CalCoastNews Series

Kelly Gearhart, Developer

Atascadero land developer Kelly Gearhart and onetime Atascadero “Person of the Year” awaits trial.
In August 2012, Gearhart pleaded 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 and the former president of Hurst Financial, James Miller, have been accused of helping to defraud more than 1,200 investors of more than $100 million in an alleged Ponzi scheme. Miller and Gearhart bilked investors who put money into Central Coast real estate projects and then siphoned off the monies for other purposes, including maintaining lavish lifestyles, federal authorities alleged.

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HFI executive bargaining for less prison time

Hurst Financial, Inc. (HFI) president Jay Miller is working on a plea agreement with federal prosecutors in exchange for his testimony against former north county developer Kelly Gearhart, according to inside sources. Miller, 63, is asking to be incarcerated in a minimum security facility. He also wants the agreement to leave out wording that could tip off his future prison mates... (Continue Reading)

Heritage Oaks Bank makes out while investors lose

After battling for a cut of developer Kelly Gearhart’s Vista del Hombre property, Heritage Oaks Bank in San Luis Obispo walked away with most of the controversial developer’s land in Paso Robles. At the same time, a federal bankruptcy court in Ohio, that is handling Gearhart’s tangled financial holdings, has dubbed investors in the Vista del Hombre project as unsecured creditors. Hundreds... (Continue Reading)

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Stewart Title settles with Gearhart investors

Stewart Title settled with investors of former North County developer Kelly Gearhart for approximately 27 percent of their investments in seven lots off Highway 41 near U.S. Highway 101 in Atascadero. Stewart Title paid investors in the five residential lots and two condos on Tecorida Avenue $460,000, the current value of the property. Information that Cuesta Title was working with Gearhart to... (Continue Reading)

Did Gearhart ‘own’ officials?

During his heyday, notorious land developer Kelly Gearhart “seemed to own” some of Atascadero’s city council members, says former mayor Mike Brennler in’s newest installment of its ongoing series, “A County Corrupted: Part 2.” Brennler continues to be rebuffed by his former colleagues when he suggests Gearhart was receiving special considerations. A lengthy federal […]... (Continue Reading)

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Gearhart’s casino – the final gamble

Amidst assurances that then President George W. Bush was poised to sign off on the first step towards the development of an Indian owned casino in Paso Robles, the Salinan Indian Tribal Council entered into an agreement with four venture capitalists who went by the name of PMA. North County developer Kelly Gearhart was one of the members of PMA, along... (Continue Reading)

Gearhart’s control of Atascadero

As he built his empire, Kelly Gearhart’s relationships with public officials made it possible for him to skirt building requirements, thereby saving him hundreds of thousands in development costs. These exceptions risked public safety, cost the county revenue and negatively impacted the availability of low cost housing, according to several sources who spoke to CalCoastNews. His relationships with community leaders in Atascadero,... (Continue Reading)

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Kelly Gearhart: Fraud, arson and betrayal

Amid a federal investigation into racketeering, money laundering and mail fraud, developer Kelly Gearhart’s stepmother claims her notorious stepson’s illicit activities also included forgery, bribing public officials and arson. The latter exploit was one that helped fund Gearhart’s transition from being a prison guard to become one of San Luis Obispo County’s most prolific builders. Marion Warner, Gearhart’s common-law stepmother of 35... (Continue Reading)

Judge dismisses Gearhart’s bankruptcy protection

A federal judge has ruled that Atascadero developer Kelly Gearhart’s bankruptcy was applied for fraudulently and as of October 7 his creditors may legally go after his future earnings, according to a November 8 court order. “They can sue him for a judgment, but they cannot go after properties or assets in his name because the bankruptcy trustees have the right... (Continue Reading)

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More on Bordonaro’s special favors

(Editor’s Note: This is the third and last in a series about San Luis Obispo County Assessor and Republican politico Tom Bordonaro.) While San Luis Obispo County Assessor Tom Bordonaro says he is not guilty of any misuse of his office or showing favoritism to... (Continue Reading)

Jay Miller on borrowed time

Federal prosecutors prompted a federal grand jury to look into the alleged criminal acts of Hurst financial principal Jay Miller. [Tribune] Miller is one of the subjects of a two-year racketeering, money laundering and wire fraud investigation that includes former North County developer Kelly Gearhart. The investigation is complicated, not because of the alleged Ponzi […]... (Continue Reading)