney… as such statements could expose you to significant legal liability.”

Knecht said he checked with his own attorney.

“By Karen Guth’s own admission, ‘investment capital will not be returned at any time in the foreseeable future,’ (so) my statement was not actionable. Something about the truth being a defense,” Knecht wrote in a reply to EF’s lawyer.

Some EF investors have also questioned an apparent new practice at the Clerk-Recorder’s requiring names and addresses of people seeking deed information.

“Sometimes we may ask for a person to sign, sometimes not,” said Julie Rodewald. “There’s a form to fill out. You don’t have to sign it. We are not keeping tabs on people who come into the office. Every little thing becomes a conspiracy.”

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42 Comments

  1. ccn_debate says:

    Member Opinions:
    By: Anonymous on 5/13/08
    After hearing all I've heard, it appears Karen and Joshua will be in jail. Although Karen is scrambling to save herself, it's very apparent now she has fraudulantly breached her duties. Regardless, a receiver will be placed, if not now, later. And during the interm, Karen is using the Fund's money (your money and a lot of it) to fight legal battles. Once a reciever is placed, that waste of money will stop and she'll have to defend her own fraud with HER OWN MONEY! Your capital is being tossed away to fight Karen's battles due to her illegal acts. These battles arrived from misrepresentation to the builders (promised money Karen didn't have to loan leaving projects incomplete) to investors who haven't recieved promised money (ex: FTD's not being paid back after sale). These are rightful cases. I feel keeping Karen in her position would be a disaster. Do you want your money to fund fighting her battles? Learn more about your options!
    By: Anonymous on 5/13/08
    ** ALL FUND INVESTORS **
    By now you should have received an attorney's letter requesting your approval to call a meeting to hear and discuss information relating to your investment.
    Please sign, mark "Yes" and mail or fax ASAP.
    This is your opportunity to hear facts and decide.
    If you haven't received the letter, call (805) 541-2800
    If you'd like more info, call me after six @ (805) 489-5791
    Joe
    By: Anonymous on 5/9/08
    And Raybear, Anon. I have facts that may change your mind.
    By: Anonymous on 5/9/08
    To Raybear. Obviously, you are a friend of Rick, Julie, and Karen. Please spare us all. With all the concealed facts, suspicion will stir. And with all the known facts of fraud, even more suspicion will stir. The mere fact Rick is still representing Karen shows he's not the fairest, and unquestionably honest as you say. If he had any ethics, then he wouldn't be representing her. It's obvious what Karen has and is doing. Anyone would think Rick would stop representing her for the sake of his own reputation. Or is he just a lawyer slut looking for money? Also, lawyers have withdrawn from Karen since she won't pay them. Have you asked yourself WHY Karen still pays Rick? I would suspect he's deeper in this than most know so she's indebted to him or visa-versa. They most likely need to keep saving each other for their own protection. Wait and see.

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  2. ccn_debate says:

    By: Anonymous on 5/9/08
    I'm accumulating email addresses of just EFI investors.
    I already have 25. I want to keep everyone in the loop as facts and options become available.
    Please send your "real" email address to jschacherer@hotmail.com
    I will not share your address with your approval.
    Joe (805) 489-5791
    By: Anonymous on 5/4/08
    raybear

    I don't know either individual and thank you for defending their reputation. I see no reason for either of them to get entangled with the EFI's problems. Many people are very upset and say things that makes no sense or have their imagination work over time.
    By: Anonymous on 5/4/08
    “Truthful, bold, vital, cutting-edge reporting” – give me break! Anybody who has ever worked with Julie Rodewald or Rick Rodewald knows that they are the best of the best. Rick is widely respected as one of the most capable, fairest, and unquestionably honest attorneys in SLO. Julie is the best public servant the County has ever elected – bar none. Anyone who has ever worked with Julie knows that. The spin you put on the County Clerk/Recorder’s web-site, and its temporary inability to update the site, is dead wrong. Anyone who knows the internal workings of the County – and I truly do – knows that your spin is totally “upside-down.” To suggest some kind of possible “conspiracy” connection is plain wrong, if not defamatory.
    I am certainly sympathetic to those who have lost their investments in the Estate Financial hard-money lending debacle, and have tried to help a few. But, to lay this one at the feet of two of the most honorable people in our community is inexcusable. I started my career in this County around the time of the Homer Odom investment debacle in the early 1980’s. This is more of the same and we should all have learned the economic lesson, but obviously some of us didn’t. To implicate Rick and Julie Rodewald in this deal is completely irresponsible and borders on defamation.
    By: Anonymous on 5/2/08
    See new Estate Financial article from uncoveredslo.com at

    http://uncoveredslo.com/?id=103&showEntry=1
    By: Anonymous on 5/1/08
    Could this be why Ms Rodewald will not update the county website or let you see records at the clerk's office?

