Several fraud cases investigated recently in SLO County

The San Luis Obispo County District Attorney’s Office has prosecuted a handful of fraud cases over the past few years.

Most recently, the former president and owner of Heritage Lending in Paso Robles, Candy Wells, and her husband, Ricky Wells, were arrested in Southern California in March on fraud charges.

The charges allege that, from 2007 to 2009, the couple engaged in fraudulent practices in the offer and sale of securities involving hard-money loans in real estate projects. They allegedly caused more than $1.3 million in losses to numerous victims. Candy Wells abruptly closed her business in October 2009.

Hard-money lenders provide funds to borrowers at high interest rates, typically around 12 percent to 14 percent. The lenders pool investor money into securities typically backed by real estate deeds. As such, hard-money loans are considered a high-risk/high-return investment.

In December, a Paso Robles businesswoman charged with bilking investors of $1.3 million in a hard-money loan case was sentenced to five years in County Jail. Linda Kennedy was arrested in July in connection with crimes committed while she was president of 21st Century Financial Resources Inc.

Hard-money lenders Karen Guth, who was president of Estate Financial, and her son, Joshua Yaguda, are in prison for defrauding hundreds of investors in a Ponzi scheme that collected up to $340 million. Their company went into bankruptcy in 2008; they were sentenced to prison terms in December 2009.