Kelly Gearhart indictment: Investors say justice is long overdue

Kelly Gearhart’s federal indictment for fraud and money laundering did not come soon enough for a handful of investors who spoke with The Tribune on Thursday about their losses in Gearhart’s and Hurst Financial’s alleged multimillion-dollar Ponzi scheme.

“I think he should have been in prison a long time ago. And forever,” 85-year-old Frank Butz said.

The Cambria resident and his wife, Nancy, lost their retirement — nearly $1 million — to Gearhart, he said.

“It’s changed our life just completely. It’s cut our income down by 85 percent. This was our retirement. We have nothing left but our Social Security and a very small pension.”

Jim Pope of Paso Robles, who lost much of his retirement as an investor with Gearhart, is glad the former Atascadero developer will face justice.

“I am pleased justice is moving forward in what I believe will be one of the largest real estate fraud cases in the state of the California,” Pope said. “This man deserves justice.”

Pope, a 67-year-old retired environmental consultant for an oil company, would not say how much he lost to Gearhart, but he wondered why the case has dragged on for so long.

“I would say that every one of us is perplexed that it hasn’t come sooner,” said Pope, describing a group of investors, including himself, suing for a return of their investments. “We’re glad that it is happening; we’re scratching our head to why this didn’t happened sooner.”

“It’s about time,” said Daryl Nelson, 81, of Santa Margarita. The real estate broker lost $10,000.

“A few of my friends have already died, and they had millions of dollars with him,” added Nelson, who said he has sued Gearhart.

Nelson said he believes Gearhart could not have acted without investors being confident that their money was insured.