Former EFI employee: ’We all knew it was fraud’

November 7, 2008
Estate Financial's headquarters on 9th Street in Paso Robles was built with investor money.

Estate Financial's headquarters on 9th Street in Paso Robles was built with investor money.


Three former employees of defunct Estate Financial Inc. (EFI) claim they witnessed fraudulent behavior while employed at the Paso Robles hard money lending firm.

Speaking to CalCoastNews on condition of anonymity, the individuals provided new details of working conditions and financial practices of their ex-employers, Karen Guth and her son, Joshua Yaguda. Each of the former office workers expressed concern about becoming involved in the continuing investigation into EFI’s collapse. Several other one-time employees declined interviews.

Guth, 60, and Yaguda, 45, were taken into custody Oct. 16 by a multi-agency task force at their Pasolivo olive ranch. They face 26 fraud charges each, and both remain in San Luis Obispo County Jail pending $5 million bail.

One of the employees said that one occasion last March she told fellow workers that Guth “is keeping $200,000 from a property that closed.” Following that sale of property, the employee told her office associates that Guth had transferred proceeds into the EFI fund account without alerting investors. (It is a crime in California to reconvey real property without first receiving informed consent from deed holders and investors.)

Following that March meeting, a skeptical employee said she asked EFI’s escrow officer, Shauna Bishop, if the transfer was legal.

“Shauna said, ‘Where do you think our payroll is coming from?’” the former employee told CalCoastNews. When another employee pressed the issue to Guth herself, the EFI chief pointed to a section in the company disclosures permitting a one percent commission draw.

Asked if Guth realized the transaction was unlawful, the former employee said, “She knew it was fraud. We all knew it was fraud.” At least one employee said she was fired for raising questions, a claim echoed by other women interviewed for this article.

Bishop still works at EFI while bankruptcy trustees attempt to unravel the complex financial mess left by Guth and Yaguda. Bishop did not return calls made to her cell phone by a reporter, and did not respond to a voice mail message detailing specific questions.

One erstwhile employee, asked to verify elements of the $200,000 transaction and others that appeared suspicious to workers, at first demurred, saying, “I don’t remember” and “I just want to put this behind me.” She subsequently confirmed accounts provided by others, with additional details.

At least several of the former employees have been interviewed by investigators from the district attorney’s office. One of the women gave details of EFI inner-office activities to CalCoastNews which she admitted she had not provided to law enforcement officials — because “they didn’t ask those questions.” The woman added, “There is a lot of fraud the district attorney knows nothing about.” She declined to elaborate.

The doors are no longer open at Estate Financial Inc.

The doors are no longer open at Estate Financial Inc.

One by one, the former employees related tales of Guth’s frequent, rage-filled tantrums, during which she would berate workers and her son, calling them “stupid” and suggesting they “f#*k off.” She reportedly ordered her employees to abruptly terminate telephone calls from investors.

Guth and Yaguda are accused of bilking funds from an estimated 3,400 investors using lending schemes and questionable management practices which may already have cost those investors more than $500 million. Many fear the resulting economic chaos will shadow personal and business finances in San Luis Obispo for decades.

The EFI firm became the target of probes and subsequent sanctions from the state departments of Real Estate and Corporations. IRS and FBI agents, and county district attorney’s deputies, participated in a months-long investigation after hundreds of investors lodged formal complaints.

One of the women interviewed for this article outlined an incident in which EFI’s Bishop commandeered her boyfriend’s Cal Poly e-mail name and address in order to publicly challenge the integrity of a builder, Ron Cooper.

“Shauna wrote slander about Cooper,” said the former employee. Bishop disclosed Cooper’s private tax information in the e-mail to a radio talk show host, and included a string of derogatory comments about Cooper’s business practices in an attempt to discredit the developer. At the time, Cooper was acting as a key organizer for hundreds of unhappy EFI investors.

Bishop, according to her former co-workers, was angry about an article which appeared on this site reporting on long delays by County Clerk-Recorder Julie Rodewald in posting Internet public notice of property transfers. The article also pointed out that Rodewald is married to Roderick Rodewald, a San Luis Obispo attorney who represents business interests of both EFI and Guth.

The article was discussed by KVEC talk radio host Dave Congalton during an hour-long show, and Bishop fired off a critical e-mail — using her friend Don Carver’s address — to provide tax information that appeared to originate from a private loan application. Such data is available only through voluntary release by the taxpayer, or under subpoena from law enforcement or government officials.