    California Public Records Act
    Government Code Sections 6250-6270

    6254. Except as provided in Sections 6254.7 and 6254.13, nothing in this chapter shall be construed to require disclosure of records that are any of the following:

    (b) Records pertaining to pending litigation to which the public agency is a party, or to claims made pursuant to Division 3.6 (commencing with Section 810), until the pending litigation or claim has been finally adjudicated or otherwise settled.
    By: Anonymous on 5/1/08
    Does anyone know of any investors of Estate Financial that were not California residents at the time of investing with Estate Financial?

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  3. ccn_debate says:

    By: Anonymous on 4/29/08
    Don't give up. Things are in the works. Keep demanding answers, keep demanding documents, keep demanding accounting, keep demanding copies of appraisals, keep asking "Where is the money?" Karen and Josh WILL go down. There may be some local lemmings that she can continue to fool but many more are finally coming to their senses. News is spreading throughout the state, investors are coming together and attorneys are preparing to take action. Hang in there. In the meantime, beware of all recommendations coming from Karen. IT IS NOT IN YOUR BEST INTEREST TO GIVE UP YOUR FIRST TRUST DEED IN EXCHANGE FOR FORMING AN LLC THAT SHE WILL SET UP AND BORROW AGAINST (WITH YOU RESPONSIBLE TO REPAY)AND THAT YOU WILL NOT BE ABLE TO GET OUT OF. SIGN NOTHING BEFORE RUNNING IT BY AN ATTORNEY (WHO WILL ADVISE AGAINST IT).

    By: Anonymous on 4/28/08
    Mike says:

    Well now Karen and DOYA/EFI were very busy last week 4-17-08 dozens of filings were done on property. According to the County Recorder Julie many filings were done that day. There goes the money

    April 21st, 2008 at 6:16 AM

    Kelly says:

    Yes, they were very busy when i went to check on my deeds i learned the county recorder clerk Julie Rodewald has officially denied all the public access to check the records citing security and privacy reasons. So I tried on line at home and the county web site will no longer allow anyone to access the information. Again citing personal privacy not wanting the upset investors to know where people live or what deeds have changed she is no longer allowing full public access. So something is really wrong here.

    April 25th, 2008 at 5:52 PM

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  4. ccn_debate says:

    By: Anonymous on 4/27/08
    Ready —

    We are organizing groups of investors on the individual projects, analyzing the best approach for remediating each situation and putting forth a plan and a budget to get the job done.

    If you'd like to participate, please contact k2bornot2b@aol.com
    By: Anonymous on 4/27/08
    Researcher says:

    There will be a hearing in SLO Superior Court on Tuesday, April 29, at 8:30 a.m.,courtroom D4 for a case Karen is involved in with her old husband, Charlie Applebaum. It might be interesting to attend and hear what the old gal has to say for herself and to glean information that may be helpful to us in filings of our own. You can check it out for yourself at: http://www.slocourts.net
    under "calendar", select "civil & family law by name" then scroll down to Applebaum and then scroll down to Guth. Hope to see you all there!

    April 27th, 2008 at 8:18 AM
    By: Anonymous on 4/26/08
    To Ready – write me and I'll give you all the information you need. fullyfunded93401@yahoo.com
    By: Anonymous on 4/26/08
    Is anyone writing to the investors on their individual trust deeds to see if they are of like mind to remove Karen as manager? Has anyone gone in to Karen's office to review and copy the books on any of their trust deeds? Does anyone have the names of the persons at Department of Corporations and Department of Real Estate that we should address? Also, is there a website I can go to in order to download the complaint form? Also, is there a complaint form for Vince Otto at the FBI or do we just write a letter to him?
    thanks.
    By: Anonymous on 4/26/08
    Any of you wondering if Karen is still paying herself a monthly management fee for each and everyone of the LLCs she's created? After all, those projects aren't finished so they are still in need of management, right? Another simple explanation of why these projects are being prolonged (if you believe there is some money left). This way Karen still gets her money. Regardless of whether she is managing these projects properly or poorly, I'm suspecting she's written up those contracts with the investors just perfectly so she can pay herself down to the very last dime. Remember, when the Fund was hurting and there wasn't enough money to pay interest, Karen and Josh were more than happy to pay themselves first. What morals, ethics, generosity that eminates from every pore of this woman. I think I understand Charles a little better now days.

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  5. ccn_debate says:

    By: Anonymous on 4/25/08
    The calm before the storm.
    By: Anonymous on 4/25/08
    For those of you still thinking these incomplete homes have anything to do with the real estate market, think again. Many of these homes had funding IN FULL in 2003-4 and were never finished. Investors gave EFI enough money to finish the projects and that money was suppose to be kept in segregated accounts for each project. The money was there, now it's NOT. This isn't due to the real estate market at all! As dewdog said "Where did the money go?"
    By: Anonymous on 4/24/08
    dewdog

    Investors beware. A large number of the Fetyko projects have just been relisted in the real estate mls at reduced prices.
    Investors should beware as several of these houses are listed at a price that will not cover the loan amount, sales costs and possibly back taxes. Several of these homes are not completed and the listings do not state whether the homes are to be completed or not. As is, it appears that if any of these homes sale, since most of them are listed way above the current market value, that most of the sales will fall under the short sale category. This could be a delay tactic on the part of EF to keep everybody happy for awhile. This doesn't answer where did all of the money go?
    By: Anonymous on 4/24/08
    Management: Please contact me ron@cooperdevelopment.com. I am working towards what you have suggested and I could use your help.
    By: Anonymous on 4/24/08
    Managment

