James Miller pleads guilty, daughter gets immunity
January 30, 2014
By KAREN VELIE
Former Hurst Financial President James Miller agreed to plead guilty to a four-count criminal complaint under an agreement that his daughter Courtney Brard will not be prosecuted.
Miller, 63, pled guilty in 2011 to charges of mail fraud, wire fraud, money laundering, and making a false statement to a bank. Miller and former North County developer Kelly Gearhart allegedly swindled some 1,200 investors out of more than $100 million in a lending scheme involving hard money.
As part of Miller’s plea agreement which is currently under seal, the government agreed to issue an immunity letter to Brard, according to court records.
“Has anyone attempted to threaten you, a family member or anyone close to you in an effort to get you to plead guilty?” the court asked Miller on Sept. 28, 2011, according to a court transcript. Miller then told the court he had not been threatened.
In 2008, state regulators accused Miller and Brard of working with or under the direction of Gearhart in defrauding investors. Miller and Brard then admitted to state regulators their complicity in fraud.
As part of his 2011 plea, Miller agreed to “provide the government with cooperation in the investigation and prosecution” in future cases, according to court records. And as part of the agreement, Miller will spend no longer than nine years in federal prison, court records say.
Gearhart was indicted on July 5, 2012. Shortly afterwards, Gearhart pled not guilty to 16 charges of mail fraud, wire fraud and money laundering at a federal court in Los Angeles. He faces up to 300 years in federal prison if convicted on all charges.
Gearhart’s fraud trial and Miller’s sentencing hearing have been delayed five times for a variety of reasons. At this time, Gearhart’s trial is set for June 17 and Miller’s hearing is set for Sept. 8.