Cuesta Title ex-employee tight-lipped at deposition

May 28, 2013
Kelly Gearhart

Kelly Gearhart

By KAREN VELIE

A former Cuesta Title employee refused to answer questions posed to her at a Kelly Gearhart-linked deposition, asserting her Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination.

In 2009, investors filed a lawsuit alleging Stewart Title and Cuesta Title aided and abetted and/or conspired with Hurst Financial Inc. (HFI) and former North County developer Gearhart in defrauding local seniors through illegal investment schemes.

The lawsuit, filed by more than 500 investors, lists eight complaints including conspiracy, fraud, financial elder abuse and negligence. Investors are seeking punitive as well as compensatory damages.

The plaintiffs accuse the title companies of closing escrows, recording ownership interests and transferring funds in an investment scheme that cost the plaintiffs over $73 million.

At her deposition, Kim Bucknell refused to answer questions, asserting her Fifth Amendment right not to incriminate herself.

Last month, Stewart and Cuesta Title filed a motion asking the court to either grant Bucknell immunity from criminal prosecution, or agree to delay the civil trial now slated for July 29.

“Bucknell is the only person who can definitively testify to her own lack of knowledge of wrongdoing and she can corroborate that Cuesta had no knowledge of the fraud,” according to court documents.

Attorneys for the title companies argued that Bucknell’s testimony would corroborate the testimony of Melanie Schneider, an ex-employee of Stewart Title (formerly Cuesta Title) who was a key person in the majority of HFI’s alleged fraudulent transactions.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Stephen Goorvitch filed a declaration opposing the title companies’ motion on the grounds that granting Bucknell immunity could interfere with current and future criminal proceedings, according to court documents.

The title companies’ attorneys also suggested that the court postpone the civil trial until the statute of limitations regarding criminal prosecutions has run out, according to court documents.

Goorvitch fired back, saying that “where financial institutions are victims, the statute of limitations for mail and wire fraud is 10 years.”

In a tentative ruling last week, San Luis Obispo Superior Court Judge Charles Crandall denied the defendants’ request for immunity for Bucknell because the right of privilege overrides the importance of her testimony. Crandall also denied the defendants’ request for a new trial date.

 


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28 Comments

  1. Robert1 says:

    Having known Kim for 15 years and completed countless escrows with her my personal feeling is, she is very competent and honest. If her lawyer told her to take the 5th it was for a good reason. If you ever have any dealings with this counties DA’s office and I have, you would take the 5th also.

    (0) 30 Total Votes - 15 up - 15 down
    • Nancimeek says:

      the sin of omission is worse than a lie. If you don’t want to tell the truth and your attorney has no way of mincing the words to convey the truth, then you are lying. Just answer the questions truthfully when you are deposed.

      (3) 29 Total Votes - 16 up - 13 down
      • Nancimeek says:

        THE SLO DA’s office is under scrutiny for ignoring alot of things Not the least of which was our police report citing that Attorney Robert Grigger Jones (by our stepmother’s own admission) forged our father’s First Amendment to his trust. And while the Atascadero PD investigated the matter, when questioning Jones he denied everything. yet we had the physical proof. He lied and was caught in a lie……..when we finally cornered the SLO DA’s office the case was immediately moved to the Federal level and they said they would not be pursuing the case.

        Still a corrupt DA’s office is not an excuse to not tell the truth. Shame on Kim for not stepping up to the plate. When someone lies about ONE thing you can bet they lie about other things.

        (6) 30 Total Votes - 18 up - 12 down
        • local andy says:

          Nanci, what is it that Kim “lied” about? Where in the article does it say that she “lied?” I think making accusations at her when she wasn’t involved in your dealings with Kelly and Grigger Jones is reckless to say the least. Unless you worked in that escrow office (and I don’t think you were on Stewart Title’s payroll, because I was and I don’t remember working with you…) then you don’t know what happened and who did what. Hopefully Kelly’s going down…but to take ex-employees of Cuesta/Stewart with him when they weren’t involved in his dealings is unfair and hopefully will come out in trial…if they ever go to trial.

          (4) 22 Total Votes - 13 up - 9 down
          • Nancimeek says:

            I never said Kim Lied…………….she took the 5th That is the same as NOT TELLING THE TRUTH. “Local Andy” if you know so much about what happened you should contact the US Attorneys office. The sin of omission is worse than a lie right? Don’t try and twist my words. I never made any accusations against Ms. Bucknell, only Grigger Jones and Kelly Gearhart and I have the documentation which proves Grigger lied. Anything else?

            (-7) 23 Total Votes - 8 up - 15 down
  2. Pelican1 says:

    Ahhhhh….the unmistakable smell of hush money wafting about, yet again.

    (11) 31 Total Votes - 21 up - 10 down

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