Plea agreement reached in Hurst Financial fraud case
September 16, 2011
By KAREN VELIE
A former Atascadero lender has agreed to plead guilty to charges of swindling as many as 1,200 investors out of more than $100 million in a fraudulent investment scheme, according to the court docket.
James Hurst Miller and federal prosecutors agreed to a plea agreement on August 19. The court then filed the agreement under seal.
On August 18, the U.S. attorney’s Los Angeles office filed federal fraud and money laundering charges against Miller, the former head of Hurst Financial Inc. However, they did not take Miller into custody.
A 2008 CalCoastNews investigation revealed James Hurst Miller and former North County developer Kelly Gearhart allegedly bilked more than 1,200 people, primarily senior investors, out of much of their life’s savings.
If the court convicted Miller on all four counts — mail fraud, wire fraud, money laundering and making a false statement to a bank — he would face a maximum sentence of 80 years in federal prison.
Under an alleged plea agreement discussion discovered by CalCoastNews in April, Miller had agreed to testify against other persons being investigated by the FBI. In return, Miller was requesting prosecutors reduce the four counts to one and allow him to serve a reduced prison sentence in the minimum-security federal correction facility located in Lompoc Calif.
During a hearing on Monday, Miller relinquished his passport and secured his release through a $25,000 bond.
U.S. District Judge Otis D. Wright II has not yet set a date to hear the guilty plea.