Bishop wrote in the e-mail, a copy of which was obtained by CalCoastNews, that “I did a little background check on your boy Ron Cooper. I’m sure if you called a few investors in Southern California they would tell you how much money they have lost because of [him].”

Carver reportedly was disciplined by Cal Poly officials who mistakenly assumed he had authored and sent the e-mail in violation of university rules.

“I think desperate people do desperate things,” said Cooper about Bishop. “I’m disappointed at the lack of morality, and aghast that anyone would jeopardize thousands of investors to try to take me down.”



  1. ccn_debate says:

    Member Opinions:
    By: paperboy on 11/25/08
    this is a local example of the society of greed that has developed in the U.S. over the past 20+ years. These EFI people thought they could do whatever they wanted and no one would be the wiser or hold them accountable.
    We're seeing the same thing on a larger scale right now on Wall Street and with the auto makers.
    it will take a lot of people going to jail for this sort of thing before we can turn it all around.
    Funny how $500 million can just disappear into thin air. I would bet at least a good chunk of that money is socked away in overseas accounts.

    By: Rose on 11/17/08
    To All Estate Financial Interest Parties:

    AS A REMINDER for the Further Arraignment for Guth and Yaguda


    DATE: FRIDAY NOVEMBER 21, 2008 AT 8:30AM

    DEPT. 07

    CASE NUMBER: # F000423908


    To gain updates, you can contact:

    EFI Prosecution Hotline: (805) 781-1053.

    AS A REMINDER: If you have any critical information to share with one of the investigators,
    please call the hotline, or you can submit an Email to:

    For your convenience, a link is provided to the newly constructed
    San Luis Obispo Superior Court Website. You will find the
    Criminal Division Courtroom 5 day Calendar. It continues to be
    updated on a 5 day basis:

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  2. ccn_debate says:

    By: Black_Copter_Pilot on 11/14/08
    By: Newsome on 11/10/08
    Does Rose's post answer the previous questions about why the interviewees in this story chose to remain anonymous?
    By: Rose on 11/10/08
    These employees who knew fraud was taking place should be prosecuted. Why are they getting a free pass? If the DA's office doesn't go after them, we investors and certainly Ron Cooper should file a lawsuit against them. They are no difernet than Karan and Josh. Maybe the Da should call Calcoast to find out what questions they shiuld ask. I love the one who said she would just like to put it all behind her. Woudnt we all.
    By: Jim on 11/9/08
    By: Nameless on 11/9/08
    I am pleased about the new revelations from X-employees. Although we all question why they haven’t come forward sooner, one must appreciate the situation they were in. First of all, it was their livelihood and they knew full well Karen’s rage and snipe at those who crossed her path. I.e. the investor who placed an ad in the Tribune last fall raising questions about EFI’s operation. She threatened him with libel lawsuit etc.

    In a legal world, if they were aware of FRAUD being perpetrated by Karen and Josh, their obligation was to alert authorities. In retrospect, who would have thought the extent of Karen’s sticky hand? Just recall the April 17 meeting in Atascadero and the Madonna Inn on June 17. The number of investors who were still expressing their trust in Karen while blaming CCN and the Ron Cooper types who raised questions.

    Now, that they are in their deserved place lets just contemplate a few more issues.

    Many bloggers on this site expressed dissatisfaction about the local DA’s slow action. If one looks at other similar situation, we all must be grateful for the speedy action by them. The magnitude of the crime is huge and complex. With their limited expertise available to them, they were able to use several Sate and Federal agencies such as the FBI. If this was only an FBI operation, Karen and Josh would still be stashing wealth away either through other individual’s names or offshore. We don’t know at this juncture, but soon we’ll be wiser.

    Often, this site makes references to issues that might be inaccurate in a legal sense, however without it who knows where everything be standing.

    If the past is a guide, Karen would still be in business while only a few would be filing actions against them. Just recall the 341 meeting. Even than some naïve investor thought if just with more time, invested funds could be recovered. In absolute numbers yes (20 plus years) but not in relative value. Besides, much of the funds are gone, it’s not only the market downturn.

