Gold for some: EFI trustees bill estate $4.5 million

March 20, 2009



While most people touched by the Estate Financial Inc. (EFI) debacle have been monetarily devastated, a select few are in line to do quite well. Trustees and their special attorneys have collected, or are requesting, compensation of $4.5 million for their effort to organize the failed North County lenders’ debts.

Charges includes approximately $4 million for the current trustees and their staff and about $500,000 in charges from two previous trustees. That averages more than $20,000 a day.

Investors and creditors are wondering why the trustees have failed to disburse funds to the investors as properties have been sold, and if trustee fees will devour any remaining assets.

One investor, in an e-mail circulating among the investor community, suggests the only option now available is to convert the Chapter 11 bankruptcy into a Chapter 7 bankruptcy.

“Under current conditions,“ the investor wrote, “most and perhaps all of our assets could quickly dissipate in fees, insurance, property taxes, maintenance and other costs. Not to go unnoticed, most all of the properties are in disarray and deteriorating. And most critical, since the filing of the bankruptcy, the properties that were suppose to secure our investments have depreciated by at least 20 percent, about $60 million.”

Enticed by the promise of 12 percent interest on property-secured investments, approximately 3,400 investors entrusted their nest eggs with EFI owners Karen Guth and Joshua Yaguda. EFI’s portfolio contained more than $317 million in monies owed to investors when the company filed bankruptcy last summer. Of that, only $21,000 was held free and clear.

In June, creditors forced EFI into Chapter 11 bankruptcy and asked the court to appoint a receiver in an attempt to protect their investments. About a week later, Guth and Yaguda voluntarily placed EFI Mortgage Fund into Chapter 11.

In Chapter 7 bankruptcy, assets are liquidated and funds are disbursed to creditors. A Chapter 11 bankruptcy is much more involved than chapter 7 as it allows the company to reorganize its debts and remain a viable corporation.

Within the next two weeks, a group of investors and creditors plans to file a motion for the conversion of the bankruptcy into Chapter 7.

In addition, the group is planning to put their opposition to the current fee request on the record, along with concerns of conflicts of interest regarding attorneys Roger Frederickson’s and David Juhnke’s regarding their tties to Heritage Oaks Bank, during a March 25 fee hearing at the bankruptcy court in Santa Barbara.

Trustees hired Juhnke and Frederickson, of the San Luis Obispo law firm of Sinsheimer Juhnke Lebens & McIvor, LLP, as special counsel for collection and foreclosures; and to investigate third parties in which claims may be rendered.

Frederickson and Juhnke appear to have conflicts of interest regarding third parties who could have culpability with EFI. Even though they repeatedly charge the estate for investigating issues regarding Heritage Oaks Bank, the firm also represents Centennial Livestock LLC.

John Lacey is a principle owner of Centennial Livestock LLC. His wife Dee Lacey sits on the board of Heritage Oaks Bank, which reportedly lent EFI president Karen Guth $20 million, originally unsecured, while Centennial livestock LLC was the largest investor in EFI.

Employees of the law firm and the trustees regularly charge the estate for reading the news, preparing their bills, and repeating the same actions as their fellow attorneys on the case.

In one reported 10 minute telephonic court hearing, the firm charges the estate for one hour and 10 minutes.

The creditors’ committee is in place in part to protect investors and creditors from excessive fees. However, John Lacey, a client of Frederickson’ and Juhnke, is chairman of the investor committee. The committee holds its meeting at the Sinsheimer Juhnke Lebens & McIvor office in San Luis Obispo.

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.




  1. ccn_debate says:

    By: outsider on 3/22/09
    I know everyones been waiting for me to weigh in again in this matter to see what direction to take..Maybe Chapter 7 is the way to go..

    I would contact John Stossel. A general description of what happened and how the investors are being taken again by the courts and the attorneys…Living off the grief of others…its not right..its a big story especially right now…You need some leverage and this might be your last chance..

    I would contact:
    60 minutes
    John Stossel
    Chris Hansen
    Anderson Cooper

    there are many others…Good Luck
    By: insider on 3/22/09
    This should have gone chapter 7 and been liquidated from day one. The only reason it didn't is the same reason as the reason this whole thing exists anyway. GREED! People think they can work these remaining assets for additional income. BULL! Put everything on the block and cut the costs of the legal and admin. fees. If you can, buy some of it and if you think it's a good deal then buy it. Sell it. Divide the proceeds. Have a cup of coffee.
    By: Jim on 3/21/09
    Lest we forget who got "us" into this problem in the first place…
    I have lost my entire life savings due to the fraud perpetrated by Karen Guth and Joshua Yaguda…
    No… that's not correct… lost is the wrong word…
    I have had my life savings stolen…!
    Now… you might be thinking… Jim… how could you have given these people all of your $$$…
    Well.. as I shared in a previous note before… I saw their website on the internet… checked with a couple of financial advisors… and a couple of E.F. investors…
    And… I had invested $$$ 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 $$$ with Estate Financial…
    They lied to me about the health of the company… they solicited and accepted $$$ from me when their license to do so was no longer in compliance… they refused to return my $$$ to me as per our agreement…
    Everything that I worked for… and saved… is gone…
    I hope that they are held accountable for their actions… and maybe… just maybe… news of their punishment may prevent other individuals from trying to do what they have done to me…
    By: DashRiprock on 3/21/09
    I hate all lawyers….in my business I use them all the time and they save me money…but not one of them has a clear sole…they spend 3 years in law school being taught to find things wrong with something and to never get emotionable about a client and have no feelings…i dropped out in year 2….now i make more money than any lawyer making less than 500 an hour…thank god i had an epiphany…
    By: mcdonald on 3/21/09
    One has to wonder how/why a court would award fees to these so called Trustee's to the tune of $4,000,000. These people should have to prove every penny they are charging for and what they did. What are the hourly fees anyway? This is ashamed and these attorneys and trustees should be embarrassed. How disgusting.

