EFI investor prospects dismal

January 28, 2009


Investors in both the Estate Financial Mortgage Fund (EFMF) and Estate Financial Inc (EFI) received gloomy reports from trustees regarding recouping investments through the bankruptcy court. The bad news was contained in a letter sent to investors earlier this month.

EFMF investors appear to be in the least likely position to recoup investments, despite assurances from EFI boss Karen Guth to investors that their money was more secure in the mortgage fund. Guth was successful at getting her supporters to cash out of investments secured by first trust deeds in exchange for membership in her unsecured mortgage fund.

Early in June, creditors forced EFI into involuntary Chapter 11 bankruptcy proceedings. About a week later, EFI owners Guth and her son Joshua Yaguda voluntarily placed EFI’s mortgage fund into Chapter 11. Federal bankruptcy court Judge Robin Riblet appointed Thomas Jeremiassen and EFI Mortgage Fund trustee Bradley Sharp to liquidate the company’s remaining assets.

According to the trustees, their preliminary analysis of the mortgage fund revealed that the fund is not secured by any timely filings of deeds of trust and as such all recordings in the mortgage fund could be voided.

Some of those who invested in EFI fractionalized loans may not fare much better, due a number of bizarre management techniques.

“We have observed other problems with assignments (e.g., recorded in the wrong county, made or recorded in the wrong percentages or the recording references the wrong instrument number for the deed of trust), and we have seen at least one instance where a deed of trust was mistakenly reconveyed by EFI without EFI or the investors being paid with respect to the loan,” the trustees say in the letter.

Even those secured by deeds of trust may receive little, if anything, back after the trustees finish their work. Though the trustees say in their report that proceeds will be distributed as properties are sold to the co-owners (those on deed of trust), they list a number of factors – “including previous interest payments to investors” – that will impact the funds owed to each secured investor.

In the past, in cases of Ponzi schemes, judges have sometimes ruled that investors have to take into account past interest payments received.

In a Ponzi scheme, lenders pay unusually high returns while utilizing incoming investor money to cover expenses, rather than making income through the alleged business activity. EFI entirely funded numerous developments that were never constructed.

Siugfried Stuevee, an 83-year-old machine shop owner, is grappling with the trustees over funds from a property that sold last July. According to Stuevee, the trustees pointed out that he had already received two to three years of interest payments.

“They haven’t paid me a dime yet,” Stuevee said. “I am very disappointed. I brought it to the trustees many times, but not a word. My wife is in a convalescent home with Altzheimer’s disease, and I am just about bankrupt. Maybe I can get her on Medi-Cal.”

Guth, 65, and Yaguda, 40, were arrested October 16 by a multi-agency task force at their Pasolivo olive ranch. They face 26 fraud charges, and both remain in San Luis Obispo County Jail pending $5 million bail each.

A creditor created and provided to CalCoastNews the following scenario of possible loan disbursements regarding a $100,000 investment made six years ago:

“Based upon EFI’s report, EFI will be entitled to fees before any funds are distributed to secured investors. Also, all moneys paid to them over the years in the form of interest will be deducted from their initial capital invested.

Example: $100,000.00 invested six years ago at 12 percent interest.

Yearly payment received: $10,000

Total funds received: $60,000

Service charge one percent for six years: $6,000

Additional administrative charge: $10,000

Total due to secured fractional holder

($100,000-$60,000–$6,000-10,000) $24,000.00 if all papers recorded properly and the loan was paid in full. Deduct for any potential short sale.

If it is a 50 percent short sale: $100,000

Received: $ 60,000

Management Fees: $ 6,000

Trustee Charge: 10 percent of $100,000 $ 10,000 (may vary)

Total to secured creditor: ($100,000-$50,000-$60,000-$6,000-$10,000)

Total due to secured fractional holder: ($100,000-$50,000-$60,000–$6,000-10,000) -$26,000. In other words, investors could end up with a negative balance.”


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Member Opinions:

By: Harlow on 1/30/09

I guess in this day and age of total lack of morals and values, one tends to be either vulture or fool

By: Nameless on 1/30/09

Oh well, wonder where our money went? Expensive hobby, with first calss trips Olive trees and the likes. This we know now.

Where was our greed on our part? We were dealing with thiefs, thats what happened. Please none of that greedy investors starving for a measly 12% return!

AnnMarie Cornejo

The Tribune

Name: Karen Guth

Job: owner, Willow Creek Olive Ranch Address: 8530 Vineyard Drive, Paso Robles

As Karen Guth strolled through Tuscany, Italy, she fell in love. The scenery was breathtaking, the people welcoming. But it was the artisan olive oil that captured her heart.

