SLO jury awards Chuck Liddell nearly $2 million

June 24, 2015
Chuck Liddell

Chuck Liddell

A San Luis Obispo jury awarded mixed martial arts champion Chuck Liddell approximately $2 million in his lawsuit against Cuesta Title, the company that worked closely with convicted North County developer Kelly Gearhart.

Liddell alleged that Cuesta Title helped Gearhart defraud him of $2 million. During the trial, Liddell testified that he purchased four lots at Gearhart’s Vista del Hombre development for $500,000 apiece, but Cuesta Tittle released his money before escrow closed and without transferring title to the properties.

The lawsuit centered around a document authorizing the release of the money, which Liddell said was forged. An attorney for Cuesta Title — now Stewart Title — argued Liddell did sign the document and was not taking responsibility for putting too much faith in Gearhart.

Stewart Title relied on expert testimony of a former Secret Services agent who claimed Liddell had signed the documents. During cross examination, information that Larry Stewart was accused of perjury in the Martha Stewart case and is banned from testifying in Canada because of allegedly overstating evidence was disclosed.

The jury awarded Liddell $1,982,727. Jurors have yet to decide on two other plaintiffs in the case who also claim Cuesta Title helped Gearhart defraud them.

Gearhart and James Miller, the former president of Hurst Financial Inc., 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, like the Vista Del Hombre development, and then siphoned off the monies for other purposes, including his extravagant lifestyle.

Kelly Gearhart

Kelly Gearhart

After Gearhart contacted Liddell with a business proposal, the then-MMA fighter decided to invest $2 million for his retirement. Gerhart then told Liddell to go to Cuesta Title and work with escrow officer Melanie Schneider.

Gerhart’s attorney argued that Schneider, who handled many of Gearhart’s deals, had a conflict of interest. Schneider had $50,000 invested in the Vista del Hombre development, testimony indicated.

Additionally, sources told CalCoastNews Schneider moved to Colorado with Gearhart’s brother, Doug Gearhart, shortly after the fall of Hurst Financial. Schneider also reportedly flew on Gearhart’s private jet and briefly lived in his guest house while she was friends with Gearhart’s wife.

When called to the stand, Schneider testified that she did not know Gearhart was committing fraud. She then claimed she did not know who is paying for her attorney.

Multiple lawsuits claim employees of Cuesta 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 lawsuits.

Prior to Liddell’s award, some investors lost their claims in court, while others received a portion of their losses from the title companies.

In May 2014, Gearhart pleaded guilty to two counts of wire fraud and one count of money laundering in Los Angeles federal court. He is due to be sentenced on Monday.

Gerhart is asking for a 57-month sentence, while prosecutors are seeking a 135-month sentence. The statutory maximum is 50 years in federal prison.

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  1. smile4thecamera says:

    Well at least someone in this whole mess still had enough money left to hire lawyers and go after the title company. The rest of those poor folks don’t have any money left to fight that ass Gearhart or anyone else involved. I am sure hoping the courts don’t listen to Gearhart’s lawyers and give him more than 57 months.

    (1) 1 Total Votes - 1 up - 0 down
  2. jana says:

    Good for Chuck!
    He needs the money, since nothing else is really panning out for him.

    We thought he was going to have to go ask Ian for a job at the sheriff’s department as a reserve property officer assigned to the defensive tactics program, oh wait he already gave that job to another crony.

    (1) 5 Total Votes - 3 up - 2 down
  3. SLO_Johnny says:

    One last knock out by the champ. I wish that they would give Chuck a chance to beat the snot out of Gearhardt. We should put Gearhardt and Chuck together in a room. Chuck could get more justice in five minutes than we could get by putting Gearhardt in prison for five years.

    (17) 17 Total Votes - 17 up - 0 down
  4. sezlittle1 says:

    Celeberity justice bulshit. The courts keeps pushing the old and weak back further and further with appeals and other delays. A celeb steps up and gets a swift payday.

    (15) 31 Total Votes - 23 up - 8 down
    • SLO_Johnny says:

      He hasn’t collected anything yet. He will also have to wait for years if the plaintiffs appeal.

      (3) 3 Total Votes - 3 up - 0 down
    • achillesheal says:

      Swift payday? He was swindled out of the $2M in 2007 – that’s 8 years ago.
      The difference between this case and any class action suits against Gearhart are that Mr. Lidell sued Cuesta Title for their role in the situation (specifically Melanie Schneider who apparently had a conflict of interest because she was close friends with Gearhart and his wife).

      Gearhart has declared bankruptcy, so his assets (if any) are controlled by the receiver and 100s of people are battling for the crumbs.

      (2) 2 Total Votes - 2 up - 0 down
  5. black sheep says:

    K.O. nice job man, hopefully collecting moves just as swiftly

    (8) 10 Total Votes - 9 up - 1 down
  6. analyticone says:

    Thanks Chuck, for standing and fighting. When more of us stand and fight fewer of us will be ripped off.

    (15) 17 Total Votes - 16 up - 1 down
  7. Rambunctious says:

    Cage match….that will fix it. I’d pay big bucks to see that on pay per view.

    (13) 13 Total Votes - 13 up - 0 down

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