James Miller pleads guilty, daughter gets immunity

January 30, 2014
Kelly Gearhart and James Miller

Kelly Gearhart and James Miller


Former Hurst Financial President James Miller agreed to plead guilty to a four-count criminal complaint under an agreement that his daughter Courtney Brard will not be prosecuted.

Miller, 63, pled guilty in 2011 to charges of mail fraud, wire fraud, money laundering, and making a false statement to a bank. Miller and former North County developer Kelly Gearhart allegedly swindled some 1,200 investors out of more than $100 million in a lending scheme involving hard money.

As part of Miller’s plea agreement which is currently under seal, the government agreed to issue an immunity letter to Brard, according to court records.

“Has anyone attempted to threaten you, a family member or anyone close to you in an effort to get you to plead guilty?” the court asked Miller on Sept. 28, 2011, according to a court transcript. Miller then told the court he had not been threatened.

In 2008,  state regulators accused Miller and Brard of working with or under the direction of Gearhart in defrauding investors. Miller and Brard then admitted to state regulators their complicity in fraud.

As part of his 2011 plea, Miller agreed to “provide the government with cooperation in the investigation and prosecution” in future cases, according to court records. And as part of the agreement, Miller will spend no longer than nine years in federal prison, court records say.

Gearhart was indicted on July 5, 2012. Shortly afterwards, Gearhart pled not guilty to 16 charges of mail fraud, wire fraud and money laundering at a federal court in Los Angeles. He faces up to 300 years in federal prison if convicted on all charges.

Gearhart’s fraud trial and Miller’s sentencing hearing have been delayed five times for a variety of reasons. At this time, Gearhart’s trial is set for June 17 and Miller’s hearing is set for Sept. 8.



Lady Justice may be blind, but she loves the smell of money.


I bet there are some people sweating now that this news is out, you know city employees and certain former city and council people, just saying once you get a pig squealing its hard to get them to stop.

Mr. Holly

They can run but they can’t hide.

Mr. Holly

After the Title Compny was exonerated for their activities with Miller and Gearhart you may have to wonder how strong the legal case is. They are continuing the case again. Politics being what it is, my guess is that there are some big players involved and everyone is softly stepping around the participants. A deal will also be cut with Gearhart and he will plead to a lesser offense with a reduced time served, his wife will go free.

Bottom line is that we will never know who all was involved with all of these crooks.


They went after the wrong guys with the title company. They were focused on the escrow officers when they should have been looking at the title officers.


How do you trade a conviction If she is guilty she should pay for it. How can he than say he wasn’t threatened. He was threatened by the government to prosecute his Daughter if he didn’t make the deal. Just wrong all the way around.


Fraud is tough to prove because the DA needs to prove intent, not just the bad resUlt of losing $100M. Jeff Forrest lost $ 10’s of millions of his clients money and was never prosecuted likely because he stuck to his guns that he was duped.

To get convictions they need one perp to rollover on the other, hence the deal.


Ahh yes! This is how the justice system works for those who can afford it. I wonder just how much of the “loot” will still be there when he gets out? Gotta have some of that 100 mil’ left over, somewhere ;{0

Just sayin’…


Nine years for ruining that many lives? Where will Jay set up shop when he gets out?

Better watch his back if it’s A-Town.


Yea but probably still won’t matter. Back in the eighties Paul Block of Block and Bower, pretty much walked and kept his money. Oh wait he had no money but all his relatives sure did.

He screwed a lot of people that lived local and still continued to live here. Too bad.


Well I don’t think this is a big surprise to most. Everybody I have talked to noticed like myself, that right after this started we never heard word about her again and Jay went straight to a plea. It would make sense that he would sell out Kelly to save his kid. Personally I think she is guilty as the old man but I understand that the prosecution was trying to go after bigger fish and probably figure they needed Jay, because who else besides Kelly would have all the goods, as to how it all went down.

Jorge Estrada

One year is no more that nine years or no more than three hundred years. How about justice, a court resolve, that is no more than three years.


I wonder if we will ever find out how deeply Mr. Miller’s daughter was involved in the criminal enterprise that was Miller and Gearhart?


Nope, not now.