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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Isn’t it precious when the 1% starts shooting at each other ?

Where are all those anti-government extremists now, saying that this is a travesty of justice ?

HORRORS …a socialist ( paid by taxes ) justice system deciding for one individual over another more enterprising one !


Hey I’m a 1%er…I know some people hate that but I just wanted to tell you about my day…I got up early and worked a 10 hour day. (short day) Then I cut some coupons to save a few bucks at the market where I didn’t over buy.

It’s nice to be in the 1% and I really get a chuckle when I read posts about 1%ers. You know? you can be a 1%er too. It takes hard work and self discipline and you may need to spend more time at work and less time on the computer.


Dream on . Another ‘temporarily embarrassed multi-millionaire’.

Keep buying those lottery tickets and thinking you’re Donald Trump.


Whether you like it or not, Rambunctious is spot on. The majority of 1%ers work their arses off and live within their means. Once you start accumulating wealth, it builds up quite fast. So, everyone needs to heed his/her advice, work hard and be disciplined about your lifestyle. There’s no need to hate on 1%ers.

In any event, this story is about a person that was defrauded. Whether Chuck Liddell is a 1%er makes no difference. Chuck just happens to be a high profile victim. Many people were taken by Gearhart and company. As is the case with any other crime, we should all be up in arms about it.


When the people who provide the jobs, pay the lions share of taxes, and make the economy go are derided by those who are disappointed with their lot in life, and resentful of those who have worked harder, made better decisions, and achieved greater financial success.

Strange times, indeed.


resented by not resentful of. got confused in my long run on sentence.

Slowerfaster will likely call me some version of stupid for that hiccup.

By the way slowerfaster, I’m a 1% er as well and we don’t buy lottery tickets. Lottery tickets are a tax on the poor – even though they don’t realize it.


Here’s George Carlin in one of his brilliant ‘observations’ : that says it better than anyone. Listen to the WHOLE thing about the “Owners”….the real 1% , the TOP of the food chain.

Liddell is just a ‘monkey’: an entertainer that has been handsomely compensated in the ‘bread and circuses’ arena that keeps the dolts and fools distracted and unthinking.

I’ve nothing against him personally, but he’s ‘owned’, too.

Even if his particular talent and claim to fame and $$$ exemplifies George Orwell’s prognostication, “If you want a vision of the future, imagine a boot stamping on a human face – forever,”

Whose faces have you prideful ‘1%ers’ had to stamp on ?

Plenty of 4-letter words in the youtube link.


It must be difficult to go through life so dissatisfied with yourself that you feel compelled to cast these type of judgements on others.


Chuck should be very grateful to Karen and Cal Coast News for bird doggin’ this story when most others were in complete denial.


were??? don’t you mean “still are” in denial?

Jorge Estrada

Chuck, like many others, should get every penny back but it appears that this insurance line is a very short distraction.


I bet one of Chucks hay-maker punches across Gearheads jaw bone would get him to pay everyone.


Good for Chuck Lidell. Very smart to go after Cuesta Title. I hope he is able to collect his judgement. There may be a Chapter 11 in their future.


Very true.

A judgment is one thing.

Collecting is another.


just ask the Goldman and Brown families.


Thanks for fighting this and winning! Maybe some of those other investors ought to consider using your attorney…


If the jury agreed the documents were forged, someone should be held accountable for that. Wonder where that will lead…


What was the defense? I mean how could any escrow officer in a real estate transaction release the money before getting a deed to the property? That’s the whole point of escrow, one side gives the escrow a huge amount of money and the other side gives a signed deed to a very expensive property and the escrow is given the responsibility of trading the two at the same time. Very definition of escrow.

I hope there is about 5 years of interest at 10% for another million, plus costs, plus punitive damages. There is just no way this escrow agent wasn’t in on the fraud.


Yah! So happy to see this! Hope you get your money back Chuck, as well as every other person they stole from. These people are predators and laws need to be tougher for people who steal hard earned money. I feel bad for the ones who dont have anything left now. Karmas a M**ther F****er. Hope to see you around, its been a while.