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Karen Guth and Joshua Yaguda expected in San Luis Obispo Superior Court Monday

Estate Financial principals Karen Guth and Joshua Yaguda are expected to plead guilty to 26 felony counts in what has become the biggest financial fraud case in county history.

Estate Financial, which is now bankrupt, collected an estimated $340 million from private investors in real-estate-backed securities before it collapsed in 2007. Guth and Yaguda, who is her son, have been in the county jail, pending $5 million in bail each, since October 2008.

The defense attorneys, Dyke Huish and Steve C. Smith, have told the Court and advised the District Attorney's office that Guth and Yaguda will make their guilty plea at a preliminary hearing scheduled Monday in San Luis Obispo Superior Court, according to the District Attorney’s Web site.

Calls to Steve von Dohlen, the deputy district attorney leading the prosecution, as well as to defense attorneys Huish and Smith, who are based in Southern California, have not been returned.

However, the District Attorney’s Web site has published the following:

“This is not a plea bargain, so the defendants are required to plead guilty to all counts and admit all (three) enhancements as charged.

Victims in this case have the right to be present and to be heard at the time of the expected plea Monday. Victims also have the right to make a statement to the Probation Department sometime over the next two months prior to the sentencing of the defendants, and also at the sentencing hearing itself.

Monday’s hearing is scheduled for 8:30 am in Department 4, however, a delay is always possible in the morning before matter gets started.

If you are a victim and want to address the court, you may want to jot down some notes ahead of time.The Judge in this case, Judge Crawford, has indicated that he is looking at sentencing Mrs. Guth to twelve years in prison and Mr. Yaguda to eight years in prison. Although this indication is a prison sentence, since it is not a plea bargain, our office will be arguing for a higher sentence. This would occur at a sentencing hearing approximately two months from now. We will advise victims of that date and time once it is set.”

The defendants also are expected to give up their rights and claims on all their assets; agree to pay back their investors’ losses to the best of their abilities, and waive their right to appeal, according to the Web site.

--Melanie Cleveland

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