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  3. ccn_debate says:

    By: Nancy on 11/8/08
    Thank you for the update and the time you took to speak with reluctant, frightened EFI Employees that don't want to "eat it as whistle blowers". I'm glad they know that they can trust you and "speak out". It's too bad that they have to be concerned about their names being mentioned. Unfortunately this is how society seems to work. So many with an agenda try to shoot the messenger. As for people like "badbilly" yes he is indeed a BAD BILL. A "bill" that our constitution would surely strike down when it comes to freedom of the press and protected sources
    By: MartinW on 11/8/08
    Way to go Cal Coast News. Every piece of information helps. This is how we uncovered the facts to begin with. Thanks so much for all you've done. I can't even tell you how good it felt to finally see justice being served and thanks for being on the scene when it all happened. I savored the blow by blow description. God Bless You and your goodwill to the citizenry of SLO County.
    By: mcdonald on 11/8/08
    The fact that badbill took the time to post and complain about sources that don't want their name on the record speaks loud and clear. I think Laura is correct when she says badbill is someone afraid of CCN. Maybe someone like:
    The DA?
    A couple of police chiefs?
    Judy Roderald? and the list could go on and on.

    Keep up the great work CCN. I enjoyed the Road Runner and look forward to his next story.
    By: Laura on 11/8/08
    There are those of us who have a lot of appreciation for this site and the work Karen & Dan do. We have gained a great deal of info regarding our investments and if we had left it up to the Tribune 99% of us would still be sitting on our hands while Guth and Yaguda continued to plan their opulent futures with our savings. If you don't get the fact that some people don't want to reveal their names when they provide information (remember Water Gate)then your not playing with a full deck. I think your jealous of CCN. I think your either a journalist yourself or someone who's afraid of them.
    By: skunked on 11/8/08
    Why are we shooing at the messenger? If you don't want to read "cal coast news" – don't read it. But you obviously do "want" to read it. which is way you logged on to the site in the first place. And yet, you critical it as junk. How hypocritical can one human be.

    Don't like it – change the channel.

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  4. ccn_debate says:

    By: badbilly on 11/7/08
    "Speaking to CalCoastNews on condition of anonymity, the individuals provided new details of working conditions and financial practices of their ex-employers, Karen Guth and her son, Joshua Yaguda".

    Why then if these individuals are speaking on "condition of anonymity" is CCN printing this story? I'll bet it's just hype. Just a way for these anon's to have their 15 minutes of fame and a way to report on another non story. This site is becoming more and more like the CRAP we see from all the 24 hour media outlets. What a shame. I had high hopes for this site.

    Velie and Blackburn, I think it's time you both take a course in "honest" journalism as opposed to "mindless" sensationalism.
    By: Tory on 11/7/08
    What? Bishop still works at EFI? Hello McFly??? Lose the girl! God knows how she may be manipulating left over evidence!

    Obama – These reporters work hard to give us whole stories or tid bits. Critical comments are low, classless, and uncalled for. Stories like these may be unorthodox in reporter nature but are still informative. Without these reporters ask how informed we would otherwise be?

    Keep up the good work reporters!
    By: Paso_Guy on 11/7/08

    if "booty juice" is an acceptible handle,and it must be because he/she is still here, then "obama" is likewise acceptible, even thoughboth names are offensive to some.
    By: hotdog on 11/7/08
    By: hotdog on 11/7/08 [Delete]
    Obama-whoever you are I take offense to your handle. I suggest you pick something else. Like the guy or not he will be our president and satan would be better than what we have had. Of course the moderator will read this and perhaps agree.

    I wonder why the employees didn't come forward before, and make a public stink. It would have been a great service to EF victims, and those of Hurst as well. The late discovery of the massive fraud and almost abysmal performance of the regulatory agencies has compounded the problems for all.

    And those of you who snidely think this is investor fault or are not involved, think again. This huge hit on our local economy will affect all. I hope the past postings will eliminate those idiotic comments and stick to blaming those who are at blame-the crooked brokers, the lax agencies who are supposed to prevent, discover and prosecute fraud, and those public officials who sit on their hands while thousands of locals, many elderly, go down in flames. And then there are the appointed regulators, who rake off huge payments for their work, further reducing what little the investors might recover in time.

    Shameful situation.

    By: Jim on 11/7/08
    Guth's moral compass is so far out of whack…!
    I think that as more and more ex employees are questioned… more and more corruption will come to the surface…
    Furthermore… I think that this is an excellent post… and as an "investor" have never "wondered" about this column as a news source…

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