So much so that she planted more than 9,000 trees on her ranch in Paso Robles eight years ago, transforming the 130-acre property into the Willow Creek Olive…

Published on 2004-12-28, Page D1, Tribune, The (San Luis Obispo, CA)

By: Nameless on 1/30/09


Sometimes, the best is to ignore the fool.

By: outsider on 1/30/09

I do feel sorry for all the people who lost money in this disaster..All the whining about the losses and blaming the contractors and schemers does NO good and doesnt accomplish anything.

The investors need to take responcibility for decisions they made. No one made you invest your money with these shady people. It was "GREED" that reeled most of the investors in..Someone offering 12%, when the going rate in a Bank is 5%, should be a warning to anyone with any brains and especially this group of investors..

There is a group memtality working in the ponzi schemes…Friends bring in Friends and relatives and the excitement of the group and the greed builds up to a fever pitch…Everyone is convincing each other that everything is OK..it is sad..

By: Paso_Guy on 1/30/09

to Mike Knecht

"Until there is a statement of loss issued from the bankruptcy proceedings, it isn’t possible to apply the investment losses on the investor’s income tax returns."

I was thinking the same thing, but when I called the IRS and spoke to the schedule D people, I found out different. Suggest you give them a call. Of couse, as always, a loss is limited to $3k unless used to offset a gain.

By: MikeKnecht on 1/30/09

I can accept the reality that there won’t be any money returned to the EFI Mortgage Fund Members. What is appalling is the fact that the receivers are going to be able to string this out for years and years to come.

Why be upset about that if there is no money coming back? Until there is a statement of loss issued from the bankruptcy proceedings, it isn’t possible to apply the investment losses on the investor’s income tax returns. If you read letter from the receivers it says that they have many associated costs to be paid out of property sales to their lawyers, real estate investment consultants, appraisers, real estate agents, contractors and title companies. This list doesn’t include the service calls to try and prevent further damage to the unprotected, partially finished structures nor does it include insurance payments and accruing property taxes.

Why not auction the properties now? This accomplishes three things. It allows the management fees, insurance payments and accruing property taxes to end. It allows investors to have a chance to buy the properties they are familiar with and get at least a small chance at recouping their losses when the market turns around. The last benefit is San Luis Obispo County gets badly needed revenue from the new owner paying the property taxes.

There may be contention concerning who gets money but at least that can be decided with the money in a trust account rather than sitting in property.

Does anyone think that Jeremiassen and Sharp are giving out this work to people they never met? They are giving out these lucrative billing hours to real estate consultants and real estate attorneys they have working relationships with. They are accruing future favors from these associated professionals. They have no reason to hurry or to do things in an efficient manner, in fact, there is absolutely no upside to their being timely about this.

Would an auction bring the absolute top dollar for the properties involved? Probably not but if you consider that each and every day there is a group of attorneys, real estate consultants, appraisers, accountants and assorted service providers assigning their fees to the property proceeds, at least an auction would stop the vultures feasting on the carcass and allow investors to take the deductions they are entitled to on their tax returns.

By: Harlow on 1/29/09

Plus , I am baffled as to WHY EFI is entitled to any fees whatsoever, when they did not do the job they are asking to be paid for.

Are the investors actually going to accept that? It is up to everyone involved to stand up and say they need to pay US for their incompetance and FRAUD.

If they have no more money left….then they can spend the rest of their lives chopping wood and doing yard work for u

By: Harlow on 1/29/09

No, Jim, you are definitely NOT alone.

They may think of us as morons, but what I think of them cannot be put into a civilized sentence.

When all is said and done, they will spend much time in a warm place , and I'm not talking Costa Rica.

By: wolfhound on 1/29/09

What's happening in Los Osos with developer Jeff Edwards after EFI quit funding the 2 million home in Cabrillo Estates. Very few subs and vendors were paid from the excavator and architect. Jeff moved in just before the forclosure and was evicted. I heard two days before he left he gutted the house including appliances and even doors. The two on the trust deed alleged grand theft and the other day the Sherifff raided a storage building and found the goods hidden. I this true or just gossip? The information came from a good source that was called by the sheriff for information after the raid.

By: 4Warn on 1/29/09

I'm with ya hotdog. Either sharp sticks or large clubs would be fine with me.

… and to you Jim, my heart is out to you and your family. You were swindled plain and simple. Know that I will pray for you.

… and to the SLO Tribune. Being our largest county newspaper, why didn't you try to expose these crooks early on when you had the chance? Had you done your job many people might have been spared ruin. The reason is because you valued EFI/Guth advertising dollars over decency and integrity.

