Chuck Liddell files lawsuit over investment to Kelly Gearhart
May 14, 2015
A lawsuit filed by former mixed martial arts champion Chuck Liddell against Cuesta and Stewart Title for the companies alleged participation in a money laundering scheme by former North County developer Kelly Gearhart goes to trial on Thursday.
Liddell claims his signature was forged on escrow documents which caused him to lose $2 million. Liddell’s suit says Cuesta Title Company made misrepresentations and failed to disclose adverse facts to him. Cuesta Title was later purchased by Stewart Title. [Tribune]
Attorneys for the title companies claim Liddell signed the documents.
Gearhart and James Miller, the former president of Hurst Financial Inc. (HFI), defrauded more than 1,200 investors of more than $100 million in an alleged Ponzi scheme. Gearhart bilked investors who put money into Central Coast real estate projects and then siphoned off the monies for other purposes.
Multiple lawsuits claim employees of Cuesta Title – now Stewart Title – aided and abetted and/or conspired with Miller and Gearhart. Cuesta Title created false escrows, falsely closed active escrows, and illegally filed clean title reports before placing additional loans on already encumbered properties, according to the lawsuits.
In some cases the title companies have paid investors a portion of their losses and in other cases investors lost their claims in court.
In an odd twist, Melanie Schneider, an ex-employee of Stewart Title who was a key person in the majority of HFI alleged fraudulent transactions, reportedly moved to Colorado with Gearhart’s brother, Doug Gearhart, shortly after the fall of HFI, sources said.
In May 2014, Gearhart pleaded guilty to two counts of wire fraud and one count of money laundering in a Los Angeles federal court. His sentencing hearing is set for June 1.
Gearhart’s questionable financial dealings were brought to light in a lengthy, ongoing series of articles by CalCoastNews starting in 2008.