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  2. ccn_debate says:

    By: Paso_Guy on 3/21/09
    So, here is the letter that was reffered to

    Is it not obvious to everyone that the only money to be seen here is the tax savings from a 165 write-off? The EFIF money wasn't even recorded, most of it anyway and without that, there is no conduit from the fund to the shareholder.


    Please send out the email below, on my behalf.

    Thank you,

    Fellow Estate Financial Victims:

    The purpose for this communication is many investors are interested in reviewing any options we have, besides the Chapter 11 Bankruptcy process.

    Recently, some had the privilege of reviewing the Trustee’s (and their hired Professionals) Fee Request. The amount just shy of $4,000,000,000.00 (four million dollars) is for approximately 8 months. I would like to point out this amount does not include requests made by the former Trustees which Karen Guth previously hired. So far, these figures calculate to over $500,000.00 (a half million dollars), on a monthly average. If you would like to view a copy of the billing information, you can contact the Creditor's Committee.

    The Chapter 11 Bankruptcy was filed with the knowledge and expectations that by giving the Trustees more flexibility as to an orderly disposition of assets, the investors would receive the greatest return of their investments. Also, under Chapter 11, proceeds of sold assets are paid out as funds become available to the secured creditors, on the particular property. To date, there have not been any payments to investors despite the sale of properties. At this point in time, the funds are being held in trust.

    In all Bankruptcy proceedings, the Trustees and the Professionals they hire, have priority over creditors and investors. This fact seems to create a conflict, encouraging the trustees to draw out the process for several years.

    Under current conditions, most, and perhaps all of our assets could quickly dissipate in fees, insurance, property taxes, maintenance and other costs. Not to go unnoticed, most all of the properties are in disarray and continually deteriorating. But most critical, since the filing of the bankruptcy, the properties that were suppose to secure our investments have depreciated by at least 20%, which is about $60 million dollars.

    The ONLY option to consider in relief of this process, is to convert the Chapter 11 Bankruptcy proceeding to Chapter 7. According to statistics, less than 10% of Chapter 11 proceedings are ever successful. The main requirement for Chapter 11 vs. Chapter 7 is as such: the Corporation in Chapter 11 must be an ongoing entity during and after its plan is confirmed which will be a viable enterprise again.

    ASK yourself two simple questions:

    1) Would you invest in Estate Financial Inc. or Estate Financial Mortgage Fund again?

    2) Is Estate Financial in the position to make new loans now or in the future to generate income?

    There is only one answer: NO!!

    In Chapter 7, all assets are liquidated and distributed according to established Priorities.

    In both Chapter 11 and Chapter 7, the Trustee’s fees are the same, however there will be less professional costs accruing. With Chapter 7, the main focus magnifies on the time element, i.e. the funds will be distributed in a year or so.

    We are asking victims to voice their opinion in the matter. If you could, please send your responses to:

    We would like to hear from you as soon as possible.


    Estate Financial Investor/Victim

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  3. ccn_debate says:

    By: Nameless on 3/21/09
    What many keep ignoring is that Karen was cleaning the store as fast as money was coming in. She wasn’t paying bills and transferred properties to new Nevada LLC. Over $1,300,000.00 was taken out by her and Josh within the last 12 months of filing. Many investors tried to work with her on the properties they invested in with no result. The ship was sinking fast that had to be stopped.

    She could have been sipping pinnacolada on the Caribeans if it wasn’t for the “HOTHEADS” and the fast action of the DA.
    By: nosedatruth on 3/21/09
    This whole mess probably could have been worked out by the investors working together, securing and selling the properties, and distributing funds pro-rata. But a few hot-head dissidents wanted blood, so they forced the company into bankruptcy. Well, now we see who really benefited from that – the trustees and the attorneys. There won't be anything left for any of the creditors. This would have come out much better if it had been privately handled, because the real estate values would have saved everyone if the investors had worked as a team and been patient. The courts are not equipped to do this kind of thing efficiently. We'll probably see similar results from the Gearhart and Hurst affairs.
    By: hotdog on 3/21/09
    Jeez, pillaging the victims again. This is one of those nightmares brought to us by a dysfunctional government and rules incomprehensible to a sane person. The DRE and DOC were supposedly investigating this company (and the crooks at Hurst and 21st Century) long ago and did nothing until a few months ago. All the investors have been ripped off by everyone involved in this sad saga, including the slow moving DA.
    Somewhere around 1/2 a billion dollars has been stolen locally by these companies (and Kelly Gearheart), I'm surprised they are still alive.

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