…. and to you UncoveredSLO (Karen and Dan) Ultimately your efforts will not go unrewarded. Remember the words of Galileo:

“All truths are easy to understand once they are discovered; the point is to discover them.”

By: hotdog on 1/29/09

Harlow and Jim pretty well define the situation. Their comments reflect those of mine and others over the last six months in attempting to deflect the callous and ignorant accusations of some who would blame the victims.

I guess we will have to go over this time and again as those questionable people keep harping on this aspect of a deplorable situation. I wonder if they are part of the problem or just out of touch with reality. My heart goes out to those who loaned their trust and money to a bunch of incompetent crooks. And frankly, I'd love to spend some time with those who blame them, in a small room with sharp sticks. I'm really sick of those fools.

By: Jim on 1/29/09

Like several others… I am a victim of the Guth/Yaguda Ponzi scheme…

I was contacted by the F.B.I. the district attorney of S.L.O. the Department of Real Estate and the Department of Corporations in July of 2008…

You see… I was an "investor" in the Estate Financial mortgage fund…

I have lost my life savings… $400,000.00… due to the fraud

perpetrated by Karen Guth and Joshua Yaguda…

Now… you might be thinking… Jim… how could you have given these people that much $$$…?

And if it makes some of you feel better to say that I was both dumb and stupid… well… with the clarity of hind sight… I agree with you… and as you might well imagine… I have beat myself up pretty good about this…

If you say that I deserve to have lost my $$$… well… that seems a bit harsh to me… but of course… you are entitled to your opinion…

My story:

I saw their web site on the inter net… checked with a couple of financial advisors… and a couple of E.F. investors… everything looked good…


I had invested $$$ with another hard money lender before…

My youngest daughter had just died… and I suppose that I wasn't thinking very clearly…

I didn't want to deal with life… let alone finances… and so rather than diversify… I put all of my $$$ with Estate Financial…

$$$ was given to them… with the understanding that it would ALL be returned to me by 12-31-07 as I was in the process of moving out of state… and would no longer be a resident of California…

They lied to me about the health of the company… they solicited and accepted $$$ from me when their license to do so was no longer in compliance…

They refused to return my $$$ to me as per our agreement… and as you know… on July 1st, 2008 declared bankruptcy…

Everything that I worked for… and saved… is gone…

If it has not happened to you… it may be a bit hard to realize just how difficult things have been for me…

Well… of course… you have already heard stories like this from other investors…

And finally… to date… I have received less than $40,000.00 in "interest" payments over three years… a (very) long way from the promised 10 to 12 percent return on my "investment"…

I would like to thank the writer of this column for your time… and for your efforts… by keeping the public (me) informed…

I would also like to thank those of you that have taken the time to leave notes… it helps me to realize… that I am not "alone"…

By: Nameless on 1/29/09

If we kept our money under the matress, take out 10% every year to live on, take Karen and Josh for trip of their choice all expenses paid, we would be still in better shape and have good memories. Now whats left the professionals will be taking those nice trips, paying their kids schools and mortgages and they still think of us as morons.

By: Paso_Guy on 1/29/09

I'm making 25% on my bad paper by taking the capitol gains write-off. Got to be a silver lining somewhere

By: Harlow on 1/29/09

When your Deed of Trust is supposedly secured by property worth 30-40% MORE than the loans out on it, THAT is supposed to secure your investment.

When those properties are appraised by appraisers not licensed to appraise those properties and those appraisals are illegally inflated, OR those loans are not recorded properly, that is FRAUD.

We cannot be brilliant in all aspects of life. We have be able to somewhat trust our doctors, auto mechanics,financial institutions and our government regulatory agencies etc.

By: mccdave on 1/29/09

If I understand this unclear article, this is like the situation faced by some Madoff investors who will probably be required to forfeit any gains on their investment as the mess is settled with all investors. (This process should provide abundant stimulus to the already-promising New York legal sector.) Gains from a Ponzi scheme, even received unknowingly, are not considered legitimate, and anyone who lost money should remember that others probably lost more.

The rates of interest promised to Estate Financial investors is suspiciously similar to the returns Madoff was offering, and close to yields offered by Charles Keating's Lincoln Savings/American Continental. By now there should be an iron law of investing: if someone's promising you steady returns of about 10%, run like hell. Some people did exactly this when they looked at Madoff before he was exposed. Even before these scandals, only the delusional and ignorant could believe in high returns without high risk. To put all your eggs in such a basket, as some "professionals" did with Madoff, boggles the mind.