    You may be right but what your talking about is a recievership. How long and how much will that cost. I'm talking of gaining control in a quick efficient way that would allow the investors to participate in the liquidation of the assets and make use of Karen and Josh without allowing them to work on this without oversight.
    By: Anonymous on 4/24/08
    Removal of management does not require 51% but only a court order if the judge believe there has been misconduct. Investors need to gather their records, obtain legal counsel and show the courts what has happened. It is that simple.
    By: Anonymous on 4/24/08
    Rational Thinking

    Although I appreaciate your approval of the concept I outlined I fourtunately am not an investor in the fund or on an individual Trust deed. I have however been involved in these type of transactions over the years as a developer. I am fourtunately not a borower or lender in this cycle. The reason I use insider as a moniker is quite simple. I don't want my name out. With that said I hate to see others loose money particulally from mismanagment. This situation will get worse every day if the fund investors don't get control. Apparently a list of fund investors is now available from what I gather from this site. Since again what I have gathered from this site the fund owns 51% of most deals the individual deed investors are under control of the fund. You need to get 51% of the fund investors to agree to do this thing. What I'm saying is I still think you bring in Karen and Josh but a doubt if they will go along unless they know they have no choice. By putting the fund in charge with its biggest investors you can ensure to the greatest extent possible that all projects are treaty equally as much as possible. The reason to bring in Karen and Josh is that thier cooporation would greatly speed the process. The greatest dificulty would be the decission on everyones part not to attack each other and have complete transparency in order to work towards the most effecient resolution.

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  6. ccn_debate says:

    By: Anonymous on 4/24/08
    Truman – I don't think that meeting made any difference in Karen or Joshua's behavior. I think it was the different departments concurrently breathing down EFI's necks that week. And, by now, sure why not give the investors what they want, after all, the general opinion is, Karen's has much money tucked away in a place no one will every find.

    Oh and folks, at the Thursday meeting, that lady who spoke with the beige shirt and shorter dark hair who got the crowd amped up on EFI like it was some type of political convention, I believe that was Joshua's wife (or mistress?). I saw them stroll off into the parking lot arm and arm smiling. And remember, she's the one who claimed she's made a lot of money with EFI. Well now, of course she has! Of course!
    By: Anonymous on 4/23/08

    Karen: I have played golf with you. I thought I knew you so I have ignored these blogs and newspaper stories. Then I discovered something that made me realize what people are saying on these blogs and in the newspaper are true. Thanks Karen but I'll pass on golf with you in the future. Doesn't suit my conscious.
    By: Anonymous on 4/23/08
    In our first meeting Don Vaughn said "it would take some time to get the list of investors to us." Now you can get the list in minutes via email. What changed. Last Thursdays meeting is what happened. Be sure to call or email Estate and ask for your list. If you do not get it (them) immediately tell Chris at Department of Corporations. EFI has already been warned to comply with their promises and documents. Damn Karen, you've really done a good job of conning all of us. Time to come clean?
    By: Anonymous on 4/23/08
    Seriously people! The below Tribune article encourages people to make complaints to the authorities. Don't NOT complain because you have heard others have already done it – that's a cop out! They do need your individual information! These agencies need to hear from you! If EFI refused to give you all the information you need OR have lied to you regarding the status of your project "It's 95% or, fill in the blank, complete" or "we'll resume building on your project next month" and instead many months have gone by. If they said the money you gave was for an 1800 sq foot home with 4bed/3bath and you later learn it's a 3 bed/2bath, these are serious complaints! Or "you'll have your money back soon" and that was months and months ago then make a complaint. I know of someone who asked for his money back in 2005 and has only gotten a portion back meantime loads of money was piling in from investors that could have easily paid this man back. But, of course, Karen could make loans with that money, thus more money in Karen's pocket so WHY would she reimburse the investors? Please contact the Dept of Corp in Sacramento and the FBI in Santa Maria. Call the San Luis District Attorney's Office (look in phone book or 411) and they will give you the other agents phone numbers. Unbeknownst to you, you may have that tid bit of information that helps them break the case. If you don't know what you have, then write a blog here with your email, I'm sure someone will be willing to help you sift out the mess! Now go help yourselves!

    By: Anonymous on 4/23/08
    Interested'

    Vanguard ran an honest business. They have forclosures like everyone else, but never comingled funds, informed their investors of all issues and working with them when asked. No comparision at all.
    By: Anonymous on 4/23/08
    YEH

    Cashflow problem at Estate Financial started way before the market turn down and mortgage problems. I can safely say that it started at least 4 – 5 years ago. It will come out sooner than later. Many investors could not get their money back for number of years and borrowers did not get their loan proceeds to complete their projects on time. Estate has many questions to answer as time will show.

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