Estate Financial stakeholders push for share of former owners’ assets

A Superior Court judge heard arguments Thursday from Estate Financial lenders, investors and other parties — each with a stake in how funds from the sale of the firm’s former owners’ remaining personal assets will be distributed.

Attorneys for several banks that lent money to Karen Guth and her son, Joshua Yaguda, were among those claiming an interest in Guth’s properties and proceeds from the sale of gas stations in Templeton and Morro Bay.

The claimants included Paso Robles-based Heritage Oaks Bank, a contracting company that performed work for Guth’s gas station company — Templeton Products Inc. — and the attorney for Guth’s ex-husband, Charles Applebaum.

San Luis Obispo Superior Court Judge Jac Crawford approved the sale of those properties last year, but the proceeds remain in a court-held account.

In December, Guth and Yaguda were sentenced to 12 and eight years in state prison, respectively, for defrauding investors out of tens of millions of dollars.

The county District Attorney’s Office has recently alleged that Guth engaged in money laundering as well, moving money from the now-bankrupt Paso Robles lending company to the gas station company, and then transferring the money — as much as $684,000 — into her personal account.

Since Guth and Yaguda’s sentencing, the court has been trying to untangle a web of financial affairs.

Deputy District Attorney Steven Von Dohlen argued on Thursday for equity in resolving the victim restitution issue given the complex nature of what’s been left behind by Guth and Yaguda. His position has been that no one victim should jump ahead of others.

“We know what the assets are,” Von Dohlen said. “What we don’t know is how much they’re worth or how much we’re going to be able to get for them.”

He added: “There are all these people standing in line, saying ‘me first’ and ‘they owe me this much.’ What the judge has to decide is ‘here’s who is in line, here’s the order of the line and how much your claim is actually worth.’ ”

Crawford has given attorneys until May 6 to file additional briefs to argue their case for priority status.

He is expected to make a final ruling and appoint a receiver charged with selling the remaining properties some time after that date.