By: AuntMillie on 1/29/09

This article is fear mongering. The "creditor" created scenario is fiction. Read the letter referred to in this post yourself. Given the mess the trustees were handed, I am impressed by the work they have done thus far and am more optimistic for seeing a return of my investment than I was before the bankruptcies were filed.

By: insider on 1/29/09


Apparently you do not understand a Ponzi scheme. The people who are the first investors make unrealistic rewards they tell their friends and their friends make unrealistic rewards and just when everyone is fat dumb and happy Bozzo drops the other shoe. So where are those first investors. Why are none of them speaking up about their gains? Hell no I would keep my mouth shut wouldn't you?

By: 4Warn on 1/29/09

Insider wrote:

"Trust me thier were some real winners in the investors group who got huge rewards by collecting their interest and getting their principle back too"

Based on your past postings few of us trust you Insider, but if you know of those who got "huge rewards" I hope you have the moral obligation to pass the info on to the authorities.

By: insider on 1/29/09

No, What I'm saying is if you put up 100,000 and you recieved 60,000 back in interest payments at what now appears from funds of others in a ponzi scheme your far better off then many others. And if you end up getting 40,000 more back in distributions your whole. True you didn't get what you bought in for but your better off than many. Many developers lost everything they had in this deal through the lack of funding that occured while the new money was being recirculated to keep old investors fat and happy. Trust me thier were some real winners in the investors group who got huge rewards by collecting their interest and getting their principle back too. They although winners and still winers so as not to be singled out.

By: hotdog on 1/29/09

I wonder what Insider is saying. But on the foolish comment about greed much has been said on many of these blogs, and Insider has seen them so should stuff it. That idiotic attitude has been dispelled many times.

For the record, I know a bit about the EFI crooks, but I have never been a client of theirs. Any other wisecracks, Insider?

Blaming the victims makes one look like a fool-is that how you wish to be perceived?

By: insider on 1/29/09

Looks like Hotdog got his and wants more too. Isn't greed a wonderful thing. Karen counted on it.

By: Nameless on 1/28/09


Now for the a reality check!!!!

When investors did started complaining about wrong doings? Not until the interest checks stopped. Prior to that, any sensible person who raised questions about potential troubles on the horizon, the bearer of bad news would have been persecuted by Karen and her investors who had the interest checks in hands. Karen knew well as long as the interest checks are being mailed out on time, who will complain? Borrowers who thought they had their loans ready to be drawn on for construction were in a big surprise. The same funds they paid for went back to investors in the form of interest leaving borrowers without the ability to complete their projects to default eventually. That’s why the computation works the way it is shown. Of course, if one was partner with Karen, there was plenty money to go around.

By: Nameless on 1/28/09


With you on it, but at least the professionals will get their share regardless of the investors. Hire more lawyers, so they can enjoy our pain. We haven't seen the fee request yet, Have your heart medicine ready!

By: 4Warn on 1/28/09

I'm with ya hotdog … Maybe the State agencies can issue those victimized with an IOU.

Our County DA needs the heave ho, the Sheriff needs the heave ho, our State reps need the heave ho …. Everybody join in and lend a shoulder. Maybe they will get the message

By: hotdog on 1/28/09

The math sounds like a bunch of bull to me. Interest received was owed the investor, capital invested should be returned in full if possible. If there are losses so be it but all available returns should go to the investors. I suggest the DRE, DOC, DA and maybe the Attorney General should make up any shortfall-they are the ones charged with oversight and timely prosecution of crimes. They failed, utterly, to discharge their duty to the citizens who expect, rightly, to be somewhat protected from schemes, scams and fraud. It has been reported that some or all these agencies have been 'looking' at our brokers for some time-yet nothing or little was done until the investors agitated like hell for some relief. I also point out that repeated contacts with our state reps (both republicans) has yielded nothing but a bored response.

I urge all voters in SLO to keep this in mind the next time the DA and our local reps try to snow us with their 'oh so sincere' claims of diligence when seeking re-election.

And of course another big piece of this story is the pillaging the so called 'regulators' are doing with the scant resources that should be available to the investors.

What a sad tale of corruption, deceit and nit wit governmental oversight.

The EF crooks are just a part of the story, and the only ones brought to justice so far. What about Linda Kennedy, RPL, and Hurst Financial? When are they going to be brought in? Christ, another example of the third world country we have become in many respects. Justice, honesty, diligent performance? What a joke.

By: Nameless on 1/28/09

Hey Brother!!! Can you spare me a dime? and a joint?