Opinion » Shredder

Gilipollas del Año!

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What would you do with 20 million smackaroos? Or more importantly, what would I do? Champagne baths? Eating sushi off of naked supermodels? Have my toilet gold-plated? Get me one of them newfangled car elevators? Shred $100 bills to line my gerbil’s cage? (Oh, Goebbels the Gerbil, you’re worth it! Let’s snuggle!)

No one seems to know what Atascadero Citizen of the Year and super shady real estate developer Kelly Gearhart did with the estimated $20 million he bilked out of investors. No reports of dozens of champagne bottles in his outgoing trash or walk-of-shaming supermodels exiting his home or golden thrones or elevatored cars discovered or comfortably rich gerbils nesting in thin slices of Benjamin Franklins. Nada. Nothing. Not one sign of all those fat stacks of cash. 

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I guess when you’re busy defrauding people of their hard-earned money and promising them pie-in-the-sky returns on their “investments” you need to project the appearance of success. Gotta spend money to steal money! Who’s going to want to invest their life savings with an underdressed loser? No way! A historic house, fancy suits, Rolex watches, and expensive cars! And best of all, a Citizen of the Year award! 

“Oh yeah, baby! Here’s all my money! Make me rich like you, Kelly!”

Thank you, Atascadero. Nice choice. I guess Joseph Mengele wasn’t nominated, eh?

Much of the pilfered money was “invested” in a development called Vista Del Hombre. It’s been awhile since I slept through Spanish class, but I believe that translates as “View of the Man.” Maybe Gearhartless should have called it Vista de la Víctima (View of the Victim) or Dile Adiós a Tu Dinero (Say Goodbye to Your Money) or Baños de Oro para Mí (Gold Toilets for Me). 

Perhaps the worst of it is Gearhart wasn’t just stealing from rich people who could afford to lose a few thousand. No, he targeted regular folks, blue-collar guys, in some cases double tapping them. Contractors working on his projects invested their life savings and worked without being paid for their services. Plus, while they were working for him for free, they were losing out on paying jobs. Triple tap!

It’s not hard to imagine a hardworking stiff getting fooled, wanting to get ahead, and thinking, “Finally, a rich developer willing to spread the wealth to the little guys! What a great man!”

People swinging a hammer for a living certainly deserve better. Or at least they deserve to swing that hammer at Gearhart’s knees. Rumors that two victims traveled to Gearhart’s current Ohio home to do just that turned out to be false. Too bad.

Gearhart recently pleaded guilty to three of the 16 counts against him—two counts of wire fraud and one count of money laundering—and will be sentenced on Dec. 29. Prosecutors plan to seek 11 years, though Judge Otis D. Wright II can give him the statutory maximum of 50 years in prison.

I quick poll among New Times’ news staff suggested a few other punishments, including a public stoning, drawing and quartering him, waterboarding him until he reveals where all the money went, or placing him in a nursing home—but only the kind where people he stole money from can now afford to slowly die of neglect in.

We’re also waiting to discover the fate of Gearhart’s partner in crime, Jay Hurst Miller, former president of the Atascadero-based Hurst Financial Corp., who pleaded guilty to fraud and money laundering charges and is scheduled for sentencing in September. Greedy bastards, both!

How does it come to this? What kind of reprobate do you have to be to steal from people and ruin their lives, and is 11 years enough punishment? 

Part of the plea agreement stipulated that prosecutors can seek restitution for Gearhart’s victims, and they say they’ll continue to search for bank accounts and property that can be appropriated for victims. Of course, the longer Gearhart rots in prison, the longer it’ll be until he’s free and potentially working and having his wages garnished. I wonder how hard he’ll be willing to work knowing that a portion of whatever he earns must be returned to his victims? My guess is not very, and certainly not as hard as those contractors who worked for him without pay.

Meanwhile, his wife, Tamara Gearhart, can’t be touched according to the plea agreement. I suppose it’s possible she wasn’t aware of her husband’s misdeeds. When you’re living the high life, it’s best not too look too closely at where the money’s coming from.

“Don’t worry your pretty little head, dear. Why don’t you take the Bentley and go shopping. Or take our private jet and have lunch in Santa Barbara.”

Gearhart’s victims can look forward to spending the rest of their lives trying to recoup what was stolen, and if they get a vote, no doubt they’d nominate him for Gilipollas del Año, which for you monolinguists means Asshole of the Year.

The Shredder puts a prison hex on all thieves. Send ideas and comments to shredder@newtimesslo.com.

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